MINNEAPOLIS -- Brian Dozier tormented Kansas City yet again with his first career three-homer game, but Kendrys Morales and Eric Hosmer each hit three-run homers to help the Royals continue their mastery over the Twins with an 11-5 win on Monday afternoon at Target Field.
The win helped keep the Royals four games back of the Orioles for the second American League Wild Card spot. Kansas City has won six straight against the Twins, improving to 12-2 against them this season.
"We definitely have a run left in us," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "We could be talking about a major run right here. ... Our guys are playing hard, man. They're getting after it. We still feel that we're not out of this thing by any stretch of the imagination."
The Twins appeared to be cruising with rookie right-hander Jose Berrios with a two-run lead and two outs in the fifth, but he ran into trouble and served up the go-ahead three-run blast to Morales.
"Morales' home run -- that was huge at that point," Yost said. "The pitch wasn't that bad a pitch. It was a changeup down, but he just dropped the head on it and hit it a mile."
The Royals padded their lead with two runs in the seventh, keyed by a sacrifice fly from Hosmer and an RBI single from Salvador Perez. Kansas City put the game away with a four-run eighth, punctuated by a three-run shot from Hosmer off lefty Pat Dean.
Dozier provided the offense for the Twins, hitting a solo homer in the first against right-hander Ian Kennedy, a two-run blast in the third off Kennedy and a solo shot off reliever Brooks Pounder in the eighth. It gave Dozier 38 homers on the year, which is the most by a Twin since Harmon Killebrew hit 41 in 1970. Dozier and Killebrew are the only Twins players to ever hit more than 35 homers in a season. It was also the sixth three-homer game in Minnesota history, joining Max Kepler (2016), Justin Morneau (2007), Bob Allison (1963), Killebrew (1963) and Tony Oliva (1973).
"It would be a lot better if we were on the winning side of it," Dozier said. "It is what it is. It was pretty cool. Three homers or whatever. But going into that last at-bat, I was extremely frustrated with how we had given up the lead."
Despite giving up the homers to Dozier, Kennedy picked up the win, allowing four runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. He outlasted Berrios, who went five frames, surrendering five runs on nine hits and a walk.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Insurance runs aplenty: The normally solid Kansas City relief corps had relinquished several late leads over the last week, leading to four losses and three blown saves. On Monday, the bats took charge late to make sure that wouldn't happen again. While the bullpen shut down several Minnesota rally attempts, the Royals tacked on those two runs in the seventh and four in the eighth to pull away, capped by Hosmer's homer, which traveled a Statcast-estimated 418 feet to the center-field bullpens.
"We've been really pounding the back end of our bullpen," Yost said. "We needed to see if we could get through that game without using those guys. That should put us in pretty good shape tomorrow." More >
Bull Dozier: Dozier continued to torment the Royals with three homers, giving him 10 against them this year, which is the most ever in a season by a Kansas City opponent. Dozier leads the Majors with 31 homers over his last 70 games, dating back to June 19. His 38 homers are the most by a Major League second baseman since Alfonso Soriano also hit 38 in 2003. Dozier's homers also went a combined 1,250 feet, per Statcast™, which is the second-longest distance of a three-homer game in the Statcast™ Era, trailing only Alex Rodriguez's 1,324 feet last year.
"You don't see runs like this very often from anybody," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "They just keep coming. He did what he could today, getting us in the game with the leadoff homer, a two-run homer after a lengthy at-bat and the exclamation point to the day with his last one." More >
Gordon returns with a bang: After being held out of Sunday's starting lineup with tightness in his right Achilles, left fielder Alex Gordon returned to the Royals' lineup on Monday with a 2-for-5 day, including an RBI single in his first at-bat in the second inning and a double to lead off the sixth. It was his first multi-hit game since Aug. 20, a span of 14 games.
"Gordon was ready to go yesterday," Yost said. "That wasn't that big of a deal. It's good to see him get a couple of hits."
Small ball pays off: The Twins added a run in the fourth when Eddie Rosario opened with a double and scored from second on a sacrifice bunt from Eduardo Escobar. A bunt also helped spark what turned out to be a failed rally in the sixth, as Juan Centeno reached on a bunt single when he tried to advance Jordan Schafer to third after a leadoff double. But Byron Buxton and Dozier struck out before Trevor Plouffe flied out to center with the bases loaded to end the inning.
"Whether you hit homers or not, it tastes a lot better when you go home and crack open a cold one knowing you beat the Royals. But that didn't happen." - Dozier, on three homers coming in a loss
"The best way to do it is to don't throw him fastballs down the middle. That's what we did." -- Yost, on how to stop Dozier
"It's amazing to watch, it really is. I think we could all appreciate the third [homer] a lot more because it wasn't as close of a game." -- Hosmer, on Dozier's three-homer game
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The most homers in a single season by a second baseman is 42, a record shared by Davey Johnson and Rogers Hornsby, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Johnson actually hit 43 in 1973, but one came as a pinch-hitter. Dozier has 36 as a second baseman this season with two coming as a designated hitter.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Dillon Gee (6-7, 4.33 ERA) will make his third start of the season against the Twins on Tuesday at 7:10 CT at Target Field. He has lost his last four road starts and has allowed three homers in each of his two starts against the Twins, becoming the first pitcher to do so since Catfish Hunter in 1969.
Twins: Right-hander Ervin Santana (7-10, 3.54 ERA) is set to start for the Twins. Santana has been one of the better pitchers in baseball the last few months, as he's posted a 2.38 ERA over his last 13 outings.