MINNEAPOLIS -- Brian Dozier tied a Twins record by homering in a fifth straight game. But it ended with a familiar result, as the Royals rallied, keyed by two homers from Kendrys Morales and a seven-run ninth inning, for a 10-3 win on Tuesday night at Target Field.
With the victory, the Royals clinched a 6th straight series win over the Twins and remained four games back of the Orioles in the American League Wild Card race. It was Kansas City's seventh straight win over Minnesota, as the Royals improved to 14-2 in the season series.
"We feel like we've been playing good baseball," Royals starter Dillon Gee said. "Even the Yankees series and the Detroit one, we were in every single game until the last out. Those were two rough series, but I think we definitely all know that we have a run in us, and if we keep playing the way we are, we'll see how things unfold."
After tying the game with a run in the seventh on an RBI single from Alcides Escobar, the Royals took the lead in the ninth after loading the bases with none out against Twins closer Brandon Kintzler. Drew Butera, in the game after Salvador Perez exited after being hit on his right wrist in the seventh, came through with an RBI single to right. The Royals broke it open with a two-run single from Paulo Orlando, an RBI single from Eric Hosmer and a three-run blast from Morales.
The story of the game for the scuffling Twins, however, was Dozier homering yet again with a leadoff blast. Dozier has a Major League-leading 22 homers over his last 36 games, which is the most since Shawn Green had 22 in 36 games with the Dodgers in 2002.
"It's kind of like a video game," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He's just impressive to watch. They tried to go with offspeed for the first two pitches and then threw a fastball away, but it was just enough where he was able to do what he does. So kudos to him. The run continues. But I'm sure it's frustrating because it's tough to let games slip away like that."
Morales connected on a two-run shot in the first off Ervin Santana. The Twins countered against Gee with three homers in their first seven at-bats. After Dozier's leadoff shot, Trevor Plouffe connected on a solo blast in the first, while Eddie Rosario hit a go-ahead solo homer in the second. Santana and Gee both went six innings, allowing three runs each in no-decisions.
"[Gee] could not get the ball down in the first two innings," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Everything he was throwing was elevated in the zone, his location was off. After the second inning, he came in and made an adjustment and got in a groove, and did a phenomenal job of getting us through six innings and keeping us right there in the game. It was a tremendous effort on his part."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Dozier dinger: Dozier hit a leadoff homer for a second straight game, the first Twins player to accomplish the feat since Jacque Jones in 2002. It was also his 11th homer against the Royals this season, which is the most against a team in a single season since Alex Rodriguez also had 11 homers vs. the Angels in 2003. The homer came on a 2-0 fastball from Gee, and traveled an estimated 390 feet, according to Statcast™. More >
"He's on a roll right now," Santana said. "We're trying not to talk too much about it. Just let it roll."
Escobar comes through again: The shortstop has been swinging a hot bat as of late, extending his hitting streak to 14 games with an RBI single in the seventh off Twins reliever Ryan Pressly that scored Terrance Gore from second to tie the game at 3. During his hitting streak, Escobar is hitting .364 (20-for-55) with seven doubles, three homers and 13 RBIs. He also showed off his defensive skills in the seventh, charging a soft grounder off the bat of Rosario and making a strong throw to barely nab Rosario at first.
Santana escapes: The Royals threatened to tie the game in the fifth, when Alex Gordon reached third with none out. But Santana was able to wriggle his way out of the jam with the help of two strikeouts, including one of Raul Mondesi on a 3-2 slider to end the inning.
"Ervin Santana is so tough in those spots right there," Yost said. "He's not going to give in. He's not going to make a mistake. He'd just as soon walk you and play off your aggressiveness than throw a pitch that you can drive into the air to score a run. He was like that when he was [in Kansas City] and he's like that now."
Morales goes deep twice: Morales gave the Royals an early lead with a two-run homer to right field in the first inning that nearly left the stadium. The homer traveled an estimated 429 feet and left his bat at 106 mph, according to Statcast™. Morales' jack in the seven-run ninth was his team-leading 25th. He extended his hitting streak to nine games and is the first Royal to hit 22 or more homers in consecutive years since Carlos Beltran did it in three straight from 2001-03.
"It's been some time now, where [I'm] starting to feel really, really good," Morales said through interpreter Pedro Grifol. "Now, [I'm] really comfortable at the plate and making good, hard contact."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Dozier has 39 homers overall and 37 as a second baseman this year, as two came as a designated hitter. The American League record by a second baseman is 39 by Alfonso Soriano in 2002, while the Major League record is 42 by Davey Johnson (1973) and Rogers Hornsby (1922).
PEREZ, PLOUFFE LEAVE WITH INJURIES
Perez exited the game in the seventh inning after sustaining a right wrist contusion after being hit by a 92-mph fastball from Santana. Perez doubled over in pain, was evaluated by trainers and was replaced by pinch-runner Gore. Butera replaced Perez behind the plate.
Plouffe, who homered in the first, left the game in the middle of his at-bat in the eighth, as he sustained a left oblique strain swinging at a pitch from reliever Kelvin Herrera. Plouffe was removed for pinch-hitter Kennys Vargas, who flied out to center on the first pitch he saw for the second out. Plouffe has already been on the disabled list this season with a right intercostal strain and a fractured rib.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (11-2, 3.13 ERA) will get the ball on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT for the series finale. Duffy hasn't been quite as sharp in his past two outings, in which he allowed a combined 11 runs in 10 2/3 innings to snap a streak of seven straight quality starts. He is 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA in 14 career outings vs. Minnesota.
Twins: Right-hander Kyle Gibson (5-9, 5.31) is set to start on Wednesday at Target Field. Gibson has struggled recently, posting a 6.81 ERA over his past seven starts, but owns a career 3.10 ERA against the Royals.