By Rhett Bollinger and Jeffrey Flanagan
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals jumped all over Bartolo Colon early, knocking him out in the second inning with a six-run outburst en route to an 11-3 win to split the four-game series with the Twins at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday.
Kansas City moved to within 2 1/2 games of Minnesota for the second American League Wild Card spot, while the Twins lead the Angels by 1 1/2 games, pending the Halos' result against the Mariners. The Twins went 11-8 against the Royals this season.
"You can imagine how good it feels," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Yesterday's game was huge.Today was the difference between 4 1/2 [games] and 2 1/2 out. Losing the first two games, we could have buried ourselves. But we didn't. ... We were going to go for it today [with the bullpen] and just empty the cupboard."
Eric Hosmer led the charge for the Royals, going 4-for-4, while Brandon Moss homered and had four RBIs. Moss opened the scoring with an RBI double in the second before Alcides Escobar came through with a two-run single.
Alex Gordon and Whit Merrifield had back-to-back RBI doubles before Hosmer capped the inning with an RBI single. The Royals added four runs in the seventh against reliever John Curtiss with Brian Dozier dropping a popup for a run and Moss crushing a three-run homer.
Hosmer now has eight consecutive hits and raised his average to .328, behind only Houston's Jose Altuve in the American League. Is Hosmer trying to catch Altuve for the batting title?
"I don't even think that's possible," Hosmer said, laughing.
Colon, who had a 3.30 ERA over his last seven starts, turned in his shortest outing of the year, lasting just 1 2/3 innings. He was charged with six runs on six hits. It was his shortest outing since recording one out against the Royals on June 21, 2016.
"It's hard to be overly definitive why it went the way it did today," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We know the Royals have been swinging the bat well this week. Some of their guys were really hot. He was up in the zone a little bit more. They were aggressive with a lot of first-pitch damage."
Royals lefty Jason Vargas bounced back from his recent scuffles with a strong outing, allowing one run on four hits over five innings to get his first win since Aug. 13 and snap a four-game losing streak. The lone run he allowed came in the second on a sacrifice fly from Eddie Rosario after a stand-up triple from Byron Buxton.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Vargas escapes trouble:The Twins threatened with one out in the fifth, loading the bases for Dozier, who has 29 homers. But Vargas got Dozier to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning unscathed. It was a big double play in a series full of them, as the Twins turned 11 against the Royals.
"Vargas started to get into a little fatigue in the fifth," Yost said. "But he made a great pitch on Dozier to get out of it."
Buxton's five-star grab: The Royals nearly did even more damage in the second, as Salvador Perez ripped a deep drive to right-center field with two on and two outs, but Buxton showed off his incredible range with a running catch to end the inning. The play had only an 18 percent catch probability, per Statcast™, making it his second five-star catch of the season. He covered 112 feet in 5.4 seconds.
"You don't want to overlook that one," Molitor said. "It could've been worse."
"I don't know [if] there was much I could do. They were aggressive. They knew I was going to be around the zone. So credit to them for being aggressive and getting on top of it. They were good pitches and where I wanted them to be." -- Colon
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: The Twins have an off-day Monday before hosting the Padres for a two-game series that begins Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Kyle Gibson (9-10, 5.19 ERA) starts for Minnesota and has posted a 3.19 ERA over his last eight starts.
Royals: The Royals open a three-game home series with the White Sox on Monday at 7:15 p.m. CT with right-hander Jason Hammel (8-10, 4.73 ERA) taking the mound. Since June 1, Hammel has 10 quality starts, and has had 14 starts in which he allowed three runs or less.