Homers help De Vries earn first big league win

Homers help De Vries earn first big league win

Homers help De Vries earn first big league win
KANSAS CITY -- After struggling early in the season, the Twins are starting to show signs they're capable of playing better baseball.

The offense has been the strong suit, and it was certainly the case on Monday night against the Royals, as Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and Trevor Plouffe homered to power the Twins to a 10-7 win at Kauffman Stadium.

The Twins have now won six of their last seven games, and the offense has led the way, as the club has averaged nearly six runs a game in those six victories. They've also won 11 of 18 dating back to May 16, and have averaged 5.5 runs per game over that span.

"We can pop a baseball -- we've always said if our pitchers give us an opportunity, we can play some baseball," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "If you watch our scores, when we have an opportunity, we're pretty good, we're OK, we hang in there pretty good."

The offensive barrage helped back right-hander Cole De Vries, who allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits over five-plus innings to pick up his first career victory in his third big league start.

De Vries wasn't exactly perfect, but he didn't walk a batter and was able to get out of a big jam in the fourth with a pair of strikeouts.

"It feels awesome," said De Vries, who was given the game ball after the win. "It's something I've been waiting for my whole life. To finally get it tonight is a pretty impeccable emotion."

Willingham was the first to go deep, getting the Twins out to an early lead with a two-run shot off left-hander Will Smith in the first inning. It was Willingham's club-leading 11th homer of the season.

But it was Morneau who put the Twins ahead for good with a two-run blast of his own in the fifth inning after the Royals had tied it at 4. Plouffe quickly followed up with a solo shot off Smith to give the Twins an insurance run.

"The big thing we've been doing has been answering," Plouffe said. "When a team comes out scoring, we score and take the momentum right back. It kind of deflates them a little bit. They scored three runs, and we came back with three runs, which was huge."

De Vries was handed an early lead with Willingham's two-run homer in the first and an RBI single from Jamey Carroll in the second. Carroll also provided an RBI triple in the fourth.

But the Royals got on the board in the second on a solo homer from Mike Moustakas before scoring three times in the fourth to tie it.

The Twins defense didn't help De Vries that frame, as Brian Dozier and Alexi Casilla both made errors. Moustakas had another big hit with an RBI double before two runs came around to score on the errors by Dozier and Casilla. De Vries, though, was able to get out of a jam by striking out Jarrod Dyson and Humberto Quintero to end the inning.

"He was going along pretty good, and we made some mistakes and missed a couple plays, but yet he made some big pitches in that inning to get through it," Gardenhire said. "The last two hitters he faced, I'll tell you, he made some huge pitches there, just to keep himself in the ballgame, which was pretty impressive."

Minnesota quickly retook the lead with the help of the homers from Morneau and Plouffe, before adding another run in the sixth on an RBI single from Ben Revere.

"Five runs off three homers, the quick-strike homers end up hurting us," said Royals manager Ned Yost.

Kansas City scored in the sixth after De Vries gave up back-to-back singles to Moustakas and Jeff Francoeur to open the inning. Alex Burnett came in and allowed Moustakas to score on a sacrifice fly, but he ended up tossing two scoreless innings in relief.

The Twins tacked on two more runs in the eighth on an RBI single from Willingham and Revere's second RBI single of the night.

The Royals scored twice in the ninth off reliever Jeff Gray, but closer Matt Capps came in to preserve the win with a one-out save.

"We started out with some runs and finished with what turned out to be big runs late," Willingham said. "That's what a consistent offense does, they do it for nine innings."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.