With 37,819 Minnesota fans, unaccustomed to basting in 91-degree heat, on hand for the sun-drenched proceedings, the Royals and Bruce Chen seemed to have a grip on Sunday's series finale. That was before the Twins muscled up and finished the day with four home runs.
"It got away in a hurry, the homers killed us," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Bruce was really rolling. ... he was totally in control of the game."
Until the sixth inning at least.
Trevor Plouffe pounded a home run to left field against Chen in the second inning. That came just after first baseman Eric Hosmer saved an errant throw by third baseman Yuniesky Betancourt, leaping high for the grab and tagging batter Justin Morneau as he descended. It was one of two sparkling plays by the young first sacker.
The Royals tied the score in the fourth inning, started by All-Star Billy Butler's single to center. A one-out walk to Betancourt and Hosmer's single loaded the bases, but the only run scored on Brayan Pena's long sacrifice fly to center.
Then the Royals ganged up on Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano with four runs in the sixth inning. They loaded the bases with one out on Betancourt's single, a hit batter (Hosmer) and Pena's single off Liriano's glove. Jason Bourgeois' sharp grounder got past first baseman Morneau and rolled into right field, where it got through Darin Mastroianni. Result: two errors on the play and two runs.
That brought right-hander Jeff Gray in relief of Liriano but the assault continued as Irving Falu lined a two-run double down the right-field line. Gray eventually ended the inning, but it was 5-1 Royals.
"It was a battle for Frankie. I think we could all see that," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I think that sun kind of took its toll on him. It took us a while to get to Chen, but we finally banged some balls around off him."
Indeed, the Twins immediately retaliated against Chen with a five-run sixth inning.
"I feel bad," Chen said. "We had a good lead and I feel like I let the game get away from me.
Brian Dozier opened their sixth with a triple to deep center and scored on Denard Span's sacrifice bunt. Jamey Carroll walked, Joe Mauer singled and Josh Willingham pounded a three-run homer into the center-field bullpen.
"I should've made better pitches and I certainly shouldn't have walked Carroll in that situation," Chen said. "But I really felt like I had all my pitches going and I shouldn't have given up six runs, especially since we were ahead, 5-1."
Suddenly it was 5-5 and when, as the inning continued, Plouffe walloped his second home run into the left-field seats, the Twins were ahead and Chen, too, was out of the game. The Twins added a run in the seventh as Kelvin Herrera walked Dozier and, after stealing second, he scored on Span's single off Jose Mijares for a 7-5 lead.
With two outs in the top of the eighth, Alex Gordon doubled and Alcides Escobar walked, setting up a big opportunity for Butler, the newly anointed All-Star. Butler did his best in a stirring 10-pitch battle with right-hander Jared Burton, fouling off five pitches but finally went down swinging.
Then came the eighth-inning add-ons -- Drew Butera's three-run smash to left field off Aaron Crow -- that effectively squashed the Royals' spirited ninth-inning comeback bid.
"Butera's homer ended up killing us, but our guys just stayed after it, they didn't quit and I'm proud of them for that," Yost said. "They made it interesting till the end."
After two outs in the ninth, the Royals came back with three runs on singles by Hosmer and Pena, pinch-hitter Salvador Perez's double and Falu's two-run single. But lefty Glen Perkins finally got Alex Gordon to ground into the game-ending out.
Falu, playing second base while Betancourt gave Mike Moustakas a day off at third, wound up with four RBIs on three hits.
"I feel bad because my team lost," Falu said. "I tried to do my best."