Span's double caps Twins' walk-off comeback

Span's double caps Twins' walk-off comeback

Span's double caps Twins' walk-off comeback
MINNEAPOLIS -- Trevor Plouffe has had a tough second half of the season, but it didn't keep him from playing a huge role in Minnesota's comeback on Thursday night.

Plouffe teed off on Royals closer Greg Holland for a game-tying homer in the ninth, while Denard Span's RBI double in the 10th gave the Twins a 4-3 walk-off win in front of 28,669 fans at Target Field.

The win was the Twins' sixth walk-off victory of the season and the second walk-off hit for Span. He also led the Twins to a victory in 15 innings against Milwaukee on June 17. The win also saved Minnesota from a three-game sweep at the hands of their American League Central rivals.

Plouffe -- who missed three weeks in July and August with a bruised right thumb -- has struggled in the second half after starting the season at a breakout pace with a .253 average to go with 19 home runs and 36 RBIs over 66 games. But since the All-Star break, Plouffe came into Thursday's game hitting just .198 with one home run and 11 RBIs.

He was also hitting .167 with five extra-base hits in 27 games since returning from the thumb injury on Aug. 13.

So needless to say, Thursday's game-tying blast -- his 21st of the season -- was a big boost. The home run came on a 1-0 pitch to begin the ninth.

"Since I came back off the DL, it's been a little bit of a struggle for me -- no doubt about it," Plouffe said. "But no one's going to feel sorry for you. You have to get yourself out of these ruts. That's what a good, big league baseball player does. But I'm still learning how to do that. It's something I'll continue to work on. My ultimate goal is to be more consistent."

Span's clutch hit gave him his second big game in as many days after returning from the disabled list. He went 3-for-5 on Wednesday night in his first action since Aug. 27.

"He's got a nice, short swing," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's been on the baseball. We call it fresh hands -- he's a little bit more rested than the rest of the guys because he did sit out. So you can look at it two ways.

"But his hands are clicking pretty good. That last ball, we told him to get up on the plate and turn on it and drive it, and he did."

Alexi Casilla started the 10th with a double before Span lifted Francisley Bueno's pitch to the right-center wall -- too far for the Royals to have a chance at throwing out Casilla.

Royals manager Ned Yost shifted first baseman Eric Hosmer to right field after center fielder Lorenzo Cain injured himself while trying to make a diving catch on Casilla's ball. Jeff Francoeur moved from right to left and Brayan Pena entered to play first.

"We were playing to throw the guy out on a base hit," Hosmer said. "I don't know if a normal right fielder would've had that ball or what. ... Anything over your head you've pretty much got to give it up anyways."

Twins starter Liam Hendriks will have to wait at least one more start for an opportunity to earn his first career Major League win.

The right-hander was better against Kansas City then he had been in recent outings. Hendriks held the Royals to three runs in five innings, but has gone 17 career starts without a win, matching the third-longest stretch to begin a career winless. Bill Caudill and Mike Mohler each went without a victory in their first 20 career starts.

Kansas City got to Hendriks early, with Salvador Perez driving in two runs on a two-out single in the first to extend his hit streak to 17. Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon both came in to score on the hit after they singled and walked, respectively.

"I told [Hendriks] he got a half-a-win," Gardenhire said. "I'm just giving him one. I was a little disappointed in the first inning. He wasn't attacking."

The Royals added another run in the fifth after David Lough's leadoff triple. Hendriks retired the next two batters, but Billy Butler's double brought Lough around to score.

But the right-hander mostly cruised between the second and fifth innings, over which he allowed four hits.

"Soon as [pitching coach Rick Anderson] came out he just goes, 'Look, you got to have fun. Go out and have fun,'" Hendriks said. "Before that I was kind of pressing a little bit. After that I felt good -- I felt loose. Everything was flowing well. I had fun out there."

Josh Willingham's solo home run -- his 34th of the season -- against Royals starter Luis Mendoza in the first inning put Minnesota on the scoreboard. Willingham is the sixth Twins player to record 34 home runs in a season and the first since Justin Morneau in 2006 -- the year he won the American League Most Valuable Player Award.

Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison are the only Twins to hit 35 in a season.

Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.