Archive for Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hosmer’s homer lifts Royals, 2-1, over Twins

July 16, 2011

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— Matt Capps insisted there’s no difference to him, pitching on the road or at his home ballpark.

But Target Field has not been a friendly place lately for the scuffling former All-Star closer.

Eric Hosmer hit a two-run, two-out homer in the top of the ninth inning to lift the Kansas City Royals to a 2-1 victory Friday night, the seventh blown save this season for Capps to match the major league lead.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever struggled like this,” Capps said, adding: “Nobody’s more disappointed right now. It’s not fun.”

Capps (2-5) was booed mildly after Melky Cabrera’s leadoff four-pitch walk and loudly after Hosmer’s drive to straightaway center field. Capps couldn’t hold the lead in a save situation for the seventh time in 22 tries, tying Carlos Marmol of the Chicago Cubs for most in the majors.

In his last four appearances at home, Capps has blown two saves, allowing 11 hits, seven earned runs, two walks and two homers in just 22⁄3 innings.

“It’s been a rough year from the word ‘go’ for me,” said Capps, an All-Star last season for the Washington Nationals before coming to Minnesota in a trade for prize catching prospect Wilson Ramos. “I appreciate the support I do get, and all I can say is I’m going to keep grinding. I’m not giving up.”

Tim Collins (4-4) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win, the first by the Royals in their last six games against the Twins, and Joakim Soria escaped a jam in the ninth for his 16th save in 21 tries. Soria empathized with his opponent after watching his teammates rally.

“He’s a great pitcher. He’s not that bad. He’s not wild. Nothing. He’s just hit a bit of bump there ... “ Soria said. “I had that one this season. He’ll figure it out. He’s a really good guy and a great baseball player. I think the fans, he needs their support.”

After Cabrera stole second base, Alex Gordon grounded out and Jason Repko raced to catch a sharp flyball by Billy Butler in the right field corner for the second out of the ninth. But Hosmer — after swinging late and missing a high fastball — connected for his ninth homer this season to spoil seven shutout innings by Twins starter Nick Blackburn.

“Anytime you’re facing a good closer like Capps, especially with a good fastball, got to try to jump on it early,” Hosmer said.

Said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire: “Everything gets thrown on the closer. Sure, he gave it up at the end, but a lot of people misfired, too. ... We have all the trust in the world in him.”

Soria gave up a leadoff single to Jim Thome, and Matt Tolbert entered as a pinch runner.

Danny Valencia’s drive to the warning track in center raised hope for the home team of a walk-off win, but the ball died in time for Cabrera to catch it for the first out. Delmon Young’s soft single to center sent Tolbert to third, but Tolbert came home on a roller in front of the plate by pinch-hitter Luke Hughes and was easily tagged out. Tsuyoshi Nishioka grounded out to end the game.

“It was pretty bad on my part. I thought I could’ve made it at first. I thought it wasn’t hit that hard, and then it kind of just got to him a little quicker than I thought,” Tolbert said.

Blackburn gave up only four hits and two walks while striking out three, his best start in a month. Royals starter Luke Hochevar who looked just as comfortable on the mound and was equally effective, finishing seven innings with only three hits allowed.

Ben Revere ran his way to the Twins’ only run, stealing second base, moving up on a ground ball and scoring easily on Hochevar’s wild pitch in the fourth.

Then with one out in the sixth, Revere really revved up the crowd with a highlight-reel three-base hit — putting the trip in triple. His line drive to right field bounced past Jeff Francoeur to the bottom of the wall, and he sped so fast around second base that he lost his balance and fell forward halfway to third. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Revere barely lost momentum as he did a full somersault, got up without his helmet and slid head-first into the base with room to spare.

Notes: Twins athletic trainer Rick McWane said 1B Justin Morneau is “feeling great” in his recovery from neck surgery and will be re-evaluated Monday.

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