Minneapolis Will Smith is probably auditioning for a spot in Kansas City’s rotation next season.
Having Salvador Perez as his catcher sure helps his cause.
Smith pitched seven shutout innings, Eric Hosmer homered and the Royals beat the Minnesota Twins, 9-1, on Tuesday night.
Lorenzo Cain had two RBIs and was a home run away from the cycle as Kansas City beat Minnesota for just the sixth time in 16 games.
Perez extended his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games and threw out two runners trying to steal in support of Smith (5-7), who struck out a career-high seven and gave up seven hits in his first win in four starts.
“That guy’s awesome,” Smith said about Perez. “He’s so good. You love having him back there. You feel confident that the running game, he’s just going to completely shut it down.”
Ryan Doumit had the Twins’ RBI and Ben Revere had three hits.
Joe Mauer was in the initial starting lineup, but was scratched after experiencing back spasms before batting practice.
The atmosphere at Target Field brought back memories of the Metrodome, and not only because of all the empty seats for a September game featuring two teams out of contention.
With two outs and two runners on in the second inning, Cain hit a towering fly to left field. Josh Willingham lost it in the sky, holding out his hands as the ball fell 15 feet behind him and both runners scored.
Outfielders losing flyballs was a common occurrence under the white Teflon roof of the Metrodome, but hasn’t been a problem under the lights at Target Field.
“It was just the time of day. It’s frustrating when you can’t see the ball,” Willingham said.
The miscue didn’t help Scott Diamond (11-7) get back on track. The left-hander allowed four runs and 10 hits over six innings and has just one victory in his last six starts.
The first two Twins batters reached in the first, fourth and fifth innings, but they couldn’t break through against Smith.
Perez threw out basestealers to help erase the threats in the first and fifth, and Smith got Ryan Doumit to ground into a double play and struck out Trevor Plouffe to end the fourth.
The Twins had 16 stolen bases in their last 11 games, but were no match for Perez’s strong arm and quick release. Jamey Carroll and Darin Mastroianni fell victim to Perez on Tuesday.
“It kept the momentum on our side,” manager Ned Yost said about Perez, who has caught 11 of the last 21 runners trying to steal on him.
Cain got hit in the head by reliever Luis Perdomo in the eighth.
The ball appeared to hit Cain in the back of his helmet as he ducked, but Cain sat up quickly and remained in the game after sitting in the batter’s box and getting checked out by trainers.
“The guys definitely let me know I was a home run away from the cycle,” Cain said. “I was looking for a pitch to drive and ended up getting hit in the head. I went down for a second, but I’ll be fine.”