Minneapolis For the first time in 10 years, the Kansas City Royals will start August with a real hope of staying in the playoff race.
They are clearly enjoying the ride, no matter where it will finish.
Alex Gordon hit a two-out triple in the seventh inning and scored the go-ahead run on an error as the Royals won their eighth straight game with a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.
“This was one of the gutsier wins I’ve ever been a part of,” said Jeremy Guthrie, who turned in his seventh consecutive start of at least six innings. “We had adversity and had to battle. Guys stepped up.”
The Royals are above .500 at the end of July for the first time since 2003. At 53-51, they are two games over the break-even mark for the first time since May 17. They remained seven games behind Detroit in the AL Central and 41⁄2 games back of second-place Cleveland, the current holder of the second wild card spot.
“We’re just hoping to continue it every day,” said Billy Butler, who drove in two runs. “Everybody in here doesn’t want to be the guy that ends the streak. That’s the type of pressure we want to put ourselves in.”
Pedro Florimon homered in the fifth for the Twins, but he struck out with the bases loaded to end the sixth. In the seventh, with Gordon on third, the shortstop shuffled to his left to get his body behind a grounder up the middle hit by Eric Hosmer. Florimon failed to pick up the ball, though, as his momentum carried him past it. Gordon scored, and so did Hosmer one batter later on Butler’s single off reliever Caleb Thielbar (1-1).
Aaron Hicks took a bad angle toward Gordon’s drive off the center field wall, and the ball ricocheted past him to let Gordon get another base.
Guthrie (11-7) won his third start in a row and improved to 7-3 in his career against the Twins, including 3-1 this season. He surrendered six hits, two runs and two walks in six innings, and struck out five. The Twins started the sixth with three straight singles and tied the game on Chris Herrmann’s one-out walk. But Hicks popped out to second base, and Florimon fanned on three pitches.
The Royals have the league’s second-best team ERA. Their starters have allowed 11 earned runs in 72 innings over the last eight games. Guthrie had help for this one, particularly in the fifth one batter before Florimon went deep. Catcher Salvador Perez leaped out of his crouch to pick up a perfect bunt by Hicks, pivot and fire a straight-on throw to first base for the out.
“I said there’s no way. And then out of nowhere, ba-ba-boom, he got him. Phenomenal play,” manager Ned Yost said. “That saved the game for us.”
Greg Holland pitched the ninth for his 28th save in 30 tries.
Joe Mauer took second base on a one-out single and a throwing error by shortstop Alcides Escobar, but Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit struck out to end the game.
“They’re hot right now. Things are going their way. They’re definitely into the games over there,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Twins starter Kevin Correia gave up 10 hits over six innings, but he struck out three without a walk and somehow limited the damage to two runs on an RBI single by Miguel Tejada and a sacrifice fly by Butler.
Tejada was thrown out at home on a comebacker to the mound, Hosmer was thrown out at third on the sacrifice fly, and Butler grounded into a double play. David Lough was caught stealing, too.
The Royals are 9-3 against the Twins this season and 26-19 against the division.
“I faced them early in the year. I threw well against them, and it seems like every guy on that team has gotten better since then. Now it’s a very good offensive team,” Correia said. “It’s a bunch of young guys continuing to get better. They have a good approach in what they’re doing. You can’t really go out there and take advantage of them just because they’re kind of inexperienced.”
NOTES: The Royals rested 2B Chris Getz (sore left knee) and CF Lorenzo Cain (sore groin) again as a precaution, but Yost said they have both improved. He said he would wait until Friday to play Getz. ... Florimon has seven homers, just three off the team lead shared by Trevor Plouffe and Josh Willingham. Florimon’s minor league season high for home runs was nine. ... The Royals will send RHP James Shields (5-7, 3.09 ERA) to the mound in the series finale Thursday afternoon for his team-high 23rd start, facing Twins LHP Scott Diamond (5-9, 5.26 ERA). Diamond allowed just one run in six innings in his last appearance, only the third quality start of his previous 14 turns. Shields has lost twice to the Twins in 12 career starts.