Vargas, Polanco lift Twins over Royals
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kennys Vargas hasn’t had a ton of at bats so far this year for the Minnesota Twins. When Vargas does have a chance to play, he tries to make the most of it.
Vargas certainly did that Friday against the Kansas City Royals, as his pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning completely turned the tide.
Vargas’ one-out, two-run blast tied the game and Jorge Polanco lifted a sacrifice fly in the 10th to give Minnesota a 4-3 victory over Kansas City.
“He was all over it,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Vargas’ homer. “That was just a huge lift.”
Vargas pinch hit for slumping Byron Buxton and connected on the second pitch he saw from Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera. Vargas’ two-run blast went an estimated 443 feet and turned the night from what seemed like a Twins loss into a tie game.
It was the second career pinch hit home run for Vargas, who was playing in just his 17th game of the season. It was Minnesota’s second pinch hit homer this year; catcher Jason Castro also hit one on April 22 against Detroit.
Herrera fell behind Vargas with a first-pitch ball and then threw the Twins slugger a changeup on the next pitch. Vargas deposited that pitch off the ribbon board in right-center field.
“I didn’t finish that pitch,” Herrera said. “In my mind, I want him to chase the pitch, but he got power. It was poor execution.”
After Minnesota drew three straight walks against Al Alburquerque (0-1) and Travis Wood to begin the bottom of the 10th, Polanco’s sacrifice fly to left field was enough to score Joe Mauer from third base.
Kansas City’s relievers failed to find the strike zone in the 10th inning. Mauer, Ehire Adrianza and Max Kepler all drew walks to set up Polanco’s walk-off sacrifice fly.
“You welcome those comebacks when they happen, because in today’s game, with the bullpens the way they are, it just seems like they’re less and less frequent around the game,” Molitor said. “We stayed with it and gave ourselves a chance.”
Minnesota is now 6-0 on the season against the Royals. The Twins previous success against Kansas City meant they still had faith in the ninth inning while trailing by a pair of runs.
“No matter the team we’re facing, we just try to play hard all nine innings,” Vargas said. “We try to get the win and try to keep focused.”
Four relievers combined on five scoreless innings after Hector Santiago allowed three runs and eight hits. Closer Brandon Kintzler (2-0) allowed two hits in the 10th but started an inning-ending double play on a lineout by Jorge Bonifacio.
Royals’ starter Nate Karns pitched just five innings but only allowed one run on five hits. Karns exited after just 72 pitches after he felt a bit of stiffness in his right arm.
Santiago allowed a two-run homer to Bonifacio in the no-decision.
Kansas City took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning when Cheslor Cuthbert’s single to center drove in Whit Merrifield from third base. Merrifield reached earlier in the inning on a fielder’s choice and advanced to third base on a single to left by Alex Gordon.
One inning later, Bonifacio hit his third homer of the year to put the Royals up 3-0. Bonifacio took Santiago deep to left for a two-run shot, also driving in Eric Hosmer.
Minnesota got on the board in the fourth inning when Robbie Grossman sent the first pitch he saw from Karns an estimated 409 feet over the wall in right-center. Grossman’s third homer this year made it a 3-1 game.
NOTES: LHP Adalberto Mejia is scheduled to start Saturday’s game for Minnesota. Mejia will need to be recalled from Triple-A Rochester prior to Saturday’s outing. Mejia made three starts for the Twins earlier this year before being optioned to Rochester and was 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA. ... RHP Ian Kennedy is due to return from the 10-day disabled list and start Saturday for Kansas City. Kennedy has been on the DL with a hamstring strain. Kennedy made six starts before landing on the DL and is 0-3 with a 3.03 ERA. ... Twins LHP Glen Perkins threw 15 to 20 pitches in a bullpen session before Friday’s game. Perkins has yet to pitch this year after recovering from shoulder surgery that limited him to just two games during the 2016 season. A potential date for Perkins’ return to the roster remains a question mark.