Three-run ninth rallies Twins past Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Minnesota Twins rarely win a game this season when they trail after eight innings.
But they did Thursday night for only the third time in 60 games when behind entering the ninth.
Jorge Polanco’s two-run, two-out single in a three-run ninth inning lifted Minnesota to a 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night.
The loss dropped Kansas City 3 1/2 games behind the Twins in the race for the second American League wild card. Minnesota is one game up on the Los Angeles Angels.
“It was really good to see us get over the hump in one of these games,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We’ve been putting pressure on to the last out.”
The Twins were limited to one run and six hits for the first eight innings before rallying in the ninth off Kelvin Herrera (3-3). Herrera had not pitched since Sept. 1 because of right forearm tightness.
“He was fine,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He didn’t have issues with the tightness. He just gave up the hits.”
Max Kepler led off the inning with a single. With one out, Jason Castro hit a fly ball down the left-field line that shortstop Alcides Escobar nearly caught, but it fell for a single. After Robbie Grossman walked, Brian Dozier’s sacrifice fly tied it.
Polanco quickly untied it with his single that scored pinch runner Zack Granite and Grossman.
Castro’s single hurt the Royals as much as Polanco’s hit.
“It was probably a ball I probably should have took,” left fielder Alex Gordon said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Said Royals manager Ned Yost: “I thought it was going to be a tough play. It was down in the spot in that no-man’s land, where it’s tough for the third baseman. It’s a long run for the shortstop and it’s a long run for the left fielder.”
Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson, who was 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his previous three starts, limited the Royals to two runs on eight hits over seven innings, throwing 95 pitches.
“Any time you can go seven innings without striking anybody out, your defense is playing good,” Gibson said. “And hats off to the offense. That’s why we won the game. The offense didn’t give up.”
The Twins turned four double plays, three when Gibson was pitching.
Mauer reached base five times with a double, two singles and two walks.
Trevor Hildenberger (3-2) picked up the victory by pitching a scoreless eighth inning, while Matt Belisle worked a spotless ninth for his sixth save.
“That’s a tough loss right there in the last inning,” Escobar said.
Grossman, who was reinstated from the disabled list Tuesday after missing 18 games with a fractured left thumb, broke the scoreless deadlock with a home run with one out in the fifth. The switch-hitting Grossman, who was batting ninth, turned on a Sam Gaviglio changeup and deposited it over the right-field fence.
The Royals forged ahead in the bottom of the fifth with a pair of runs. Escobar had a one-out double and scored on Alex Gordon’s single to right. Gordon went to second on Ramon Torres’ groundout and scored on Whit Merrifield’s single.
Gaviglio was removed after five innings. He permitted one run on four hits and three walks while striking out three.
“(Catcher Salvador) Perez made my job easy,” Gaviglio said. “He was putting down the signs and I was throwing the pitch. He was doing a lot of the work for me.”
NOTES: Twins 3B Miguel Sano, who is on the disabled list with a left shin stress reaction, had sore legs Thursday after running Wednesday. The club opted not to have him take batting practice, so he hit off the tee instead. ... Royals 3B Mike Moustakas, who left the game Wednesday with a tender right knee, was the designated hitter Thursday. He went 0-for-2, grounded into a double play and was hit by a pitch. Rookie Ramon Torres started at third. ... Royals INF Cheslor Cuthbert is battling gall bladder issues, which prevented him from starting at third base. ... Major League Baseball made a scoring change from the Twins-Royals game Sunday. Twins 3B Eduardo Escobar has been rewarded with a double, taking away an error on Royals LF Alex Gordon. ... Minnesota RHP Ervin Santana (14-7, 3.35 ERA) and Royals RHP Ian Kennedy (4-10, 5.37) are the Friday probables.