Streaking Royals knock off Twins

Published 11:12 am Thursday, August 1, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Morneau got through the non-waiver trade deadline without leaving the Minnesota Twins.

At bat in a one-run game with one out in the bottom of the ninth and his buddy Joe Mauer on second base, Morneau struck out. The failure to capitalize on that situation was a fitting snapshot of not only another long night but another lost season.

Alex Gordon hit a two-out triple in the seventh inning and then scored the go-ahead run for Kansas City, on an error by Minnesota, and the Royals won their eighth straight game with a 4-3 victory over the Twins on Wednesday night.

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“We’ve got to kind of figure out a way to get the ball in play,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The Twins left 11 men on base and went 3 for 17 with runners in scoring position. Doumit followed Morneau by striking out to end the game against closer Greg Holland, who notched his 28th save in 30 tries.

Doumit and Trevor Plouffe greeted Kelvin Herrera in the eighth inning with doubles, slicing the lead to 4-3. Hicks added a one-out infield single, putting runners at the corners. But Aaron Crow came in to strike out the last two batters. The Twins whiffed 12 times.

Then there was the sixth, in which the Twins started with three straight singles against Jeremy Guthrie (11-7). They tied the game at 2 on Chris Herrmann’s one-out walk. But Aaron Hicks popped out to second base, and Pedro Florimon fanned on three pitches — after hitting a homer in the previous inning.

“I think that he’s going to throw me the same pitch, but he throws me a slider first and then a fastball a little bit up,” Florimon said.

The young shortstop followed that with a costly error.

With Gordon on third, Florimon 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.

“I was pretty quick on that play. … I know I have to make that play,” Florimon said.

Gordon scored, and so did Hosmer one batter later on Billy Butler’s single off reliever Caleb Thielbar (1-1).

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 race and 4 1/2 games back of second-place Cleveland, the current holder of the second wild card spot.

Guthrie improved to 7-3 in his career against the Twins, including 3-1 this season. The Royals, who have the league’s second-best team ERA, have relied on their rotation for this midsummer surge. The starters have allowed 11 earned runs in 72 innings over the last eight games.

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.

“What I’ve done a lot in the past is pitch really well and then give up a two-run homer in the sixth or the seventh. It ends up the same,” Correia said.

That the Twins didn’t trade anyone off their major league roster came only as temporary relief to Morneau, the cornerstone first baseman who hasn’t been the same since a concussion that ended his 2010 season. In the final year of his contract, he could be dealt in August if he clear waivers first.

“The reason why we’re in this situation is the way we’ve been playing as a team and the way I’ve been playing myself. That’s the unfortunate part,” Morneau said. “We’re out to win, and I want to be a part of that. Hopefully we have a better finish to the season and we’ll see what happens.”

Despite being out of the playoff chase for a third straight season, the Twins weren’t able to persuade a contender to give up a prospect or two for one of their veterans. Correia and fellow starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey were among the top candidates to be moved, along with Morneau, Doumit and a few relievers. But all general manager Terry Ryan ended up doing was dealing minor league catcher Drew Butera to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I told Pelfrey that he was supposed to be part of the Dodger trade, but they have a time limit on their games,” manager Ron Gardenhire quipped before the game. “Trying to loosen the tension in here, and he laughed so that was good and we can move forward from there.”

NOTES: 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. … Mauer is hitting .467 (21 for 45) with five RBIs in his last 12 games.