Their recent unfortunate foray to Texas thankfully behind them, the Twins returned home Friday to the baseball equivalent of a well-worn easy chair and their favorite home-cooked meal: a Target Field series with the Royals.
Those Astros pitchers who limited Minnesota to four runs in three games? Elsewhere. Those Rangers hitters who splattered Twins pitching for 32 runs over the weekend? A couple of time zones away.
And in their place came the Royals, a last-place team farther behind the Twins than the Twins are from first place. Best part about it? You can make mistakes, take some body blows, and still win. Minnesota surrendered a cannon shot of a three-run homer, gave up a six-run third inning, yet shrugged it off and ended its five-game losing streak with a 10-6 victory.
“It’s nice to see us come back,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor, after his bullpen shut out Kansas City for the final six innings. “I don’t know how many unanswered runs we ended up scoring there, but it was a good run.”
It was eight unanswered, against rookie pitcher Heath Fillmyer and Kansas City’s forlorn bullpen, enough to beat the Royals for the sixth time in seven home games and improve to 39-28 at Target Field this year.
And one of the best parts of the rally, according to Molitor? It all started with a bunt.
After Kansas City struck for six runs, three scoring on Salvador Perez’s 17th career Target Field homer, Minnesota tied the score before making two more outs. Jorge Polanco led off with a bunt single against a KC defense shifted toward right field, triggering a run of four straight hits.
“It was a long inning, but I went down the row [in the dugout] and said, ‘Remember how it started.’ Because I’m a big proponent of taking advantage, especially when you’re behind and you need baserunners,” Molitor said. “I flashed a little sign [meaning] ‘Look around,’ and he saw it and took advantage. And we kind of took off from there.”
They did, tying the score with a four-run third, with Logan Forsythe and Jake Cave driving in runs with timely hits off Fillmyer, and adding three more in the fifth off the bullpen, with Max Kepler and Ehire Adrianza driving home runs. Mitch Garver had RBI in both innings on grounders, a sign, Molitor said, that “he’s learning. He’s hit some balls to the third baseman in those situations, where you can’t score. When they’re playing back and in the middle of the field, there’s an opportunity. You’ve just got to change your approach a little bit.”
Stephen Gonsalves needs a change, too, after walking three and giving up five runs while recording only seven outs. The rookie lefthander’s ERA has ballooned to 11.68 after four big-league starts.
“I’ve been battling with my fastball. It’s just cutting on me,” Gonsalves said. “It’s just my hands. With my fastball, I’m getting a little jumpy and leaking toward the plate a little too much.”
It’s an adjustment he can make, Molitor said. “He’s capable. He’s had some stretches earlier this year, in particular [in the minors], where he was able to pitch around some of the command issues he had,” the manager said. “But up here, the margin of error’s a little different.”