KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Even though he was the Twins’ best hitter a year ago, Eddie Rosario doesn’t need to hit to be valuable to the Twins.
He proved it again Tuesday — and then got a critical hit, too.
Rosario, the Twins’ MVP a year ago, threw a baserunner out from left field and scored from first base — on a single — to help support the pitching of Jose Berrios. And after Kansas City ended Taylor Rogers’ scoreless-inning streak in the unlikeliest way, with an inside-the-park home run, Rosario ended his hitting drought with an RBI single to tie the score.
Nelson Cruz did the rest an inning later, beating the Royals’ shift with a ground ball to the right side that scored Willians Astudillo and delivered a 5-4 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
“This is a guy I don’t worry about one bit, because his confidence does not waver,” manager Rocco Baldelli said of Rosario. “He’s been swinging the bat well, and if he continues to put swings on the ball like he did tonight, he’s going to be great.”
Byron Buxton left the game with a bruised back after crashing into the center field wall in his attempt to catcher the inside-the-park homer by Adalberto Mondesi. Baldelli said he's likely to keep Buxton out of today's 12:15 p.m. game.
“We’ll see how he progresses, but as of now, we potentially have escaped” serious injury, Baldelli said. “It’s not insignificant. He hit the wall pretty hard. We’ll take a day or two and evaluate him again.”
Rosario, 0-for-11 vs. the Indians over the weekend, grounded out twice and struck out in the game’s first seven innings Tuesday. But he also drew a walk off Kansas City starter Brad Keller in the fourth inning, and then confounded the Royals defense with his baserunning. When C.J. Cron drove a routine broken-bat single to shallow left-center field, Rosario’s play was anything but routine. He rounded second base and headed for third, keeping his eye on left fielder Alex Gordon.
Rosario was near third base when Gordon retrieved Cron’s hit and casually tossed the ball to shortstop Mondesi — exactly the move that the Twins’ craftiest baserunner was looking for. He never broke stride and suddenly burst toward home plate. By the time Mondesi realized what was happening, it was too late. His throw sailed high, and Rosario slid home easily.
“It’s awesome. I didn’t expect an RBI there,” Cron said. “Once I hit it, I just thought, first and third. Pass the baton. I even looked over and [third-base coach] Tony [Diaz] was holding him. I see him round third and I’m like, ‘Well, then hopefully he’s safe. It was by actually quite a bit, so it was a good play.”
Considering that Marwin Gonzalez followed by striking out and Jonathan Schoop grounded out, it’s possible the run would never have scored without Rosario’s aggressive baserunning.
When Royals catcher Martin Maldonado tried a little aggressive baserunning of his own in the bottom of the inning, Rosario was waiting for him, too. Maldonado smacked a line drive down the left field line and decided he could stretch the hit into a double.
He was wrong. Rosario fired a perfect throw to second base, and Maldonado was tagged out by Schoop.
Cruz knocked in two runs with a fifth-inning double and then got the game-winner — but only after some controversy. Cruz hit a ball down the third base line that Chris Owings picked up and stepped on third base for an inning-ending force out. But umpires Mark Ripperger and James Hoye conferred and ruled it a foul ball, giving Cruz another chance.
“I got it foul. I stopped,” said Cruz, whose opposite-field RBI single two pitches later drove in Astudillo. “I mean, that’s a judgment call for the umpires, but I got it foul from my view.”
Berrios wasn’t as sharp Tuesday as he had been on Opening Day, when he retired 23 batters and didn’t give up a run. He went seven innings, giving up three runs on seven hits while walking none and striking out four.
“They are aggressive with that bat. They like to swing at first pitch,” Berrios said. “… But that’s part of the game. We are human, we know we’re not perfect.”
When he left, Rogers took over, and his streak of 28⅔ scoreless innings — dating to July 28 — came to an end. Mondesi slugged a long fly ball off the center-field fence, just over Byron Buxton’s leaping attempt at a catch, and he rounded the bases before the Twins could retrieve the ball, breaking a 3-3 tie.