Twins able to answer bell, keep a good thing going

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 5, 2011 - 6:36 AM

Alexi Casilla's four hits were the anchor, but call-ups such as Ben Revere and Rene Rivera also stirred the pot.

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KANSAS CITY, MO. - The Twins were missing five Opening Day starters Saturday night: Denard Span, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel.

Their starting pitcher, Nick Blackburn, left after five innings because of a strained lower back.

But on another day of injury news, those Twins left standing had some fun at Kansas City's expense.

Alexi Casilla had four of the Twins' 13 hits as they defeated the Royals for the third consecutive night at Kauffman Stadium, this time 7-2.

If Ozzie Guillen were watching, he might have called the Twins' attack piranha-esque. Their No. 9-1-2 hitters -- Matt Tolbert, Ben Revere and Casilla -- combined to score five runs.

The Twins used the hit-and-run and took extra bases as they grabbed the lead against Royals starter Luke Hochevar with two runs in the sixth inning. Catcher Rene Rivera even got in on the fun in the seventh, leading off with a bunt single that led to a three-run inning.

"Some of these guys are comfortable," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Revere brings a lot to the table -- a lot of excitement, a lot of running around -- and Lexi's starting to play like we hoped he would at the beginning of the season."

Since May 15, Casilla has 22 hits in 62 at-bats, raising his average from .175 to 254.

"We've seen him play like this for long periods of time," Gardenhire said. "One year [2008], he was like that the whole year, so he just has his moments. But right now, he's as focused as I've seen him.

"He's pretty serious about the game, even when he's out there in batting practice. He's working on his hitting, and he's not doing a lot of screwing around."

Casilla, who delivered his first four-hit game since Sept. 3, 2007, said hitting coach Joe Vavra has helped him with his hitting mechanics, and Casilla has gone back to a hitting approach he used in his teenage years.

"What I used to do is I create an imaginary strike zone, so that's what I'm trying to do now," he said. "If the pitch is not in my strike zone, I let it go. I'm more aggressive about hitting strikes, and when I see strikes, I'm swinging hard."

The Twins hadn't won a three- or four-game series all year before coming to Kansas City, and Sunday they will try for a four-game sweep.

Blackburn, who notched his fourth consecutive victory, injured himself when he reached to field Alcides Escobar's grounder to end the fourth inning.

"I don't think it's going to be anything serious," Blackburn said. "I went out there and threw the fifth [inning]. It didn't feel great. I wasn't real comfortable, but obviously it's not something very severe if you're able to go out and pitch."

Blackburn will be re-evaluated Sunday, when the Twins try for something else they haven't had all year: a four-game winning streak.

  • TWINS 7, KANSAS CITY 2

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