Hughes strong, Suzuki homers as Twins top Kansas City

Kurt Suzuki stepped up to save Phil Hughes’ strong start after a costly error.

Let’s get the Kurt Suzuki lowlight out of the way.

The Royals’ Nori Aoki took off for third base in the fourth inning on Saturday. Suzuki turned and threw to third — but the ball ended up rolling to Chris Parmelee in left.

A wild throw, and then some. Aoki was able to score on the wild throw, the first run of the game at a point when Royals righthander Yordano Ventura was blowing by Twins hitters.

“The hardest part is that Phil [Hughes] was throwing so good and for me to do something like that that was something that ticked me off a little bit,” Suzuki said. “He was pitching his tail off and for me to mess it up, I wanted to go out there and try to redeem myself.”

What followed were All-Star moments from the All-Star catcher as the Twins eventually turned back Ventura and the Royals 4-1 in front of an announced crowd of 35,575 at Target Field. Glen Perkins earned his 31st save as the Twins cut the Royals’ lead over Detroit in the AL Central to one-half game.

The Twins crafted a three-run seventh inning, beginning with a single by Suzuki and bunt single by Parmelee, who smartly took advantage of Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas playing back at third. With two strikes, Jordan Schafer bunted the runners over.

With Suzuki at third, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire put on the contact play. “Which I don’t like to do very often,” Gardenhire said. “Limited players [on the bench] and that’s my catcher.”

Danny Santana dribbled a grounder to first base, and Suzuki took off. The Royals’ Billy Butler threw home. The ball beat Suzuki, but Suzuki lifted his left arm to avoid the tag attempt by catcher Salvador Perez, then slammed it on the plate to tie the score.

“That was the slide of the year,” Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said.

Dozier followed with a double, scoring pinch runner Eduardo Escobar for a 2-1 Twins lead. Kennys Vargas followed with a sacrifice fly that drove in Santana and made it 3-1.

It was massive turnaround because Ventura, whose fastest pitch hit 99 miles per hour on the Target Field radar gun, entered the inning with a one-hitter. It was mostly fastballs and changeups with the occasional wayward curveball, but it was enough to stymie the Twins for two-thirds of the game.

Hughes was trailing entering the seventh but looked like a pitcher with a one-hitter himself.

He threw six pitches in the first, 10 in the second and seven in the third. He gave up a hit but faced the minimum over three innings. Over 7⅓ innings, Hughes (13-8) held the Royals to one run on seven hits with no walks and six strikeouts, winning his third consecutive start.

Ventura (9-9) gave up three runs over 6⅔ innings on four hits and six walks while striking out six.

Until the seventh, it looked like Hughes and the Twins would be doomed because of one errant Suzuki throw.

But after the three-run seventh, Suzuki added a home run in the eighth, only this third of the year. As he arrived at the dugout after the homer, Gardenhire held out his arms and yelled, “Where did that come from?”

Suzuki said he wanted to smile as he rounded the bases.

“I probably won’t hit another home run the rest of my season here,” Suzuki said. “Especially at home.”

 

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