In this season of warning-track fly balls and frustrated sluggers, two home runs are usually enough to win. The Twins relied on that Friday.
Jorge Polanco connected in the first inning, Carlos Correa smacked a 432-footer in the fourth, and Minnesota eventually pulled away from the dogged Royals, 10-7 at Target Field. The victory ended a two-game losing streak and improved the Twins' record to 10-2 when homering twice, an .833 winning percentage that's even better than the .716 major-league average.
The formula isn't perfect, however. The Royals homered twice, too — and fell to 4-5 when they do.
Polanco's home run onto the right-field plaza was the biggest blow in Minnesota's four-run first inning, but anyone who thought the game was over that early hasn't been watching these teams lately. Kansas City rallied for three runs off starter Bailey Ober and one more off reliever Danny Coulombe, marking the third straight Twins-Royals game that an early lead disappeared.
"Brand new ballgame. Let's start over — that was the message," Correa said. "Let's start over. Let's go out there and put up some runs, and that's exactly what we did."
That's exactly what he did, first of all. Correa, who hadn't homered since May 4, clobbered a 1-0 fastball from K.C. starter Brad Keller that bullpen catcher Anderson de la Rosa caught.
"I went up to Carlos after the game and was like, 'Thanks man. Really good job tonight. All the offensive players just going out there and doing your thing, it means a lot to the pitching staff,' " Ober said. "It was really huge."
Correa had a feeling it was coming.
"First at-bat was pretty good, a line drive that got caught. At that moment, I was like, 'Ooh, feels like a good day,' " Correa said. But after his third homer of the season, "I feel like I tried to get too big, threw away a couple at-bats. So tomorrow I have to regroup and go back to being efficient instead of trying to be too powerful."
The Twins tacked on another run that inning on singles by Polanco and Gary Sanchez, and a sacrifice fly by Trevor Larnach. They managed to hold that lead until they could add insurance in the eighth, in part thanks to some solid defense by each of the Twins' four infielders, who turned critical three double plays.
"The defense is carrying us to some of these wins lately," said manager Rocco Baldelli, whose team has won nine of its past 12.
And when the defense failed to make a play, they were bailed out by the Royals' misuse of their replay challenge.
When K.C. manager Mike Matheny was convinced that first baseman Luis Arraez had stretched an inch or two off the bag to catch Gio Urshela's throw, he appealed Hunter Dozier's ground out. But replay umpires couldn't detect any space between Arraez's shoe and the base, and the call was upheld.
It mattered two innings later, when Royals catcher MJ Melendez hit into a Polanco-to-Correa-to-Arraez double play with nobody out — or so ruled first-base umpire Adam Beck. Replays proved that Melendez beat Correa's relay, but the Royals no longer had the right to challenge Beck's call, and the inning ended without another run scoring.
Would the game have changed had the Royals not been shortchanged? The Twins, after all, had blown leads and lost each of the past two nights. This time, however, they piled on four more runs in the eighth inning to remove any doubt.
In all, six different Twins drove in runs, led by Nick Gordon's three and two apiece from Urshela and Polanco.
Ober made his second start since returning from a groin injury, and it turned out to be his shortest and arguably least effective of the season. The second-year righthander had little trouble with the Royals in the first and second innings, allowing only one hit.
But Ober needed 31 pitchers to retire the side in the third inning, with back-to-back singles setting up Bobby Witt Jr.'s two-run triple high off the scoreboard in right-center. Witt came home on a single by Dozier, and when the inning ended, manager Rocco Baldelli decided to pull the pitcher for baseball reasons, not health.
That decision triggered an all-hands night for the bullpen, with six relievers taking part. The no-replay double play was the team-leading fifth induced by Joe Smith, but the righthander also served up his first home run of the season, a solo blast by Witt that left the rookie just a double short of the cycle.