That offering two pitches before the game's defining moment could have been a strike. It looked pretty good on television. Were I to visit any website covering the Kansas City Royals, they will no doubt claim that extra strike is what did them in. If you haven't seen it, a pinch hitting Miguel Sano took a 2-2 fastball from Franklin Morales that - at the very least - was a borderline pitch. Sano jack-knifed. Home plate umpire Greg Gibson didn't flinch.
Sano fouled off a slider, and then demolished the seventh pitch of his plate appearance. A 94mph fastball, down and in, where Sano easily turned and pulled it into the recesses of deep left field for the go-ahead home run.
In a game of incremental gains, it's easy to say that call blew it for Kansas City. But it's also true that it was the 12th inning, and that the Royals (and the Twins) had ample opportunity to push more runs across the plate in the nine innings they were initially given. Or in the tenth (especially the tenth, because Dyson), eleventh, or even the twelfth innings. It's also worth noting that, in spite of that borderline pitch, Morales wasn't able to come back and make the pitch he needed to make. Minnesota nearly put up a crooked number in the top of the inning.
Kris Medlen and Mike Pelfrey spent most of their innings trading zeroes. It was 0-0 through five, and until Kurt Suzuki's home run to lead off the sixth Medlen hadn't allowed a hit. His only base runner had been Joe Mauer after a fourth inning walk. But Suzuki got hold of a fastball over the plate and deposited it over the wall in the left-center field gap. Joe Mauer's single later in the inning brought home Aaron Hicks; Brian Dozier was thrown out as he aggressively tried to take third, which was unfortunate because Medlen's control was slipping and it perhaps could have been a three or four-run frame instead of just two.
Ben Zobrist homered in the bottom of the sixth to mark the Royals' only run off of Pelfrey, who had some great defense behind him. Eduardo Nunez made a great diving stop between third base and the foul line in the third. Brian Dozier started a pivotal double play to end the bottom of the fourth, keeping Kansas City off the board (watch here). Lorenzo Cain's sac fly in the eighth would tie the game, but not before Kennys Vargas mirrored Nunez's play on the first base side of the field. Trevor May nearly got out of Zobrist's leadoff triple in the eighth.
In the bottom of the tenth, Brian Duensing nearly lost the game. After walking Zobrist (who had himself a ballgame), Jarrod Dyson came in as a pinch runner and stole second base. Duensing then plunked Alex Gordon to put runners on first and second with one away.
Brian Boyer replaced Duensing, and after Dyson stole yet another base Lorenzo Cain hit a weak chopper just off the mound - against a five-man infield. Boyer made the grab and had plenty of time to throw home, but nearly threw the ball over Suzuki's head and, in the process, put Suzuki in a vulnerable position. Suzuki somehow not only held onto the ball but made the play, but it didn't come without a price.
Suzuki left the contest with a bruised knee and is day-to-day. Hopefully he can just get a little rest and get back in the lineup, because it's not unreasonable to say that Eric Fryer and Chris Herrmann are less capable. In the short-term they're fine replacements, but if Minnesota is heading to the playoffs it would be good to have a healthy Kurt Suzuki behind the plate.
After Sano's pinch hit home run in the top of the twelfth, Kevin Jepsen threw a perfect bottom of the inning to preserve the win and earn his 12th save of the season. It's a big win, too, as the Twins (72-67) move back to within a game and a half of the Rangers (73-65) after their loss to the Mariners.
What a fantastic game, and coming out of Kansas City with a series win is huge. That memory will be good to have sitting in the back of the Twins' minds should they need to revisit Kaufman Stadium sometime in October.
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COMMENT OF THE GAME THREAD
less cowbell, more 'neau: "Twins showing blitz"
Ah hell no