MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Whit Merrifield had two hits and scored two runs, helping the Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 6-3 on Sunday.
Andrew Benintendi and Hunter Dozier each drove in two runs for Kansas City, which had dropped three of four. Dozier hit a solo drive in the ninth inning for his sixth homer.
“Big win,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Try to look at them all as most important one of the season. But when you look back after a series and after a road trip realizing this is a really good opportunity, especially talking inside our division to come in here and take two out of three.”
Kansas City right-hander Brad Keller improved to 3-0 in his last four starts. He permitted three runs and five hits in five innings.
Kyle Zimmer, Scott Barlow and Greg Holland combined for four hitless innings in relief. Holland worked the ninth for his third save in five chances.
“Lights out; they’ve been that way all year,” Keller said. “I didn’t want to five-and-die, want to get at least six innings every start. But to see those guys come in here, get in some leverage situations, some stressful innings and get out of it, see Greg come in to close. That was a lot of fun.”
Minnesota went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners.
Matt Shoemaker (2-6) gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings. Ben Rortvedt hit his first career homer for the Twins after being recalled from Triple-A earlier in the day.
“A day like today is why baseball sometimes really sucks,” Shoemaker said. “Go out there, honestly, I felt like today was one of my best execution days. I executed a lot of really good pitches. … I hate saying it, I’m just sick of being unlucky.”
The Twins loaded the bases in the first against Keller, but managed just one run on a bases-loaded walk to Trevor Larnach.
Rortvedt gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead with a leadoff drive in the second.
The Royals grabbed control with four runs in the fifth. Merrifield hit a tiebreaking RBI single, and Benintendi had a sacrifice fly.
The Twins loaded the bases with none out in the bottom half, but only managed one run on Miguel Sanó’s double-play grounder.
“We had opportunities to bring some runs home,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Obviously, the whole day, we were looking for a big hit with a couple of guys on base. Had several opportunities for it and, obviously, we didn’t see that.”
QUITE A RELIEF
Zimmer had walked two batters in his second inning of work in the seventh, but Barlow came in and struck out Nelson Cruz and Sanó.
“The spot where Barlow came in right there to get those two strikeouts, that’s a game-changer,” Matheny said.
Sanó came to the plate with a total of eight runners on base in three of his four at-bats, striking out twice and hitting into the double play.
Royals: Slugger Jorge Soler was out of the lineup a day after leaving with groin discomfort, but Matheny said he was feeling much better Sunday.
Twins: OF Max Kepler was placed on the injured list due to his lingering left hamstring strain. Kepler tweaked the injury in Saturday’s game, according to Baldelli.
Rortvedt was recalled to replace Kepler. … Baldelli said RHP Kenta Maeda’s right adductor strain has improved, but Maeda is still having biceps and arm soreness.
Royals: Return home for a two-game series against Pittsburgh, with LHP Mike Minor (3-2, 4.83 ERA) starting on Monday. RHP Chad Kuhl (0-1, 6.32 ERA) gets the ball for the Pirates.
Twins: RHP José Berríos (5-2, 3.67 ERA) will start Monday as Minnesota begins a series in Baltimore. Berríos allowed three runs — one earned — in 5 2/3 innings in a win against the Orioles in his last start. RHP Jorge López (1-6, 5.80 ERA) is expected to start for Baltimore.
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