MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Whit Merrifield drove in two runs with a double and scored on Bobby Witt Jr.’s double, as the Kansas City Royals rallied for three runs in the eighth inning and beat the Minnesota Twins 3-2 Thursday night.
Josh Staumont (2-1) worked a scoreless inning and picked up the win. Scott Barlow escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and stranded two on base in the ninth to earn his fifth save as the Royals snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Devin Smeltzer pitched seven scoreless innings for the Twins before Tyler Duffey (2-3) let the lead slip away in the eighth. Emmanuel Rivera singled with one out and moved to second on Ryan O’Hearn’s two-out, pinch-hit single. Merrifield then lined a double into the gap in right-center to tie the score at 2. After Andrew Benintendi walked, Witt doubled to left-center, scoring Merrifield with the go-ahead run.
The Twins tried to rally in their half of the eighth, loading the bases on singles by Gary Sánchez, Gio Urshela and Luis Arraez with no outs. But Barlow came on to strike out the next two batters and retired Max Kepler on a soft grounder to first base, leaving the bases loaded.
Smeltzer handcuffed the Royals all night, relying mostly on a mix of fastballs and changeups. He allowed two hits and walked one while striking out six. He was starting in place of Joe Ryan, who was added to the COVID-19 IL on Wednesday. In his most recent appearance, Smeltzer held the Royals to one run over 5 1/3 innings in a 6-4 Twins victory on May 20.
Meanwhile, Royals starter Daniel Lynch also kept the Twins in check, giving up two earned runs on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings.
The Twins got on the board in the second inning on Ryan Jeffers’ RBI single. They added their second run in the fourth when Jose Miranda doubled and came around on a two-out single by Gilberto Celestino.
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Kansas City’s Brewer Hicklin made his major league debut on Thursday, batting ninth and playing center field. He was hitting .266 with five home runs and 24 RBIs in 42 games at Triple-A Omaha this year.
Hicklin struck out looking in his first two at-bats against Smeltzer and was replaced by a pinch hitter in the eighth inning.
Royals: OF Kyle Isbel and LHP Amir Garrett were placed on the IL. The team did not reveal the nature of their injuries, though Isbel was scratched from Tuesday’s game at Arizona due to illness.
Twins: INF Jorge Polanco missed his third straight game with right ankle soreness, but manager Rocco Baldelli said he anticipates Polanco will return to the lineup as soon as Friday.
Royals: RHP Brad Keller (1-4, 3.20 ERA) will make the start against the Twins on Friday night. Keller has pitched seven innings in each of his last two starts, including against the Twins on Saturday.
Twins: Minnesota will counter with RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.55), who came off the IL on Sunday and held the Royals to one run in five innings pitched. Ober had missed three weeks due to a right groin strain.
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