KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Four runs a game. That’s all it takes for the Royals. Four runs a game, which is still nearly half-a-run below the average for all other American League teams.
When the Royals score four or more runs, as they did Wednesday night, they turn into legitimate postseason contenders. Really. Check the numbers after their 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals are now 17-5 when they score at least four runs. That’s what four runs does.
On Wednesday, it was sufficient to halt a galling home losing streak that had reached a franchise-record 11 games. It also enabled Jeremy Guthrie to become the first Royals starter to win a game since Wade Davis on May 15.
It’s not like the Royals mashed the ball, but they did get three key hits, including a two with two outs: a two-run double by David Lough in a three-run first inning, and an RBI single by Billy Butler in the seventh.
Salvy Perez, moved to third in lineup, also had an RBI single in the first inning that erased an early 1-0 deficit. Guthrie (6-3) and the bullpen took it from there.
Guthrie survived a 39-pitch first inning that included three walks, and pitched through the sixth while limiting the Twins to one run. Tim Collins inherited a 3-1 lead to start the seventh.
Collins got two quick outs before walking Justin Morneau on four pitches. Ryan Doumit followed with double to left on a 1-2 fastball that moved Morneau to third.
A walk to Chris Parmelee, who battled through a 10-pitch plate appearance, loaded the bases and brought Aaron Crow into the game to face Brian Dozier.
The Twins countered by sending up Chris Herrmann, who grounded out to short. The Royals then added an insurance run in their half of the inning after Perez worked a two-out walk from Josh Roenicke.
Perez went to second on a wild pitch before Butler flicked a full-count slider into short right field for an RBI single. It as Butler’s third hit of the game.
Kelvin Herrera worked a one-two-three eighth in his first appearance since a brief confidence-building sabbatical at Triple-A Omaha. Greg Holland closed out the victory for his 10th save in 12 chances.
The Twins didn’t go quietly against Holland, who yielded a leadoff single to Joe Mauer before walking Josh Willingham.
Holland then struck out Morneau, Doumit and Parmelee.
Minnesota right-hander P.J. Walters (2-1) also struggled early — allowing three unearned runs in the first inning — but also pitched through the sixth with no further damage.
Walters’ 116 pitches were the most this season by a Twins starter.
Guthrie paid a penalty for starting the game by walking Eduardo Escobar despite jumping ahead 1-2 in the count.
Mauer struck out, but Willingham lined a hit-and-run single through the vacated hole at second base.
Lough appeared slow to the ball, which prompted third-base coach Joe Vavra to wave home Escobar. Lough then pop-flied a throw toward the plate that permitted Willingham to reach second.
A walk to Morneau put runners at first and second with one out. Doumit flied to left, but Parmelee battled through a 10-pitch plate appearance (yes, another one) for a walk that loaded the bases.
Guthrie finally ended a 39-pitch inning, and stranded three runners, when first baseman Eric Hosmer took away a Dozier foul pop from a fan by reaching into the stands.
The Royals … answered.
Hosmer reached second with one out when shortstop Pedro Florimon bobbled a grounder and threw wildly to first. It could have been two errors but was scored as one.
Perez followed by pulling an RBI single to left. A walk to Butler put runners on first and second for Mike Moustakas, who hit a drive to deep right. Perez moved to third.
Walters loaded the bases by walking Lorenzo Cain before Lough atoned for any defensive lapse earlier in the inning by slicing a two-run double to left center. The Royals led 3-1.
Chris Getz fouled out to right when Parmelee made a terrific sliding catch at the wall.
The Twins mounted a one-out threat in the third, as a few raindrops began falling, when Guthrie nicked Willingham with pitch, and Morneau reached on an infield single.
Getz squelched the threat with a terrific diving stop on Doumit’s sharp grounder before turning it into a force at second. Parmelee ended the inning with a pop to Getz in short right field.
The Royals wasted a threat later in the inning after Perez and Butler led off with singles. Moustakas bounced into a double play, and Cain popped out.
They also failed to cash Alcides Escobar’s two-out triple in the fourth; Alex Gordon took a third strike..
Guthrie, after throwing 39 pitchers in the first inning, threw a combined 50 in the next four innings before finding one-out trouble in the sixth when Dozier and Aaron Hicks hit back-to-back singles.
But Guthrie retired the next two hitters, which concluded a 102-pitch performance with his second straight quality start after a rough three-game stretch that saw him allow 18 runs in 19 1/3 innings.