Put simply, Tony Abreu was too much Sunday afternoon for the Minnesota Twins.
Batting ninth and starting for the second straight game at second base, Abreu, a journeyman utility infielder, equaled his career high with three RBIs helping pace the Royals to a 6-4 win at Kauffman Stadium and preventing a sweep at the hands of the AL Central’s last-place team.
“Tony Abreu had a great day,” manager Ned Yost said. “He really was huge offensively for us. And I would gather to say he’s been more of a clutch hitter than a good hitter. He’s hitting .300, but the majority of his hits have either tied ballgames or given us the lead.”
In fact, twice on Sunday, Abreu’s bat put the Royals in front – the second time to stay against Twins starter Esmerling Vasquez.
Trailing 2-0 early, Abreu, who played sparingly with the Dodgers in 2007 and 2009 and appeared in 81 games for the Diamondbacks in 2010, lashed a two-run single to right that capped a three-run second-inning rally.
No sooner had the Twins knotted the game again at 4-4 in the sixth, Abreu — who also had three RBIs on Sept. 18, 2007, as a member of the Dodgers — walloped a line-drive single to center for the game-winning RBI.
“It felt very good today, being able to come through in big situations,” Abreu said. “I was just trying to get a hit in those at-bats and I got good pitches to hit. I try to be ready every day, but it was great to get in there two days in a row. It’s hard when you don’t play every day, but I feel ready. Today I was ready.”
The Twins, 55-79, nicked Luis Mendoza for a run in each of the first two innings.
Jamey Carroll had lashed a single to left field with one out in the first inning and Joe Mauer followed by slicing a line drive into the opposite-field corner.
Despite shattering his bat, Justin Morneau knocked in the game’s first run with a groundout to Abreu.
The Twins padded that lead in the second inning when Chris Parmalee led off with a one-out solo home run, his second home run in as many days, depositing a 3-1 fastball into the left-center field seats.
But the Royals, 60-73, would score the next four runs against Vasquez, who was making his first big league start before a crowd of 23,641.
Vasquez, who appeared in 141 games as a reliever with the Diamondbacks during the last three seasons, loaded the bases with nobody out in the second inning by sandwiching walks to Salvy Perez and Lorenzo Cain around Mike Moustakas’ line-drive single to center.
Eric Hosmer followed with a sacrifice fly to deep left and, after a double steal by Moustakas and Cain, Abreu put the Royals in front with a two-run single to shallow right, though Abreu was thrown out trying to take second.
Like Abreu’s clutch hitting, mucking up potential big innings would be a recurring theme as well.
The Royals shortchanged another rally in the fifth inning, which started with back-to-back singles from Abreu and September call-up David Lough.
Alcides Escobar followed with the latest in a series of questionable or poorly executed sacrifice bunt attempts — this one bounced directly back to Vasquez, who forced out Abreu at third.
Gordon then flew out to center before Billy Butler roped an RBI single up the middle to ensure the opportunity wasn’t a total waste.
Left-hander Tim Collins coughed up the 4-2 lead in the sixth after taking over for Mendoza, who scattered seven hits in five innings with no walks and three strikeouts.
“(Mendoza) was starting to labor a little bit,” Yost said. “He got through the inning with a 3-2 lead, but we had Mauer, Morneau and (Ryan) Doumit coming up. He’s a guy traditionally who gets quick outs, so when you look up at the board and see he’s got 84 pitches in five innings, you know it’s been tough for him.”
Mauer and Morneau greeted Collins with leadoff singles before Doumit repaid the Royals’ favor with his own botched sacrifice bunt try.
But just as Collins, 5-2, who was credited with the win, was on the verge of wriggling free from the jam after striking out Parmalee, a walk to Matt Carson and Alexi Casilla’s two-run single up the gut tied the game.
During the bottom of the inning, Hosmer chased Vasquez, 0-1, with a double into left field.
Facing Twins left-hander Tyler Robertson, Abreu promptly rocked an RBI single back through the middle after a six-pitch at-bat.
The Royals tacked on an insurance run in the eighth as Perez and Moustakas opened with singles. Cain then rolled a grounder that tight-roped the third-base line for an RBI double.
Closer Greg Holland struck out the side in the ninth for his 10th save.
“I was tired of those runners-on-base, high-intensity type saves,” Holland said.