Only 4 percent of the season has been completed, a mere seven-game sprint of the 162-game marathon. But the Royals stand alone in first place in the American League Central, unbeaten and undaunted, after an 12-3 trouncing the Twins on Monday afternoon.
Kansas City (7-0) polished off their opponents a few hours after Detroit lost for the first time in 2015. Danny Duffy gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings. Kendrys Morales homered to extend the team’s streak of consecutive games with a long ball to seven. His teammates capitalized on a slew of mistakes by the Twins.
Minnesota offered a textbook course on pitiful play in the eighth. Trailing by two runs, their relief staff gave up a hit, issued a walk, hit two batters in a row and let a run score on a fielding error. Then Alcides Escobar roped a two-run single. Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain walked.
The Royals scored six runs in the eighth. During the sequence, the Target Field crowd showered the Twins with jeers. It was their home opener.
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The atmosphere on Monday was subdued. When the clubhouse opened to reporters at 11:40 a.m., the stereo system blasted cuts from Pandora’s Drop It Low radio, the team’s station of choice. But few players were present to move to the beat. The music was soon turned off and the only sound in the room was the broadcast of a baseball game in New York.
The energy picked back up when Duffy entered the room. He had give up five runs in five innings in his debut. He was prone to extra-base hits on Monday – Brian Dozier doubled twice and scored twice, Trevor Plouffe hit a solo home run – but the offense provided plenty of support.
In 39 games as a Twin in 2014, Morales managed one home run. In seven games as a Royal, he doubled that mark. Morales did not hit a single homer as a Twin at Target Field. He delivered one in his first at-bat here as a Royal.
The blast occurred in Monday’s second inning. Morales clobbered a thigh-high fastball from right-hander Trevor May. The ball flew 405 feet to right-center field and landed in the second deck.
Kansas City opted for less explosive measures in the second. The Royals benefited from shoddy fielding by the middle of the Minnesota infield. First Salvador Perez rolled a single that slipped beneath the gloves of second baseman Brian Dozier and shortstop Danny Santana.
After Alcides Escobar dumped a single into center field, Dozier dove to his right to corral a hard-hit grounder off Mike Moustakas’ bat. Dozier flicked the ball to Santana, who leaped to make a bare-handed grab. One problem: His foot came off the bag. His throw to first base was late, and the bases were loaded. Lorenzo Cain plated Perez with a sacrifice fly.
Another gaffe by the Twins aided the Royals in the sixth. Cain slashed a double past the reach of right fielder Torii Hunter. Kansas City identified Hunter as one of their top offensive targets this past winter. They offered Hunter a one-year contract with the hope he could play the field and also serve as a part-time designated hitter. When Hunter decided to return to Minnesota, the Royals shifted their sights to Morales, who has been a revelation thus far.
Hunter is still a productive hitter. His fielding has slipped from its once great heights. He uncorked a wild throw after Cain’s double that evaded any cut-off men. The ball dribbled into the infield as Cain took third and Moustakas scored. The next batter, Eric Hosmer, doubled off the wall in left-center field to pad the lead. Perez added an RBI single soon after.