MINNEAPOLIS | The Royals are heading home, finally, after salvaging their weekend Sunday afternoon at the Metrodome with a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
The victory enabled the Royals to avoid a sweep and conclude a 4-2 trip that began with a three-game sweep in Detroit. They open their home schedule Tuesday afternoon against the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium.
Brett Tomko pitched five shutout innings Sunday in his first start but labored through 92 pitches in doing so. He threw 27 pitches in an extended first inning and was up to 69 after three innings.
Still, Tomko didn’t give up any runs; just six hits and one walk while striking out three. He got the victory when the bullpen held the Twins to one run and two hits over the final four innings.
Joakim Soria struck out the side in the ninth for his third save.
Billy Butler had three of the Royals’ nine hits and raised his average to .400 at 10 for 25 with hits in all six games on the trip.
Alex Gordon had the key blows, however. His two-run single opened the scoring in the second inning, and his leadoff double in the seventh led to the Royals’ final run.
Ron Mahay inherited a 2-0 lead to start the sixth and got two quick outs before Justin Morneau crushed a homer into the upper deck in right field. That ended Mahay’s streak of nine straight scoreless appearances dating to last year.
It was also only the second run surrendered in 18 innings this year by the Royals’ bullpen. The other, ironically, was by Tomko as a reliever on Opening Day in a 5-4 victory in Detroit.
Mahay worked a scoreless seventh before Leo Nuñez got two quick outs in the eighth. A two-out double by Matt Tolbert brought Jimmy Gobble into the game for a lefty-lefty matchup against Joe Mauer.
Gobble won. Mauer flied to left.
Soria had no trouble in the ninth.
Minnesota starter Boof Bonser yielded two runs in the second inning but nothing else until the seventh. In all, he gave up three runs and eight hits.
It wasn’t much of an attack, but it was enough.
Tomko pitched around two singles in the first inning but needed 27 pitches to do so. The killer was an 11-pitch battle with Mauer that ended in foul fly to left.
The second and third innings were little better. Tomko needed 22 pitches to work around Brendan Harris’ one-out double in the second and 20 pitches against four hitters in the third.
The Royals, for the third straight game, took an early 2-0 lead. And one again, they took a while before doing anything more.
The big difference: This time it didn’t cost them.
José Guillen led off the second inning with a single up the middle. Butler followed with a double to right before Gordon sliced a two-run single to left.
Gordon tried to stretch his single into a double and was thrown out, easily, by Delmon Young. It was Young’s second assist in two days. He gunned down Butler’s attempt for a double in Saturday’s game.
The Royals wasted a chance to extend their lead in the fourth after Butler’s one-out double, a booming drive to right-center that just missed being a home when it clipped a corner of the Metrodome’s distinctive baggie.
Gordon popped to third, and Ross Gload flied to center.
The Royals mounted another threat in the sixth when Alberto Callaspo’s sharp leadoff grounder slipped past Morneau at first for a double. But Mark Teahen flied to left before Callaspo ran into an out by trying to advance on Guillen’s grounder to short.
Callaspo was an easy out at third.
The Royals finished broke through in the seventh after Morneau’s homer closed the gap to 2-1. Gordon led off with a double past first and went to third on a balk.
Gload hit an soft hopper to second against a drawn-in infield for the first out, but John Buck lined an RBI single into left for a 3-1 lead.
The chance for a big inning slipped away when Harris made a great play to his left on Tony Peña’s hit-and-run grounder to the right side. Instead of first and third with one out, Harris’ play left the Royals with two outs and a runner on second.
Bonser prevented further damage by striking out Joey Gathright.
Gathright atoned quickly for the missed RBI opportunity when he ran down Jason Kubel’s leadoff drive for first out.
Gathright crashed into the padded wall in right center after making the catch but held the ball when he ricocheted to the ground.