Twins use small ball, make Royals pay for walks in win

·4 min read

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s no secret home runs are down across the league. But the Twins have been showing lately that they can get it done in other ways. On Saturday, that meant laying down a couple of sacrifice bunts and taking advantage of their free passes.

The Twins used a walk, a sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly to plate their first run. In the ninth, they used yet another sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly as part of a four-run inning to break away. In between, the Twins strung together good at-bats all night, beating the Kansas City Royals 9-2 on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.

“You’re going to need to string together hits and you’re going to have to get baserunners, and you’re going to have to find ways to move those baserunners, get them a little bit closer and then hopefully add another hit or just make something happen,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But you’ve got to find ways to do that, and our entire lineup is contributing right now with those types of at-bats and sometimes moving a runner is going to be part of it.”

The good at-bats started from the very first one. Though it resulted in a pop-up, Byron Buxton battled Royals starter Brad Keller for 10 pitches to lead off the game.

And in the third inning, the Twins used some small ball to break through against Keller. Gio Urshela, who walked to lead off the inning, advanced on a Ryan Jeffers single. With two on and no outs, Gilberto Celestino laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt — the Twins’ second on the road trip — advancing both runners. Both wound up scoring — Urshela on a Buxton sacrifice fly and Jeffers on Luis Arraez’s single to left.

The Twins (24-16) made the Royals (14-25) pay again for a leadoff walk in the sixth inning, using a pair of two-out hits — a single from Max Kepler and a double from Gary Sánchez — to tack on another couple of runs. For Sánchez, it marked his fifth straight game with an extra-base hit.

Arraez, who walked in the sixth, drew another leadoff walk in the eighth and scored on a wild pitch. And in the ninth, the Twins broke away. Jeffers laid down the Twins’ second sacrifice bunt of the day and two more walks in the inning resulted in runs.

“I think we just try to hit the ball and that’s it,” Arraez said on Bally Sports North. “We don’t try to do too much.”

Arraez finished the day with a pair of RBI hits, the two key leadoff walks and three runs scored, helping spark the Twins’ offense. His second RBI single of the day, a Carlos Correa two-run double and a Jorge Polanco sacrifice fly helped the Twins turn a close game into a blowout.

“There was almost so much going down, up and down the lineup from basically everyone that you almost don’t remember what anyone did,” Baldelli said. “There were a lot of good at-bats. There were a lot of pitches laid off.”

In total, the Twins walked six times, and five of those walks came around to score.

While the Twins made Royals pitchers pay for their walks, the Royals were unable to do the same. When starter Joe Ryan walked the final two batters of his outing in the sixth inning to load the bases, lefty Caleb Thielbar came in and bailed him out of the jam, getting outfielder Kyle Isbel to fly out.

That was the best opportunity of the night for the Royals against Ryan and the Twins’ bullpen. Ryan gave up one run in his 5 2/3 inning effort and despite momentarily blinding himself in the lights, which earned himself a visit from Baldelli and athletic trainer Michael Salazar, he worked around traffic in all but two of his innings and was able to limit the damage against him.

“I felt good throwing the ball, good to get back on the mound and yeah, just a good game overall,” Ryan said. “The boys brought some good run support. I think that always just takes pressure off.”

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