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Royals Win 4th Straight, Beat Twins 4-3 With Great Performance From Mendoza

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Don’t look now, but the Kansas City Royals are now just four games under the .500 mark after winning their 4th straight game with a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins Friday night. Kansas City has now won 11 out of their last 16 games and is four games under .500 for the first time since April 16th.

After getting to five games under .500 with a sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers last week, the Royals were going into the most anticipated series of the season against their I-70 rival St.Louis Cardinals. KC just took 2 out of 3 in St.Louis the weekend before and were looking to finally break through and sustain their momentum. The Royals disappointed again, getting swept and outscored 30-14 in the three games. KC was back to eight under and was looking at a tough series against the Tampa Rays.

But just as the young Royals have done all season, they reconciled by sweeping the Rays, and they did it rather easily as they outscored Tampa 21-6 in the three games. The Royals offense loaded with potential finally seemed to click as they scored eight runs three games in a row and the starting pitching rebounded big time from the St.Louis series. The Royals’ bullpen, who threw the most innings in the Majors before the Rays’ series, got some much needed rest as they only had to throw six innings in the three game series with a day off on Thursday.

The pen got even more rest tonight as Luis Mendoza threw a career high eight innings, giving up only one earned run on five hits and zero walks. Mendoza struck out five in 115 pitches and he retired the last 13 batters he faced. The only run he gave up was on a two out RBI single from Ryan Doumit in the 2nd inning, scoring Trevor Plouffe from second, who got there on a wild pitch by Mendoza.

With a day/night doubleheader tomorrow, even with all the rest the pen has got since Monday, eight innings from Mendoza was huge. The Royals will need all the arms they can get with 18 innings tomorrow.

The Royals, who are 27-11 on the year when the score first, did just that on a two out RBI single by who else, Billy Butler, scoring Alex Gordon from second base in the top of the 1st inning. KC got another run in the 2nd on an impressive opposite field homerun from one of the best young catchers in the game, Salvador Perez. It was Perez’s second homerun in five games since his 2012 debut last Friday. “Salvy” has looked just like the player from last year, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this offense has started to turn it around with him back in the lineup.

The Royals got another run to go up 3-1 in the 5th inning off the bat of Yuniesky Betancourt, who drove in Alcides Escobar on a double to left center. Kansas City got their final run in the 7th inning on an RBI infield single from Eric Hosmer, scoring Betancourt from third.

The Royals took that 4-1 lead to the bottom of the 9th with closer Jonathan Broxton going for his 20th save of the season. Once again, it wasn’t easy for Broxton. After giving up a leadoff walk, Broxton allowed an infield single, and then an RBI double by Joe Mauer to put the tying run at second with no outs. The Twins got to within one run after an RBI groundout from Josh Willingham, scoring Ben Revere from third.

With one out and a runner on second, Broxton got Justin Morneau to fly out to center and then Trevor Plouffe to pop out to Mike Moustakas to end the game. Once again, Broxton got out of it.

And just like that, the Kansas City Royals are 35-39 and only .5 games behind the Detroit Tigers for 3rd place and only 2 games behind the Cleveland Indians for 2nd place in the AL Central.

After a 12 game losing streak and the amount of key injuries this young team has had to endure, the Royals have gone 32-25 over their last 57 games. And they seem to be getting better. With the return of catcher Salvador Perez, the Royals offense has suddenly started to perform like we thought they could before the season. With a great bullpen and great defense to go along with an offense that should continue to get better, the big question is can the starting pitching keep it going? Can Mendoza repeat this? Can Luke Hochevar continue what he’s been doing his last nine starts? What will happen with Sanchez and Mazzaro? When will Jake Odorizzi get the call up?

All of that remains to be seen. But the Royals just need to focus on one game at a time, especially tomorrow as they have two games to play. KC could get to two games under .500 if they can win both, and they could possibly just Detroit for 3rd place in the division.

Jonathan Sanchez (1-3, 6.21 ERA, 1.81 WHIP) is on the hill for KC for game one of the doubleheader, going up against Scott Diamond (6-3, 2.67 ERA, 1.23 WHIP), who has been impressive so far this season.

First pitch for the first game is at 12:10PM CT.

Luke Hochevar (5-7, 5.07 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) will get the call for the Royals in game two and Cole DeVries (1-1, 4.20 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) is slated to get the start for Minnesota.

First pitch for the second game is at 6:10PM CT.