MLB: Plouffe, Hughes help Twins stall sweep
KANSAS CITY, Mo.— It may seem strange to call any play huge with a five-run margin of victory, but that is exactly what Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire did following the Twins’ 8-3 victory over the Royals Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
“Huge,” Gardenhire said when asked about Phil Hughes getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning. “You never know how a game is going to go when you get in those situations. He made some big pitches to get through that.
“The double play by (second baseman Brian) Dozier was huge (when the Royals had runners on first and second with one out, down 5-1). That could have been a big inning.”
Hughes (1-1) earned his first victory as a Twin and his first since July 2, 2013, ironically against the Twins. He pitched a season-best six-plus innings and helped the Minnesota Twins salvage the third game of a three-game series. He gave up three runs on nine hits, with one walk and three strikeouts.
“It’s good to get that one out of the way and hopefully get on a run here,” Hughes said. “I’ll definitely remember this one. Overall I felt like I made some good pitches today. I just have to avoid those big innings.”
Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe had two doubles, a triple, two RBIs and two runs scored to lead the offense.
“Our plan was to see some pitches off him because we hadn’t seen him before,” Plouffe said. “Fortunately for us he fell behind some of our hitters in the beginning and we were able to capitalize. It seemed like he was working from behind most of the game, which obviously worked in our favor.”
Yordano Ventura (1-1) took the loss for Kansas City. It was the worst start of his brief major league career. He gave up four earned runs on six hits, with four walks and six strikeouts in four-plus innings.
“He really struggled on repeating his mechanics,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “When he has trouble, he flies open and drops his arm slot a little bit, which creates kind of an upward appearance of the ball. When he’s good, he stays closed and is strong downhill. He had trouble repeating that today.
“He needs to learn to make adjustments when that happens. I’ve been saying this from day one: There’s going to be days when he’s going struggle with his command. And there’s going to be days when he’s absolutely lights-out.”
The Twins jumped on Ventura quickly. Second baseman Brian Dozier led off with a single just beyond the reach of shortstop Alcides Escobar. Ventura walked first baseman Joe Mauer and then Pflouffe struck one into the gap in right-center for a two-run double.
The Royals had a chance in the second inning but left the bases loaded.
Ventura settled down somewhat after the first but ran into more trouble again in the fourth. He walked catcher Kurt Suzuki with one out. Center fielder Aaron Hicks reached on a fielder’s choice, then went to second on an errant pick-off attempt and to third on a wild pitch. He scored on Eduardo Escobar’s single. In the fifth, Ventura gave up a lead-off triple to Plouffe, followed by an RBI single by right fielder Chris Calobello, and his day was done.
“The biggest issue was my command but I kept fighting all the way to try to help the team,” Ventura said. “I tried to concentrate and make adjustments throughout the game but I’m not going to have good days every day.”
Louis Coleman relieved Ventura and struck out left fielder Jason Kubel. With third baseman Mike Moustakas on the right side of second for Kubel, Colabello was caught stealing at second.
Coleman then gave up a 408-foot home run to designated hitter Josmil Pinto.
The Royals got one back in the bottom of the fifth, but could have gotten more. Alcides Escobar led off with a double and moved to third on right fielder Nori Aoki’s fly to right. He scored on second baseman Omar Infante’s single to center. Infante went to third on first baseman Eric Hosmer’s single. Catcher Salvador Perez lined one up the middle, but Dozier snared it and then flipped it with his glove to Eduardo Escobar to start a nifty 6-4-3 double play.
“You don’t see much better,” Gardenhire said. “The guy hit the living fire out of it and (Dozier) made a back-hand play and flipped it with the glove. It was a beautiful thing.”
Plouffe stroked his second double leading off the seventh, and he scored on a single by Kubel. Kubel and Pinto, who had walked, scored on Suzuki’s double.
The Royals finally chased Hughes in the seventh on a lead-off double by center fielder Justin Maxwell and a home run by Alcides Escobar.
NOTES: The Twins designated OF Darin Mastroianni for assignment prior the game, and claimed OF Sam Fuld off waivers. Fuld was waived by Oakland April 12. ... Royals reliever Justin Marks made his major league debut in the sixth inning. ... When SS Alcides Escobar drew a walk in the bottom of the second inning, it was just the sixth time in his career that he walked after being behind in the count 0-2. In 556 such plate appearances, he had struck out 160 times. ... The Twins are now 18-11 all-time on Easter Sunday, with 26 off-days — mostly because Easter fell before the season-opener — since their beginning in 1961. The Royals are 11-14, with 22 days off since 1969.