The Royals are coming home having stolen two late-inning come-from-behind victories from the grips of divisional rivals, the Minnesota Twins.
They went into the historically unfriendly confines of the Metrodome knowing that they would be trotting out the back two-thirds of their rotation before having Gil Meche come to the mound having had to leave his previous start early with back pain. None of these starting pitchers were without their question marks.
Sidney Ponson pitched poorly up against Kevin Slowey. Now Slowey is obviously the better pitcher in this matchup. It is no stretch to say that Slowey is the Twins' third-best starter, and that is when Scott Baker pulls things back together. After Ponson's blow-up, the Royals had too far to climb, despite clawing back into the game.
Brian Bannister pitched fairly well but was absolutely undercut by his defense, as I spoke of yesterday in my entry written during the game. But in the late innings the Royals--driven by Willie Bloomquist of all people--came back to beat the Twins in a game they usually do not win.
Today, Scott Baker no-hit the Royals for six innings. He wasn't baffling hitters, but only Jose Guillen had reached base against him, on a walk of all things. Gil Meche wasn't dominant and walked to the dugout behind 4 - 0 with Horacio Ramirez warming up, but then a funny thing happened. The Royals scored five runs in the top of the seventh, all credited to Scott Baker, who was unable to retire a single Royals batter before ceding the mound to the Twins own version of Kyle Farnsworth, Luis Ayala. As predictably as if Farnsworth had taken the mound to protect a lead with runners on, Ayala gave up a double to Bert Callaspo (who ran into an out trying to stretch his ML-leading 12th double into a triple). The Royals scored a total of seven runs in the final three innings. Horacio Ramirez pitched effectively against left-handed hitter to earn a hold. Jamey Wright continued his solid pitching. Jack Soria recorded his first save in, what, three years? But the Royals strung together a rally after being summarily shut down for the first two-thirds of the game, and took two of three against the Twins on the road.
Another week has passed, and the Royals--after a trip to Minnesota--find themselves half a game up on the Tigers (and the White Sox, if they should happen to come back on the Rangers), all alone in first. It is early, but not too early to hold onto hope.