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Royals get their sizzle back, up lead in AL Central

Butler, Willingham homer as KC takes 2 1/2-game lead on Tigers

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ARLINGTON -- It was perfectly natural for the Royals to get hot again in Texas. After all, it was 98 degrees.

They also managed to restore their sizzle as a ballclub, snapping back after a loss to knock off the Texas Rangers, 6-3, as 26,991 fans soaked up a Friday evening at Globe Life Park.

Rookie Yordano Ventura worked six innings for the victory and the big three of the bullpen, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, wrapped it up.

Billy Butler and Josh Willingham each hit solo home runs for Kansas City and Lorenzo Cain had three hits.

And, to polish off the evening, Detroit lost to Minnesota, 20-6, and the Royals' lead in the American League Central climbed to 2 1/2 games.

"Thirty-five games left. Definitely keep pouring it on, keep scoring runs, keep doing what we're doing," Cain said. "Find a way to get in these playoffs any way possible."

For the first-place Royals, the victory was their 15th in 18 games or, if you prefer a longer count, 23 of their last 29.

The Royals are taking on the club with the worst record in the American League and they're determined not to alter their approach regardless of the opponent's record.

"We're playing our game instead. We don't care who we're playing -- first place, last place, whatever," Butler said. "They're all Major League clubs and we've got our job to go out and do each day."

Butler launched things for the Royals, crashing a 417-foot home run to left field off right-hander Colby Lewis to start the three-run second inning. Willingham led off the fourth with his 408-footer.

Ventura used up 107 pitches in his six innings, boosting his record to 10-9, but manager Ned Yost would prefer that he'd be more economical with his pitches.

"He's burning those pitches that he needs to go deeper into the game," Yost said.

Just 23, Ventura is learning the nuances of being a big league pitcher in the heat of a pennant race.

"There's kind of two Yordanos," Yost said. "There's the one that was within himself and was banging strikes and staying downhill. Then there was one when he was just throwing out there -- rearing back and struggling to command the ball down and was getting a lot of pitches up.

"When he stays within himself he's really a pitcher out there and when he starts rearing back, he turns into a thrower."

Adrian Beltre had two of the four hits off Ventura, but has quickly become a Ventura admirer.

"There's such a bright future with that kid. He's a rookie with great stuff, nice and easy, 100 mph with the fastball, a good changeup," Beltre said. "He's a tough customer. The guy can reach the limit easy. I think that he's going to be a really good pitcher in the big leagues. Hopefully he can stay healthy."

Ventura departed with a 5-1 lead, a non-save situation, prompting Yost to depart from his usual backend procession and bring in left-hander Francisley Bueno instead of Herrera. But Bueno promptly gave up back-to-back doubles and suddenly the Rangers were within three runs.

So Herrera was brought in and squelched the Rangers' fun although a third run scored in the process and it was 5-3. Bueno and Aaron Crow have let big leads slip away recently, so is that a thorn among the roses?

"There's no concern, but we do need to step it up in some of these areas," Yost said. "We know that [Jason] Frasor has done a nice job since he's been here, Bueno and Crow have been a little inconsistent but we know both of their stuff is more than good enough to get the job done. Herrera has been fantastic, Wade and Holly have been great."

Davis reeled through a perfect eighth inning, his 23rd consecutive scoreless outing. That covers 22 2/3 innings, the longest active streak in the Majors.

Holland pitched past a two-out walk and notched his 40th save, becoming the first Royals closer with that many saves in back-to-back seasons since Dan Quisenberry in 1983-84.

Once again, everything came together for the Royals.

"We're just playing good baseball," Butler said.

And that 98-degree heat? Heck, Butler insisted that the Royals barely noticed it and there was a big plus with it anyhow.

"I just think it made the ball carry a little more," he said.


Willingham homers, adds to great start in KC

Outfielder batting .344 with six RBIs since trade from Twins

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ARLINGTON -- Outfielder Josh Willingham has fit in nicely since being obtained from the Twins on Aug. 11.

After hitting a home run in the series-opening 6-3 win on Friday night at Texas, he was 11-for-32 (.344 average) with four doubles, two homers and six RBIs with the Royals.

"They were playing real well when they acquired me and I just want to come in here and chip in and I feel like I've been able to do that and just sort of keep the train rolling," Willingham said.

He was in Friday night's lineup as the designated hitter due largely to his career success against Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis.

"He gives you fastballs to hit most of the time and if you can be on time and square it up, you've got a good chance of hitting it out," Willingham said. "That's what happened tonight, he left me a fastball out over the plate."

After Lewis plunked him with a pitch in his first at-bat, Willingham pounded a home run to center field to lead off the fourth inning. That was his fourth home run among eight hits off Lewis in 24 at-bats.

"He got ahead of me 0-2, I think, and I was battling back and got the count to 3-2. He got one out over the plate that I could handle and it felt pretty good," Willingham said.

Willingham can do more than DH, of course. Normally a left fielder, he made a rare start in right field on Wednesday night at Colorado.

"It was something I'm not really used," Willingham said. "But I've been working out there a little bit ... obviously most of my experience has been in left field and I would say it was different. It took a couple innings to get used to everything but it was fine."

He's working with outfield coach Rusty Kuntz and they go way back.

"Rusty and I go all the way to the year 2000 so I knew him when I came over here," Willingham said. "He worked for the Marlins when I got there. Rusty's a great coach and very smart. Also, he's funny and lightens the mood a lot."

Another thing that lightens the mood is winning.

"It's awesome being in a pennant race, every game, every at-bat means something and it's been a lot of fun. I've felt pretty good," Willingham said.


All-Star Perez returns to lineup

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ARLINGTON -- As anticipated, catcher Salvador Perez was in the Royals' starting lineup on Friday night after clearing his MRI examination on Thursday's off-day.

Manager Ned Yost said that Perez, who pinched his right knee running the bases last Monday night at Minnesota, was "a little sore" below the kneecap in the patella tendon area and behind the knee.

Yost was asked how often Perez might be in the lineup going down the stretch.

"We've got 30-something games left," Yost said. "He's starting today, that's all I'm worried about."

There was no off-day examination on first baseman Eric Hosmer's right hand, which has him on the disabled list with a fractured third metacarpal. He's to be looked over again on Monday after the Royals return home.

"They were showing signs of healing, but they were hoping that crack had filled in more and it hadn't, but it was starting to," Yost said. "You can take an X-ray every day but what's the difference? It's not going to accelerate the process."

Out since Aug. 2, Hosmer isn't likely to be ready to go until after the Royals' Minor League clubs' seasons are over on Sept. 1.

"There's probably not going to be any rehab scenarios for him. So I don't know what I'm going to do there," Yost said. "He's going to be rusty."

The Royals want to be certain that the stress fracture is well-healed.

"You get one shot at this. You bring him back too early and that line opens up again, he's done for the year," Yost said. "So you make sure he's in a good spot and then you start cranking him up again."

Veteran left-handed reliever Scott Downs has been on the disabled list retroactive to Aug. 3 with a stiff neck.

"[He's] fine, better," Yost said. 'He's been throwing some sides. We've been looking for get him in some live BP sessions but we'll probably wait until we get home to do that."


Yost concerned about wins, not numbers

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ARLINGTON -- Statistics? By this time in the Royals' run for the postseason, they mean little to manager Ned Yost.

The subject at the moment happened to be right fielder Nori Aoki, who was 11-for-29 before a 0-for-10 skid going into the Texas series.

"The only number I look at this time of year is wins," Yost said. "I couldn't tell you what he's been in his last 10 at-bats. Like Omar [Infante], he's got the ability to jump up and get four big hits in a game or get you one big hit to help you win. He does things."

Whether it's Aoki or Infante or anybody else, Yost has only one criterion these days: "Can you help us win? Put the best team out there that you think can help you win, then you maneuver off of it once the game starts.

"I can't tell you what anybody's hitting right now, I can't tell you what anybody's hitting in the last two weeks. I don't care about it. Can you do something to help us win tonight?"

He's eager to keep all his bench players involved and outfielder Jarrod Dyson has been something of a part-time regular.

"You pick your spots. I'm really trying to keep everybody playing, keep everybody sharp so if something happens late in the game, at least he's had some at-bats over the last four or five days," Yost said.

"We're doing it with [Christian] Colon, we're doing it with [Erik] Kratz, we're doing it with [Josh] Willingham, we're trying to pick spots for Raul [Ibanez], he looks really good right now. They're all producing, they're all doing fine."

{"content":["team_preview" ] }

Guthrie, first-place Royals look to pad lead in AL Central

KC can win another series with a victory against Tepesch, Texas

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The Royals receive an opportunity to restart an impressive streak Saturday that was snapped in their last series.

Kansas City had claimed its previous eight series before splitting with Colorado on Thursday. A 6-3 win over the Rangers on Friday means a victory Saturday would clinch the series for KC, and mark the beginning of a new streak.

Starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie looks to build off the Royals' recent success, as they enter Saturday 23-6 in their last 29 games and lead the Tigers by 2 1/2 games in the American League Central.

Guthrie earned a win last Sunday as Kansas City blew out the Twins, 12-6.

The right-hander allowed four runs in seven innings, but his most impressive feat came when rain forced a delay of nearly an hour in the bottom of the fourth inning. It did not faze Guthrie as he went back out for three more innings despite the delay.

"Obviously the big lead early was huge for us," Guthrie said. "It allowed me to just really go out there and attack, and not worry too much about stuff out there, the way the offense was going."

Nick Tepesch rivals Guthrie on the mound for the Rangers. Tepesch has thrived this season at Globe Life Park in Arlington, sporting a 3.40 ERA in seven starts at home, compared to a 4.97 ERA in nine road games (eight starts).

Tepesch has been solid of late, posting a 2.45 ERA in his last four starts.

"It's just a matter of being consistent from one outing to the next and continuing to do what I've been doing in the last few. I'm just trying to roll with what I've been doing," Tepesch said.

Royals: Mulling September options
September callups aren't far off and the Royals are assessing what they might do.

"We're looking for specifics -- maybe guys that can come up and pinch-run, maybe a bat off the bench if we need it," manager Ned Yost said. "We're not going to bring up a bunch of guys just to bring up a bunch of guys. We're going to bring up guys that can fill a need."

They're looking at various pitchers and position players but one specialist that might merit attention is outfielder Terrance Gore, a lightning-fast runner. With Jarrod Dyson getting more starting assignments or late-inning defensive roles, he's been largely taken out of the pinch-running equation.

Hence Gore is being looked at in that context. For Class A Wilmington this year, he stole 36 bases in 40 attempts and, called up to Triple-A Omaha, he's 8-for-11.

"We just don't want a bunch of guys sitting around doing nothing," Yost said. "We just want guys that fit what you're going to be able to use."

Rangers: Schieffer to be honored Saturday
Former team President Tom Schieffer will be inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Schieffer was instrumental in the 1994 opening of The Ballpark in Arlington. The stadium, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, was renamed Globe Life Park in Arlington before the season.

"I am really excited about it," Schieffer said. "I am amazed at the number of people who have commented on it. It is really heartwarming that people want to honor you."

Worth noting
• Royals left fielder Alex Gordon is closing in on Hall of Famer Wade Boggs on the career home runs list. Gordon is two behind Boggs' total of 118. The special significance is that's the all-time high for a Nebraska native.

• Kansas City is 5-2 on its nine-game road trip thus far.

• Adrian Beltre has now collected three straight multi-hit games after he smacked a single and a double in Friday's loss. He also has 11 hits in his last six games.

{"content":["team_preview" ] }

Royals renew with four affiliates

Royals renew with four affiliates

ARLINGTON -- The Royals announced they have extended their association with four of their Minor League clubs.

Player development contracts with Class A Advanced Wilmington and Rookie Idaho Falls were extended through 2016 and with Class A Lexington through 2018. The club also extended its working agreement with Rookie Burlington through 2016.

Wilmington has been a Royals farm club in 1993-2004 and again since 2007, Idaho Falls since 2004, Burlington since 2007 and Lexington since 2013.

{"content":["injury" ] }

MRI on Perez's knee comes back clean

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ARLINGTON -- Good news for the Royals: Catcher Salvador Perez's right knee passed an MRI examination.

"Everything is OK, I'm feeling pretty good," Perez said on Thursday after undergoing the test in Texas.

Nothing beyond some inflammation was found, according to manager Ned Yost.

"Nothing, he's fine," Yost said. "They just did it as a precaution."

That confirmed the initial diagnosis by head athletic trainer Nick Kenney after Perez felt a "pinch" in his knee while running the bases on Monday night at Minnesota. Perez played Tuesday night at Colorado, then sat out Wednesday night with "discomfort."

So, to be on the safe side, the Royals scheduled an exam for Thursday's off-day.

"It was right dead on with what Nick said: A little irritation for that patella tendon, a little swelling in the back where he kind of hyperextended it but nothing -- all the ACL, MCL, meniscus is all in great shape," Yost said.

"It was exactly what we thought it was. Nick did it as a precaution and so Salvy would have peace of mind."

Perez did sound very happy over the phone.

"I'm going to play [Friday night]," he said. "I'm good."

Of course, that's what Perez always says, but it'll be up to Yost and Kenney to evaluate him before the series opener at Texas.

"We'll see how he feels. It's a pain tolerance thing. He's pretty tolerant, but again I'll talk to Nick and see what his recommendation is," Yost said. "If he doesn't play [Friday], he'll be playing the next day for sure."

The current problem is with the right knee, not the left knee which Perez injured in Spring Training 2012, prompting surgery to repair a torn meniscus that kept him out about half the season.

"Salvy feels a lot better now, knowing what he went through with that meniscus deal two years ago," Yost said. "It scared him a little bit, so this gives him a little peace of mind."

{"content":["injury" ] }

With Butler in top form, Royals surging

After rough start to the season, slugger manning first base, swinging hot bat

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ARLINGTON -- There's Billy Butler coming off the bench to belt a pinch-hit home run to sink Cleveland. There's Butler going 4-for-5 with a three-run blast in a blowout win at Arizona. There's Billy going behind the bag to snare a hot shot to help beat Minnesota. And there he is scoring all the way from first base, his heart pounding wildly in the Colorado altitude.

"I've had the most fun I've had since I've been here," Butler said.

And no wonder. The American League Central-leading Royals have been winning like never before in Butler's eight years in Kansas City.

When Butler arrived in 2007, the Royals had already been through more than 20 years of missing the postseason. Then late last season, they got a little taste of the playoff chase with their exciting, but futile, Wild Card effort.

"I'd have to say the second half last year was the funnest half I've had, but this one's not over yet. I'm planning on this one being a lot of more fun than the last one, because of the position we're in and what I feel like this group can accomplish," Butler said.

"So I'm real excited. I'm excited for the future of this franchise and everything like that, because we've put ourselves in position to compete, not just for this year, but we have a lot of good players, a lot of talent."

Butler has been a significant part of the Royals' talent pool since they made him a first-round pick in the 2004 Draft. He was just 13 days past his 21st birthday when he made his Major League debut in '07. By the '09 season, he'd became a productive part of the lineup; he was solid, strong and dependable.

Maybe Butler wasn't the most agile first baseman around, maybe he took some ribbing about his bulk and his speed, but the guy could always hit. Always.

Then earlier this year, not so much. Through the Yankees series on June 8, Butler had a .249 average with one home run and 21 RBIs. Another clue that not all was well: his walk rate had decreased.

Over the next month or so, Butler's numbers crept up a little, but manager Ned Yost dropped him from his usual third or fourth spot in the batting order to sixth or sometimes seventh.

"We were in the middle of July, and I wasn't seeing much improvement," Yost said. "So it was getting to where we had to do something. But the resurgence hit and he's Billy Butler again."

Ah, yes, that resurgence.

Since July 22, when Kansas City began the mad rush in which it has won 22 of 28 games, Butler has hit .327 (33-for-101) with 16 RBIs, eight doubles, four homers and a .370 on-base percentage. He's batting in the cleanup spot and his overall average is up to .280.

And Butler has been playing first base almost every game, subbing for injured Eric Hosmer, a Gold Glove winner at that position. Being busy in the field instead of being idle between at-bats as a designated hitter seems to have helped Butler.

"I love playing first, and yeah, I have the ability of not focusing so much on what I'm doing wrong at the plate and just going up there and [hitting]," Butler said.

"Sometimes your mind gets in the way, and there's really nothing wrong. The game's such a mental game, and you have to relax up there and that's all I'm doing. I'm going out there and playing first base, and honestly, I'm just going out there and relaxing, just knowing I'm going to get the job done instead of saying, 'Oh, what do I need to fix in my next at-bat?'"

Yost admits when Hosmer went on the disabled list, the Royals were looking at other options at first base -- Raul Ibanez, even catcher Salvador Perez or maybe a new acquisition.

"It's been very, very impressive the way that [Butler has] played first base," Yost said. "I mean, he hadn't played it for, what, two years? He'd played a game here, a game there, and he didn't look too sporty, you know."

But Butler has looked quite sporty over there. He was ready, as he had taken fielding practice every day, just in case.

"I pride myself [on] stepping right in there and playing the way I have, and the team's been very successful with me over there. I take a lot of pride in that," Butler said.

There's always been talk in Kansas City's front office about the "core" of the Royals, the homegrown group that includes Butler, Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Perez, Alex Gordon, Greg Holland and Danny Duffy that was counted on to lead the team in the direction of glory.

"If we didn't turn things around the way we have, there was a chance this core wasn't going to be together that much longer," Butler said.

Butler's sluggish start, quite naturally, gave rise to speculation that the Royals would not exactly jump to exercise their $12.5 million option on his contract for 2015. Now they might reconsider.

"[Butler has] got it back. He's a threat again, where he wasn't before," Yost said. "Driving the gaps, hitting the ball hard."

The old Billy Butler.


Duffy, Royals can't slam door on Rockies

Big blow in sixth after Colon's error ends KC's streak of series wins

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DENVER -- There's a reason Royals manager Ned Yost has relentlessly called Mike Moustakas his everyday third baseman. And in one seemingly routine play to third, Christian Colon reinforced that reason Wednesday.

Starting in Moustakas' place against left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, Colon proved why platoon splits are the least of the Royals' worries by misfiring on the would-be third out of the sixth.

Three batters after the error, Matt McBride came through with his first career grand slam to hand the Royals a 5-2 loss and put an end to their streak of eighth consecutive series victories with a split.

"I should have made the play," Colon said after appearing in just his third Major League game at third. "It's just one of those things that you wish you could take back … It's on me right there. That play needs to be made with two outs."

Operating with a 2-1 lead, Royals left-hander Danny Duffy seemed destined to cruise through another inning at Coors Field as he retired the first two batters of the sixth on six pitches. And it only took a seventh pitch to set up a manageable ground ball to third.

But Colon, a rookie middle infielder who only made 13 of his 470 Minor League appearances at third, failed to get "a four-seam grip" on the ball. With Nolan Arenado hustling down the line, Colon's ensuing throw spiked the dirt short of first to keep the inning alive.

Even after Wilin Rosario's first-pitch single put two on, Duffy was relieved to see Corey Dickerson stepping to the plate. After all, left-handers like Dickerson had just 13 hits in 104 at-bats against Duffy entering Wednesday.

But after Duffy (8-11) missed with a hanging slider, he wouldn't recover, walking Dickerson on four pitches.

"I think the walk killed me the most," said Duffy after allowing only one earned run and five hits over seven innings. "I've been really good with lefties the entire year and I just nibbled a little bit … I'm more upset about the Dickerson at-bat than the McBride at-bat because I didn't really get a chance to work with McBride."

Duffy, undeterred by the Rockies jumping on him early, fired in his first pitch right to McBride's wheelhouse. And by the time the ball landed in the left-field bleachers, the Royals were staring at a 5-2 deficit.

"It was a great feeling," McBride said. "I was excited that we got the lead right there, and just excited I was able to get my pitch, get the barrel to it and hit the ball hard."

The Royals got on the board first when Alex Gordon led off the second inning with a solo shot that touched the second deck in right field. Erik Kratz, a late addition to the Royals lineup following Salvador Perez's precautionary scratch because of right knee soreness, added to that 1-0 advantage with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.

But that's all Kansas City could muster against the former Royal De La Rosa. In eight innings of work, De La Rosa (13-8) allowed five hits and three walks but rolled up four double plays, tying the single-game franchise record.

Yost, who was De La Rosa's manager for his three seasons in Milwaukee, knows the Rockies' ace has been a different animal altogether since making the move to Coors Field, where he's 9-2 in 13 starts this season.

"He always has it going here," Yost said. "He's effectively wild with his fastball and his changeup is killer."

Before McBride's blast, the Rockies put up their first run on a sacrifice fly from Rosario in the fourth.

But when you're a team that has won 22 of its last 28, you don't sweat the small stuff like this one.

"We're not going to dwell on this," Duffy said. "We're going to go back out there Friday and take care of business in Texas. That's what teams that succeed do."

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Royals Minor League report: Aug. 21

Royals Minor League report: Aug. 21

Omaha Storm Chasers (69-63)

Tacoma 7, Omaha 3
LP: Buddy Baumann (1-4)
HR: Paul Janish (2 with Omaha, 3 overall)

The Storm Chasers dropped a second straight at Tacoma, cutting their division lead to 1.0 game. Starter Buddy Baumann allowed four runs, five hits and two walks with five strikeouts over 4.1 innings. Paul Janish was 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and both Omaha runs. He's batting .350 (43-for-123) since joining the Storm Chasers. Cheslor Cuthbert recorded a pinch hit RBI single.

NW Arkansas Naturals (26-31 second half, 51-77 overall)

Springfield 8, NW Arkansas 5 (12 innings)
LP: Tripp Davis (0-1)
HR: Mark Threlkeld (8)

Northwest Arkansas lost a third straight to Springfield as Jonathan Rodriguez hit a three-run homer in the 12th. Jorge Bonifacio posted his first career five-hit game, recording four singles, a triple, an RBI and two runs. Mark Threlkeld gave the Naturals a short-lived 5-4 lead with a pinch hit homer in the eighth. Justin Trapp added two hits and two RBI. Matt Murray held the Cards to an unearned run over 6.0 innings.

Wilmington Blue Rocks (28-28 second half, 61-63 overall)

Myrtle Beach 3, Wilmington 2
LP: Miguel Almonte (6-7)
HR: Frank Schwindel (2 with Willmington, 22 overall)

The Blue Rocks fell short in a bid for a three-game sweep. Myrtle Beach scored all three runs in the first off of Miguel Almonte (3.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO). John Walter recorded 4.0 scoreless innings in relief, allowing three hits with a strikeout. Frank Schwindel homered for a second straight night, giving him two in three games with Wilmington after hitting 20 for Lexington.

Lexington Legends (23-37 second half, 52-78 overall)

The Legends had Thursday off. They are at Augusta (Giants) tonight.

Idaho Falls Chukars (11-12 second half, 31-30 overall)

Grand Junction 18, Idaho Falls 8 (7 innings - Completion of Wednesday's Game)
LP: Emilio Ogando (1-2)
HR: Brawlun Gomez (4)

Idaho Falls 7, Grand Junction 0 (Game Two - Suspended in the third)

Rain showers hit Idaho Falls for a third straight day. A suspended game from Wednesday was completed, with the Rockies winning 18-8. Brawlun Gomez hit his third homer in his last five games. Idaho Falls jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first inning of the nightcap before rain suspended play in the third. Brandon Thomasson cleared the bases with a three-run double in the first. Brandon Downes capped the inning with a two-run double. Jake Newberry struck out four over 3.0 scoreless innings.

Burlington Royals (26-33)

Burlington 10, Bristol 1
WP: Scott Blewett (1-1)
HR: None

The Royals rolled to an opening win, their fourth straight overall. 2014 second-round pick Scott Blewett (5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO) earned his first professional win. Blue Springs native Logan Moon had three hits, two RBI, two stolen bases and a run. Leland Clemmons posted two RBI, two steals and a run. It was the first time that Burlington had hosted a Pittsburgh affiliate since 1989.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Royals enjoying their success, not looking too far ahead

With KC positioned to end 29-year playoff drought, Yost keeps club focused

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DENVER -- It's been 29 years since the Royals last enjoyed baseball's postseason.

No sense getting in a hurry right now.

Manager Ned Yost certainly isn't. He is enjoying what has happened in the past month, but he knows better than to start thinking about what could transpire in the next month.

"I am extremely happy with where we are," Yost said.

He should be.

The Royals fell 5-2 to the Rockies at Coors Field on Wednesday night, but they have still won 22 of their past 28 games. And they are still sitting atop the American League Central. They are just a game in front of the Tigers, but just a month ago, they were in third place, eight games back of the Tigers.

The Royals also are two games up on the Mariners, who are mixed up with the top two AL Central teams in a battle for the second AL Wild Card.

On paper, it would seem that Kansas City has an edge in claiming at least one of the postseason spots.

"I don't think too much farther than our next game," said Yost. "Anybody can [beat] you at any time. You better stay focused on the task at hand."

OK, so for Yost, all that matters is that after taking Thursday off, the Royals play three games in Texas against the Rangers. Right now, the Rangers and the Rockies share the distinction of the worst records in the big leagues. They are both 49-77, and, well, Colorado did just knock off Kansas City thanks to a Matt McBride grand slam.

But what fun is the anticipation of a mad dash to the postseason without taking a peek at where the primary contenders for the October opportunities stand?

And from afar, the early edge goes to the Royals. They have a slight edge in the schedule, both in terms of opposition and the home/road breakdown, and their roster seems to be in better shape in terms of injuries.

The schedule

After the three-game visit to Texas this weekend, Kansas City plays 20 of its next 26 games at home before a season-ending road trip that includes three games with Cleveland and four with the Chicago White Sox. The Royals have 20 of their final 36 games against teams with losing records, and the only serious contender they have left to face is the Tigers, who they play three times at home and three times in Detroit. The Tigers did win the first five games the two teams played this season, but they have split the past eight.

Detroit not only has 19 games remaining at home and 19 on the road, but it has makeup doubleheaders on the road the next two Saturdays, at Minnesota this weekend and at Chicago against the White Sox on Aug. 30. The Tigers have 19 games remaining against teams with winning records, and in addition to the home-and-away series with the Royals, they also host the Giants for three games Sept. 5-7.

The Mariners, meanwhile, play 21 of their remaining 36 games on the road, and before they close the regular season by hosting the Angels in a three-game series at Safeco Field, they have an 11-game road trip that takes them from Seattle to Anaheim (four games) to Houston (three games) and to Toronto (four games). The Mariners have 20 games against teams with winning records, including home-and-away three-game series against the A's, three games at home with the Nationals, and seven games remaining with the Halos -- four in Anaheim and the three in Seattle.

The roster

The Tigers have reason for concern. Fingers are crossed that right-hander Justin Verlander not only will benefit from a 12-day layoff because of a cranky right shoulder and return to the rotation in one of Saturday's two games against the Twins, but also that he can snap out of a season-long funk that has him 10-11 with a 4.76 ERA.

Verlander did play catch on Tuesday, threw long toss on Wednesday and will have a limited bullpen session on Thursday before an official decision is made, but he doesn't leave much doubt in telling the media during Detroit's current visit to Tropicana Field to face the Rays, "We need to make the playoffs. We need to get back in that routine, the starting routine. So I'm going to be out there."

Unfortunately for the Tigers, there is less certainly about reliever Joakim Soria (left oblique) and Anibal Sanchez (right pectoral), both of whom can only hope they will return by the start of September. Their time on the disabled list, along with the 12-day stretch between starts for Verlander has had Detroit mixing and matching, including signing and then calling up former Baltimore bullpen ace Jim Johnson, who was released by Oakland last month.

To fill recent rotation voids, they brought Robbie Ray up from Triple-A Toledo to start twice in place of Verlander. And to fill in for Sanchez, they brought up Buck Farmer, who has made 18 of his 21 Minor League appearances this season at low Class A West Michigan.

While the Royals were forced to move designated hitter Billy Butler to first base because Eric Hosmer suffered a broken hand, general manager Dayton Moore did find needed lineup protection with the July additions of Raul Ibanez and Josh Willingham, who will platoon in the DH role. The added bonus is that Butler, in a four-month funk, has returned to a middle-of-the-lineup force due, he said, in part to the fact that playing in the field doesn't allow him the time to dwell on his offensive struggles.

Mariners rotation ace Felix Hernandez did have his streak of 17 consecutive starts of at least seven innings and with no more than two runs snapped Saturday at Detroit, taking a line drive off his hip, but all indications are he will make his scheduled start at Boston on Friday. Seattle also addressed concerns about a lineup filled with too many left-handed hitters with the July additions of center fielder Austin Jackson, outfield swingman Chris Denorfia and switch-hitting DH Kendrys Morales.

Of late

Kansas City is the hottest team in baseball. The Royals have won 22 of 28 games thanks to an offense that has taken pressure off a pitching staff that has been among the game's elite. The Mariners are 17-13 since the All-Star break -- winning 15 of their past 23. The Tigers, meanwhile, are 15-18 since the All-Star break and have scored two or fewer runs in 12 games.

Postseason spots aren't won on paper. They are won on the field.

And Yost knows that.

"It comes down to doing our job at hand," he said.

Lately, the Royals have been able to handle that challenge.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Perez scratched with sore right knee, to have MRI

Perez scratched with sore right knee, to have MRI play video for Perez scratched with sore right knee, to have MRI

DENVER -- Royals catcher Salvador Perez will go for an MRI on his sore right knee Thursday after he was a late scratch for Wednesday's series finale against the Rockies.

According to manager Ned Yost, Perez "felt great" during stretching before his knee began tightening up right at the start of batting practice.

Perez felt the tightness in his right patella tendon region, the same area he felt a pinch in while rounding second base in the fifth inning of Monday's 6-4 win over the Twins. He ended up catching two more innings of that game before being removed for Erik Kratz in the seventh. But Perez was back and starting Tuesday against the Rockies and finished the 7-4 victory 1-for-5 with a double and one RBI.

After the Royals' 5-2 loss Wednesday, Yost emphasized the decision to rest Perez as just a case of playing it safe.

"With an off-day tomorrow, we wanted to take all the precautions and give him two days," Yost said.

The Royals originally ruled that there was no structural damage in Perez's knee after the injury first occurred Monday. The Royals still feel they have a good handle on his soreness, but Perez is going for an MRI "just to rule out anything," Yost said.

Perez has appeared in the second-most games of any catcher in the Majors behind the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy. Through 115 games, the Royals All-Star is batting .268 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs.

Two days after he became only the third American League player in the last four seasons to hit two homers in a game he didn't start, Kratz replaced Perez in the lineup again. He finished 0-for-2 but plated one of the Royals' two runs on a sacrifice fly in the fourth.

{"content":["injury" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }

Royals Minor League report: Aug. 20

Royals Minor League report: Aug. 20 play video for Royals Minor League report: Aug. 20

Omaha Storm Chasers (69-62)

Tacoma 6, Omaha 4
LP: Scott Alexander (0-2 with Omaha, 1-4 overall)
HR: Carlos Peguero (28), Matt Fields (23)

Omaha lost at Tacoma for the first time since 2009, snapping a 10-game winning streak at Cheney Stadium. Carlos Peguero continued his home run barrage with a solo shot against his former club. Peguero leads all minor league players with 13 home runs in August. Seattle native Matt Fields added a two-run shot. Whit Merrifield recorded two hits, raising his average with Omaha to .358 (98-for-274).

NW Arkansas Naturals (26-30 second half, 51-76 overall)

Springfield 2, NW Arkansas 1
LP: Andy Ferguson (11-10)
HR: None

The Naturals lost by one run for a second straight night. Andy Ferguson went 8.0 innings, holding the Cards to two runs, eight hits and a walk while striking out five. Brian Fletcher doubled in the first and scored on Orlando Calixte's single. Calixte is ranked 12th among Royals prospects by MLB.com.

Wilmington Blue Rocks (28-27 second half, 61-62 overall)

Wilmington 3, Myrtle Beach 1
WP: Glenn Sparkman (8-2)
SV: Kyle Bartsch (5)
HR: Frank Schwindel (1 with Willmington, 21 overall), Raul Mondesi (8)

The Blue Rocks won a second straight at Myrtle Beach behind home runs from Frank Schwindel and Raul Mondesi. Schwindel gave Wilmington a 1-0 lead in the second. The homer came in his second game since being promoted from Lexington, where he hit 20. Mondesi added a solo shot in the fifth. The top-ranked Royals prospect has six home runs and 12 RBI in his last 11 games. Glenn Sparkman had another strong outing as he held the Pelicans to a run, four hits and a walk with four strikeouts over 6.0 innings. He has a 1.38 ERA through 111.0 innings, including 1.13 since moving into the starting rotation.

Lexington Legends (23-37 second half, 52-78 overall)

Lexington 14, Delmarva 6
WP: Luke Farrell (2-12)
HR: Dex Kjerstad (6), Mauricio Ramos (8)

The Legends surged to a rubber game win at home, posting multiple runs in their final five turns. Dex Kjerstad knotted the score at 4-4 with a three-run homer in the fourth. He finished with five RBI. Mauricio Ramos hit a two-run home run, finishing with three hits and three RBI. Chad Johnson added two hits, an RBI, a walk and three runs. Luke Farrell fanned eight while scattering four runs, seven hits and three walks over 5.1 innings.

Idaho Falls Chukars (11-11 second half, 31-29 overall)

Grand Junction 7, Idaho Falls 3 (Completed Early)
LP: Eric Stout (4-1)
HR: None

Rain showers hit Idaho Falls again on Wednesday. Tuesday's contest was resumed, with Grand Junction leading 7-3 when in the seventh when play was stopped. A second contest was pushed back to tonight. Brandon Thomasson drove in two runs. Corey Toups was 2-for-3 with a triple and a run.

Burlington Royals (25-33)

The Royals enjoyed an off day at home after a three-game sweep of Bluefield. The homestand continues tonight against the Bristol Pirates.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Yost rewards Colon with start at third

Yost rewards Colon with start at third play video for Yost rewards Colon with start at third

DENVER -- While it wasn't exactly glamorous, Christian Colon came through with a big-time play Tuesday when he was asked to pitch-hit in the eighth. And on Wednesday, manager Ned Yost rewarded him with a start at third and a chance to prove himself in the leadoff role.

After three straight Royals reached to load the bases with two outs in the seventh, Colon took three straight 95 mph fastballs from left-hander Rex Brothers to walk in a run.

By also keeping the inning alive, Colon set up Omar Infante's two-run double in the next at-bat. That gave the Royals a 7-2 lead, which might have seemed excessive until the Rockies got two back in the ninth off left-hander Francisley Bueno.

One day after the Royals' 22nd win in their last 27 games, Yost said he hasn't been around many rookies with the poise and professionalism of Colon.

"He's just solid, solid winning-type baseball player that is prepared for any task you may have available for him that day," Yost said.

Colon, the Royals' fourth overall Draft selection back in 2010, has hit .385 (10-for-26) with four doubles and six runs in his first taste of Big League action this season.

With left-hander Jorge De La Rosa on the mound, his start isn't exactly surprising until you consider how adamant Yost has been about Mike Moustakas being his everyday third baseman this season.

In 104 games, Moustakas has posted career-lows in average (.202) and on-base percentage (.262).

Likewise, if Colon proves himself in the leadoff position, it could lead to more opportunities. Despite owning the third highest team average in the Majors at .265, the Royals have produced the fifth lowest on-base plus slugging percentage in the American League from the one-hole (.696).


Royals' newfound confidence prompted streak

Players-only meeting sparked an attitude change in young team

Royals' newfound confidence prompted streak play video for Royals' newfound confidence prompted streak

DENVER -- The Kansas City Royals had lost their first four games after the All-Star break. Swept by the Red Sox in a three-game series in Boston and then beaten by Chris Sale and the White Sox, they slipped below .500 and fell into third place in the American League Central, eight games back of the division-leading Tigers.

Enough was enough. A players-only meeting was called the next afternoon.

Raul Ibanez and Scott Downs -- veterans who had been released by the Angels and White Sox, respectively, and signed by the Royals -- delivered a message.

"They said, 'I don't think you guys know how much talent there is in here,'" remembered Billy Butler. "Nobody wants to face this team. The only thing holding this team back was us, ourselves. We didn't have that mentality.

"And they told us it was time to get it."

Message received.

Kansas City won 7-1 that night in Chicago. And four weeks later, the Royals are still going strong. With a 7-4 victory against the Rockies at Coors Field on Tuesday night, they have won 22 of their past 27 games. They have moved atop the AL Central, two games ahead of the Tigers.

"After that [meeting], you could see our focus and accountability go up," said Butler.

There wasn't room for excuses in Kansas City's clubhouse anymore. The players wanted results. They haven't wavered.

Twenty-nine years removed from the only World Series championship in franchise history -- and the last postseason appearance the Royals made -- this is a team that has gone from wanting to claim an AL Wild Card spot to a team that feels it can win a division.

"We want to have the home-field advantage, too," said Butler. "Why not?"

Outsiders moaned when they saw the Tigers swing July deals to strengthen their rotation (adding David Price from the Rays) and their bullpen (picking up Joakim Soria from the Rangers), while the Royals merely added bit parts, like backup catcher Erik Kratz, Ibanez, Downs and reliever Jason Frasor.

Kansas City's front office had made a statement -- they thought the club had a strong enough front line to win the division and merely needed some bits and pieces added. The players took it as a compliment.

"I give them credit for showing confidence in us," said Butler. "Give Dayton [Moore, general manager] credit for not disassembling what we have here. We have the talent.

"It was up to us, as players, to take that next step. There is a time to develop and get experience, but at some point, you flip the light switch and can't just be happy to be here. We've reached that point."


"That's something they have to learn for themselves," said manager Ned Yost. "You can tell them how good they are, but until they believe that and come together as a group and believe in each other, it doesn't matter what you say or how much talent they have."

The Royals have reached that point.

A win in Wednesday's finale of a two-game visit to Coors Field and Kansas City will have won nine consecutive series for the first time since July 17-Aug. 14, 1991. With a 70-55 record after Tuesday's win, the Royals are 15 games over .500 for the first time since Aug. 6, 1994.

Twenty-one of their remaining 37 games are against teams without a winning record -- the Twins (three), White Sox (seven), Rangers (six), Red Sox (four) and Rockies (one).

But among their 16 remaining games against teams with a winning record, six are with their division-rival Tigers and Indians, and four against the Yankees.

Not that they are worried.

"You can see a confidence in this team," said Butler. "We realize we know how to win. … We had been going in spurts, but right now we are playing extremely well. The big thing is the offense has picked up. We also had good pitching and defense. We have the best bullpen in baseball. We give them a lead and it's over."

Kansas City leads the AL with an 80.4 percent save success ratio, converting 41 of 51, including 39 of 41 by closer Greg Holland, who has a 1.82 ERA.

Getting those leads was a challenge for the first part of the season. Ninety-eight games into the season, the Royals had scored only 389 runs. Only the Astros had scored fewer runs in the AL.

During their 27-game surge to the top of the AL Central, however, the Royals have led the Major Leagues with 131 runs scored. And it's been a team effort. With Eric Hosmer on the DL, having been limited to 12 at-bats during the surge, Kansas City has had seven players drive in 10 or more runs, including 17 by catcher Salvador Perez, despite a .221 average, and 16 apiece from right fielder/leadoff hitter Nori Aoki and Butler, who has moved from DH duties to first base in Hosmer's absence.

The timing for the resurgence was perfect.

"We've had this nucleus together for a while, and if we did not start to play better, this nucleus might not have been together much longer," said Butler. "We like what we have. We don't want to have it broken up."

And the Royals' players have been doing what they need to do to make sure the core of this team can stay together.


Infante's four hits help Royals keep pace in race

Shields gives up two runs in seven before offense takes control

Infante's four hits help Royals keep pace in race play video for Infante's four hits help Royals keep pace in race

DENVER -- If nothing else, the Royals have timing.

The hottest team in the Majors waited till the season was half past gone to rattle off eight straight series victories and take control of the American League Central. On Tuesday, the Royals took nearly as long to come alive before scoring six runs with two outs in the seventh and eighth.

After the Royals rallied for a 7-4 victory at Coors Field, first base coach Rusty Kuntz kept with Kansas City's timing theme by surprising manager Ned Yost with a birthday cake just seconds into his postgame presser.

Then again, when you're the skipper for a club that has won 22 of its last 27, every day must feel like your birthday. Especially when you've won your last two by scoring 12 of 13 runs with two outs.

"For 35 years, I've always thought I've been a winner on every one of my birthdays because I'm with a group of guys a really like and have fun being around," said Yost. "But when you win the game, it makes it that much sweeter."

Trailing 2-1 after six, the Royals still appeared to be stumped against rookie Tyler Matzek as the left-hander registered the first two outs of the seventh on seven pitches.

Although Josh Willingham eventually singled to break up the monotony, Matzek quickly got back on track by jumping on Nori Aoki with an 0-2 count.

But after his next four pitches missed the mark, Aoki took his base and Matzek took his seat on the bench.

"I wish I would've got him," Matzek said. "I threw a couple of pretty decent sliders and he did a good job of laying off of them. I've got to be a little more aggressive in the zone against him and force him to beat me."

With two on and two out, right-hander Adam Ottavino came on to face Omar Infante. After taking all the way to fall behind 1-2, Infante slapped an opposite-field double off Ottavino to clear the bases and capture a 3-2 lead. Salvador Perez then returned the favor with a double off the center-field fence to tack on another.

"We've really been putting some two-out rallies on the board here the last couple days," Yost said. "Their guy threw the ball well. It took us a while to get to him. But Omar's big hit off a tough righty is the thing that got us going."

Shields struck out six but surrendered nine hits, a surprising total considering his .223 batting average since July 7. One of those hits was a solo shot from Nolan Arenado that put the Rockies up 2-1 in the fifth. The Rockies also totaled two singles off his first three pitches before scoring a run on a double-play ball in the first.

"It was a grind day," Shields said. "It was one of those days where I didn't have my good stuff at all."

The Royals struck again with two outs in the eighth against left-hander Rex Brothers.

Christian Colon drew a pinch-hit walk with the bases loaded for one run. Infante then broke it wide open with his career-high-tying third double of the game, plating two more. Infante would finish his night 4-for-5 with 4 RBIs and one run.

"Omar's swing is so simple," Yost said. "It's not a lot of moving parts. His bat-head is real quick to the ball. He can get on a streak in a hurry."

The Royals got their first run in the third when Billy Butler dusted the cobwebs off his burners to score from first on Lorenzo Cain 's double. DJ LeMahieu's well-timed relay throw gave catcher Michael McKenry a chance but he couldn't secure the ball.

Following the Royals' 15th Interleague win in 19 tries, Butler seemed to still be catching his breath from the altitude.

"I was sitting there thinking, "Man, is my heart rate ever going to come down," Butler said. "Granted, going from first to home, I haven't done that too many times."

Drew Stubbs left the yard against left-hander Francisley Bueno in the ninth to get two back but that's as close as the Rockies would reach with right-hander Greg Holland coming on for his Major League-best 39th save.


Perez back in lineup one day after injuring knee

Perez back in lineup one day after injuring knee play video for Perez back in lineup one day after injuring knee

DENVER -- Royals catcher Salvador Perez was "one hundred percent" certain he'd be ready for Tuesday one day after being removed from Kansas City's 6-4 victory over the Twins with a sore right knee.

Turns out Perez is a man of his word as he was back and batting third for the Royals' series opener against the Rockies.

Perez's injury occurred while running the bases in the fifth inning Monday. According the Royals manager Ned Yost, Perez felt a pinch in his right patella tendon when he stopped on his turn around second.

He ended up staying in the game and catching two more innings before being removed for Erik Kratz in the seventh. Before eventually deciding he was too sore to continue, Perez was in constant communication with the trainers and Yost about the injury.

In the midst of one the most important pennant chases in Royals' history, Yost couldn't be happier with that type of dialogue.

"It's paramount this time of the year for all of our players," Yost said of Perez's honesty. "We pride ourselves on communication. We don't look down on anybody because we trust them. If they say that it's going to be a struggle for them to go, we trust them. If they say they're OK, we trust them."

That constant communication is what has allowed Perez to play in 114 games this season, second-most among catchers behind Jonathan Lucroy (116).

"We talk to him every single day," Yost said. "We teach him the difference between thinking with his heart and thinking with his head. He's starting to understand that a little bit, the importance of having him strong every single day."

Perez is batting .268 through 436 at-bats, with 50 runs scored and 53 RBIs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Royals Minor League report: Aug. 19

Royals Minor League report: Aug. 19 play video for Royals Minor League report: Aug. 19

Omaha Storm Chasers (69-61)

Las Vegas 10, Omaha 4
LP: John Lamb (7-10)
HR: Carlos Peguero 2 (26, 27)

Omaha fell short in a bid for a four-game sweep. Las Vegas built an early lead with six in the second off of John Lamb (1.2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO). Carlos Peguero drove in all four Omaha runs. He hit a solo homer in the second, a two-run shot in the fourth and an RBI double in the sixth. Peguero has seven home runs and 15 RBI over his last seven games, including five roundtrippers in his last three contests.

NW Arkansas Naturals (26-29 second half, 51-75 overall)

Springfield 9, NW Arkansas 8
LP: Brandon Finnegan (0-2 with NW Arkansas, 0-3 overall)
HR: Brian Fletcher 2 (3 with NW Arkansas, 5 overall), Juan Graterol (3), Mitch Maier (3), Parker Morin (2)

The Naturals scored all eight runs on homers but lost game one vs. Springfield. They fell behind 7-0 in the first, then chipped away to tie the game at 7-7. Brian Fletcher hit a three-run roundtripper in the third and a solo shot in the fifth. Juan Graterol hit a two-run homer, with Mitch Maier and Parker Morin adding solo blasts.

Wilmington Blue Rocks (27-27 second half, 60-62 overall)

Wilmington 5, Myrtle Beach 3
WP: Sean Manaea (6-8)
SV: Kyle Bartsch (4)
HR: Zane Evans (5), Cam Gallagher (4), Jared Schlehuber (5)

The Blue Rocks won game one at Myrtle Beach behind three solo homers, all in the second inning. Jared Schlehuber added a two-run single in the sixth, which proved to be the difference as Myrtle Beach scored three in the home half off of Royals third-ranked prospect Sean Manaea (5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO).

Lexington Legends (22-37 second half, 51-78 overall)

Lexington 5, Delmarva 4 (10 innings)
WP: Tim Hill (2-0)
HR: None

Lexington and Delmarva went 10 innings for a second straight night, with the Legends evening the series. A throwing error allowed Elier Hernandez to score the winning run. Hernandez had three hits and two runs. He is ranked 16th among Royals prospects by MLB.com. Alfredo Escalera doubled home a pair in the seventh. Jake Junis tossed 5.0 scoreless innings in relief, striking out four.

Idaho Falls Chukars (11-10 second half, 31-28 overall)

Grand Junction 2, Idaho Falls 0 (Suspended after two innings)

Rain suspended the opener between Grand Junction and Idaho Falls, with the Rockies holding a 2-0 lead after two innings. The game is scheduled to resume tonight at 5:00 local time, with a seven-inning game to follow.

Burlington Royals (25-33)

Burlington 3, Bluefield 2
WP: Carter Hope (1-3)
SV: Chase Darhower (1)
HR: None

Burlington swept a three-game set at home, holding on after building a 3-0 lead in the second. Colin Rodgers held the Jays scoreless on a hit and a walk over 3.0 innings. Carter Hope (5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO) earned his first professional win. He was KC's third-round pick in 2013.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }

Sparkman, O'Hearn receive Minor League honors

Sparkman, O'Hearn receive Minor League honors

DENVER -- With the amount of success the Royals have had of late, it's easy to forget that there's still talent coming through the pipeline. But on Tuesday, the Royals acknowledged the work of two of their lesser known prospects by naming Class A Advanced Wilmington right-hander Glenn Sparkman and Rookie Ball Idaho Falls first baseman Ryan O'Hearn their pitcher and player of the month for July.

In five starts last month, Sparkman went 3-0, allowing just three earned runs over 31 innings of work. He also struck out 28 batters, walking just three.

Sparkman, a 20th round selection for the Royals back in 2013, has a 1.37 ERA through 105 innings at Wilmington. He's also nearly struck out a batter per inning with 103 punchouts compared with 20 walks.

O'Hearn was just drafted in the eighth round this season but he's already making a name for himself. O'Hearn batted .405 (45-for-111) with seven home runs, 22 RBIs and 31 runs scored in 26 games last month.

O'Hearn also homered in his first professional at-bat back on June 22. In 49 Pioneer League games this season, he's batting .373 (75-for-201) with 14 doubles, 10 home runs, 41 RBIs and 51 runs scored.

Neither Sparkman and O'Hearn are listed as one of the Royals' top 20 prospects by MLB.com.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"content":["replay" ] }

Rockies win challenge on steal of third

Rockies win challenge on steal of third play video for Rockies win challenge on steal of third

DENVER -- The Rockies escaped a tight situation in the top of the fifth inning against the Royals on Tuesday.

Umpires quickly overturned third-base umpire Laz Diaz's safe call when Nori Aoki attempted to steal third with two out. Had Aoki been awarded the base, with Omar Infante running behind him, the Royals would have had runners at second and third with two out in a 1-1 game against Rockies left-hander Tyler Matzek

Instead, catcher Michael McKenry's throw and third baseman Nolan Arenado's sweep tag were ruled to have been in time, thanks to manager Walt Weiss' replay challenge.

For McKenry, who uses a low stance and concentrates more on blocking balls in the dirt than the running game, it was his fifth successful throw in 33 attempts this season (15.2 percent). Weiss has had 14 successes in 32 challenges this season.

Arenado gave the Rockies a 2-1 lead by knocking Royals starter James Shields' first pitch to him with one out in the bottom of the fifth for his 13th home run of the season.

{"content":["replay" ] }

Battery plays major role in eighth straight series win

Vargas goes seven strong, while Kratz homers twice after Perez's exit

Battery plays major role in eighth straight series win play video for Battery plays major role in eighth straight series win

MINNEAPOLIS -- Quite a news-making evening for the Royals' catching staff.

First, All-Star catcher Salvador Perez had to leave the game with a sore right knee. Then, backup Erik Kratz replaced him and socked two solo home runs.

In the end, there was good news all around. Perez's injury wasn't considered serious and Kratz's home runs provided the margin of victory in Kansas City's suddenly tight 6-4 victory over the Twins on Monday night at Target Field.

"I'll play tomorrow night," Perez insisted, looking ahead to Tuesday night's game at Colorado.

Maybe, maybe not, but at least what manager Ned Yost called a pinched patella tendon was not believed to be at all serious.

Kratz swung right into action as a pinch-hitter for Perez in the seventh inning, blasting the first pitch he saw from reliever Anthony Swarzak over the left-field wall for a 4-0 lead. Then, in the ninth, he sent a 1-0 pitch from Ryan Pressly over the center-field wall, 412 feet away.

"The first home run -- it shows you how strong he is -- he actually broke his bat," Yost said. "On the second home run, to drive a ball to center field like that shows a lot of strength."

Left-hander Jason Vargas held the Twins to one run -- Oswaldo Arcia's homer -- in his seven innings. He improved his record to 10-5.

As a team, the Royals had a variety of accomplishments:

• They won their eighth straight series, the first time they've done that since 1991.

• They climbed 14 games over the .500 mark at 69-55 for the first time since Aug. 9, 1994, when they were 64-50. Alas, the '94 work stoppage ended the season a day later.

• The victory was the Royals' 21st in their last 26 games, a stretch that coincides with the string of series wins.

As it developed, this latest victory didn't come very easily.

Vargas was zipping right along and the Royals finally got to rookie right-hander Trevor May, who was making just his second Major League start. He did himself no good by walking the bases full in the fifth inning.

There were two out but Perez lined a two-run single into center field, starting on his journey around the bases that eventually would pinch his knee. Billy Butler followed with an RBI single and when Alex Gordon's hit again loaded the bases, May was through.

Swarzak arrived to strike out ex-Twin Josh Willingham to keep the score 3-0.

Then fate brought Kratz into the game for Perez, who remained in the game to catch two more innings.

"I knew he was dealing with something, but when you're catching, you're always dealing with something and it's something he played through a little bit," Kratz said. "I was ready to go down to the bullpen to warm the guys up down there, not necessarily to go in the game."

But into the game he went in the seventh to unleash his broken-bat blast, something he couldn't recall happening to him before.

"No, I wouldn't say that's something that you normally do," Kratz said.

Twins coach Terry Steinbach, who took over from ejected manager Ron Gardenhire, was astounded.

"It was a broken bat on the ball to left," Steinbach said. "In all my years, I don't think I've seen that. So you tip your cap on that one and he hit a monster one to center."

Yep, after a fifth run in the eighth, Kratz unloaded again in the ninth.

"The next person is ready to step up," Vargas said appreciatively. "Salvy's a huge part of our team but, at the same time, we've got to keep him healthy and keep him in there for the long haul. For Kratz to come in and step up and go big fly twice is pretty nice. Especially when they were able to extend the game a little bit, those two runs really counted."

Oh yes, that little extension in the Twins' ninth. Wade Davis threw a perfect eighth, extending his string to 20 2/3 scoreless innings, and Kratz's second homer boosted the Royals' lead to 6-1.

So, hoping to give closer Greg Holland a third straight game off, Yost brought in Aaron Crow to pitch the ninth. But, after an out, Crow gave up two singles and a three-run homer to Trevor Plouffe.

Suddenly the lead was down to two runs and the summons went out to Holland.

"That's why I always do my stretch routine and get ready, because you never know," Holland said. "You get a little chink ground ball and, all of a sudden, the guy works the count full and you've got to throw him a fastball and he hits a three-run homer. You've got to be ready for those situations."

So in he came and immediately got two outs, recording his 38th save.


Butler, Royals set sights on earning No. 1 seed

Veteran slugger says AL Central leaders not taking anything for granted

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The way Billy Butler figures it, why should the Royals just settle for winning the American League Central? Why not improve their potential playoff position as well?

Butler believes the Royals are past the danger of faltering as they did after their 10-game winning streak in early June. After taking over first place then, they lost four straight and six of seven to fall behind Detroit again.

"I think we might have been on that real high, where we were, 'Omigosh, omigosh, omigosh,' and now we're doing just what we're expected to do. This is what we're expected to do," Butler said before Monday night's game against the Twins.

"We've shown we can play with the Tigers, we've shown we can play with the Oakland Athletics, we've shown we can play with the Anaheim Angels, we've show we can play with the Baltimore Orioles. I think that's when the light came on with us -- that we can play with all these teams and why is our record [not showing it]?"

Now that the Royals are back in first place, Butler wants them to focus on winning the division and, while they're at it, play for a better place among the AL seeds. If the season ended after Sunday's play, they'd be in the playoffs against the Orioles, but the O's would have the home-field advantage.

"If you're in first already, you've got to play for something. You need to stretch your lead out and you need to look forward to something and I think Baltimore is what we're looking at now -- trying to gain ground on that," Butler said. "More importantly, we want to separate ourselves from the Tigers if we can -- that's the main goal.

"We've got too much focus now to say, 'Hey, we're in first, we're fine.' No, It's like, 'We're in first, we need to stretch this lead out.' "

In fact, Butler feels that the Royals could even wind up with the best record among the division champions and snag the No. 1 seed, getting a playoff spot against the Wild Card survivor.

"Throughout the course of the season, we could continue playing well and get the No. 1 seed," he said.

There were still 39 games to go as Butler talked, of course, but you can't blame a guy for being ambitious. He was clear that the Royals are looking ahead, not looking back over their shoulders at the Tigers.

"We've said this ever since we got back to first -- 'We're not focused on what the Tigers are doing that day,'" Butler said.

Butler is seeing better days ahead.

"I've been part of this organization for 10 years and it's been a lot of growing pains at times. Until about like the second half of last year and this year, there's been a lot of struggle," he said.

"Like youth movements -- we knew we had the talent by having the top Minor League system and we already had a lot of young guys up here like me and Alex [Gordon] and other guys that were already good Major League players and we were just waiting for the process to take effect. When the second half started last year, it just took over. And, basically, we've been one of the better clubs in baseball since then, been well above .500."

The Royals had a late-season run at a Wild Card spot last year and Butler believes that experience has helped this year's club.

"That's the reason why we're not scared of nothing because we went through it last year," he said. "We're not scared to go out there and play aggressively. We're figuring out ways to win games instead of lose them like we did in the past. This group knows how to go out there and win ballgames and everybody in here knows that.

"We feel like we can win every day. We're not happy if we don't."

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Royals Minor League report: Aug. 18

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Omaha Storm Chasers (69-60)

Omaha 9, Las Vegas 5
WP: Aaron Brooks (10-3)
HR: Paul Janish (1 with Omaha, 2 Triple-A), Carlos Peguero (25)

Omaha moved to 3-0 in the series, winning a fourth straight overall. The Storm Chasers scored five in the first. Paul Janish hit a solo homer in the third and Carlos Peguero added a two-run shot in the fourth. Aaron Brooks (6.0 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO) earned the win. Eighth-ranked Royals prospect Christian Binford (2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO) made his Triple-A debut.

NW Arkansas Naturals (26-28 second half, 51-74 overall)

Northwest Arkansas had Monday evening off after traveling home from Texas. They host Springfield (Cardinals) tonight.

Wilmington Blue Rocks (26-27 second half, 59-62 overall)

The Blue Rocks had Monday off. They start a road trip tonight at Myrtle Beach (Rangers).

Lexington Legends (21-37 second half, 50-78 overall)

Delmarva 3, Lexington 2
LP: Matt Alvarez (5-6)
HR: Chad Johnson (4), Elier Hernandez (9)

Lexington lost the opener vs. Delmarva in 10 innings. Chad Johnson and Elier Hernandez hit solo homers, with Hernandez tying the game at 2-2 in the ninth. Hernandez, ranked 16th among Royals prospects by MLB.com, has three roundtrippers in his last five games. Luis Rico held the Shorebirds to a run, eight hits and no walks with four strikeouts over 6.0 innings.

Idaho Falls Chukars (11-10 second half, 31-28 overall)

Missoula 5, Idaho Falls 1
LP: Zach Lovvorn (2-4)
HR: Corey Toups (3)

Idaho Falls finished 2-2 at Missoula and 4-3 on the road trip. Corey Toups homered in the ninth for the lone Idaho Falls run. Brandon Downes, Samir Duenez and Mike Hill added singles. Zach Lovvorn (5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO) pitched well in defeat. The Chukars host Grand Junction (Rockies) tonight.

Burlington Royals (24-33)

Burlington 5, Bluefield 0
WP: Yunior Marte (3-3)
HR: None

Burlington moved to 2-0 in the series as Yunior Marte (5.0 IP), Carlos Herrera (3.0 IP) and Eric Sandness (1.0 IP) combined on a shutout. Marte struck out four while scattering two hits and a walk. Joshua Banuelos posted three hits, an RBI and a run. Jose Martinez and Logan Moon each drove in a run.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Perez exits with sore right knee, plans to play tonight

Royals' All-Star catcher feels 'pinch' after single in fifth; no MRI or X-ray taken

Perez exits with sore right knee, plans to play tonight play video for Perez exits with sore right knee, plans to play tonight

MINNEAPOLIS -- The booming voice of Salvador Perez came floating happily from the shower room. Then he was in front of a mirror, carefully grooming his wavy hair.

Then Perez made his way to his locker, joking with his teammates and smiling and laughing. He didn't look like anyone who was concerned about a sore right knee.

However, the rest of Royals Kingdom probably held its collective breath on Monday night when the two-time All-Star catcher was taken out of the 6-4 victory over the Twins with what the club termed as "discomfort in his right knee."

But as Perez toweled off and prepared to board the Royals' charter flight to Colorado for an Interleague series beginning Tuesday night, he declared that he would play against the Rockies.

"I will be ready [Tuesday]," Perez said. "One hundred percent."

That, of course, will be up to manager Ned Yost after the medical team rechecks Perez before the game at Denver.

The injured knee is not the one that required surgery during Spring Training 2012. Perez injured his left knee, underwent an operation and missed about half the season.

"That one is OK," he said.

The right knee was injured as he ran the bases after hitting a two-run single in the fifth inning. There was some disparity about just where the mishap occurred.

"The fifth inning, he came around second base and kind of stopped real quick and pinched his patella tendon," said Yost. "So it was a little sore, so kind of more out of precaution than anything else, we put Kratzy [Erik Kratz] back there."

According to Perez, the "pinch" came one base later.

"I just felt something after I stopped at third base," Perez said.

Perez insisted he felt no pain.

"Just tight," he said.

Perez stayed in the game and caught two more innings before Kratz pinch-hit for him in the seventh and hit the first of his two home runs as a substitute.

There was no MRI or X-rays taken of the knee, only a manual examination by head athletic trainer Nick Kenney.

"Nada," Perez said. "Nick took care of me. He's the best trainer in the big leagues."

Yost insisted that he was not at all concerned.

"It's day to day. His knee is structurally sound. It's nothing to do with that. He just pinched that tendon and it fired up a little bit," Yost said.

"Nick told me as soon as he came in that he'd tweaked his knee, but that's like, 'OK, Salvy, go ahead and catch.' Then he came in and it was still a little sore."

It took a while, though, before word was sent to the press box that Perez had only "discomfort" and the news could be flashed to concerned Royals fans.

In the immediate aftermath at least, the injury did not seem serious.

"There's a chance he could be playing [Tuesday]," Yost said. "A very good chance."

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Pitching prospect Binford promoted to Triple-A

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Royals have promoted their eighth-ranked prospect, pitcher Christian Binford, to Triple-A Omaha to test him as a reliever as the club checks out its September callup possibilities.

Binford, a 30th-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, had an 8-6 record and 2.69 ERA in 22 starts this summer for Class A Wilmington and then Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

A 6-foot-6 right-hander, he had 130 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 130 2/3 innings. He has an average fastball with good sink and a changeup is his best secondary pitch.

"We'll get our best arms and evaluate and see what we have," manager Ned Yost said.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Royals ride seven-run frame to extend Central lead

Guthrie settles in after second-inning uprising, while KC hits three HRs

Royals ride seven-run frame to extend Central lead play video for Royals ride seven-run frame to extend Central lead

MINNEAPOLIS -- Swingin' in the rain.

That's what the Royals were doing for part of Sunday afternoon as they slogged and slugged their way to a 12-6 romp over the Minnesota Twins with 31,455 fans at damp Target Field.

Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie shrugged off a rain delay of almost an hour and worked seven innings for the victory. Billy Butler contributed two hits to a seven-run inning and Alex Gordon later banged a two-run homer, while Salvador Perez and Josh Willingham each had solo shots.

The victory, the Royals' 20th in 25 games, restored their lead in the American League Central to 1 1/2 games over Detroit. The Tigers lost to Seattle, 8-1.

As rain pattered down steadily, the Royals launched a second-inning outburst that ended with seven runs charged against Twins left-hander Tommy Milone.

"I don't know if it was the elements or what, but we had to swing in it and everything else," Butler said. "I don't know if it was tough on Milone, but we were making him work."

Radar watchers apparently miscalculated the rain when they delayed the start of the game by 34 minutes. Nothing fell until after the first inning, as the Royals were coming to bat for the second time.

As the rain continued, the Royals sent seven runners squishing across the plate.

Butler set off the second-inning mudfest with a solid single to center. Milone loaded the bases by plunking Gordon with a pitch and walking Willingham. Mike Moustakas fouled out, but then things kept, ah, flowing.

Alcides Escobar ripped a two-run single, Jarrod Dyson walked and Nori Aoki lined another two-run single. With the infield in, second baseman Brian Dozier missed Omar Infante's grounder for an error and two more runs scored.

"It was raining hard and Milone tried to pitch through it but it was pretty much a mess out there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I don't think he had a feel for the ball. They just kept putting the ball in play and finding holes against him. So it was a tough inning."

When Perez singled, Milone was sent out of the shower and into the showers.

"I was trying not to walk guys, so I just kept leaving it over the plate," Milone said. "It was pretty tough. It seemed like every time I got a new ball it was just soaked."

Reliever Samuel Deduno, a right-hander, promptly gave up an RBI single to Butler for the seventh run before inducing Gordon to bounce into a double play.

As the seven-run inning ended so did the downpour and now the Royals could only hope to hold the 7-1 lead and that more rain wouldn't wash out their run burst.

The rain did persist, finally causing play to be stopped at 3 p.m. CT with one out in the bottom of the fourth and the Royals up, 7-2.

Was Royals manager Ned Yost worried that perhaps the big lead would go down the drain with another stoppage?

"No, I'm a pretty good amateur meteorologist, so I wasn't too concerned," he said.

Yost was continually monitoring the radar on his computer between innings.

After many bags of Turface Quick Dry and a lot of raking, play resumed after a 54-minute delay and Guthrie, despite the long wait, resumed pitching for the Royals.

"Obviously the big lead early was huge for us," Guthrie said. "It allowed me to just really go out there and attack, and not worry too much about stuff out there, the way the offense was going."

Before the rain delay, in the third inning, Joe Mauer caught hold of Guthrie's first pitch and drove it over the left-field wall for the Twins' second run. That was Mauer's third homer against Guthrie in 25 at-bats.

After the delay, Gordon followed Butler's third single in the fifth inning with a home run to deep right-center off left-hander Caleb Thielbar. It was Gordon's 13th homer and traveled 422 feet, but he wasn't sure it'd leave the park because of the high wall.

"It barely went out," Gordon said. "I thought it was going to bounce off that wall and Billy was going to stop at third. It was a 3-2 pitch and I was looking for a fastball in that situation and got one down, and put a good swing on it."

That made the score 9-2. Good thing because in the bottom half the Twins' Kennys Vargas clipped Guthrie for a two-run homer.

But the Royals kept adding on. Perez led off the seventh with a homer before Gordon tripled and scored on Willingham's double. Then, in the ninth, Willingham had the Royals' third homer.

"Gordy just absolutely smoked his, I didn't know he could get it out where he hit in the park," Yost said. "Sal's was just a laser and Willingham's was in the upper deck."

So it didn't matter much when Oswaldo Arcia hit a two-run blast off reliever Jason Frasor in the eighth. Even so, Yost didn't want to risk that the Twins might cut the gap further and force him to use closer Greg Holland, who was taking an important second day of rest.

Yost knew Detroit had lost and the Royals could pick up a game. So, despite a six-run lead, he brought in hard-throwing Kelvin Herrera, one of his top three backend relievers, to work a 1-2-3 ninth.

"I just wanted to hammer the nails down in the coffin," Yost said.


Guthrie weathers delays to nail down victory

Right-hander stays loose following rain interruption in fourth inning vs. Twins

Guthrie weathers delays to nail down victory play video for Guthrie weathers delays to nail down victory

MINNEAPOLIS -- Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie had pitched through 3 1/3 innings when rain delayed Sunday's game against the Twins. Play was held up for 54 minutes, often long enough to cause a pitcher to end his day.

The veteran Guthrie, however, came back and finished seven innings to get credit for the Royals' 12-6 victory.

"He does that as well as anybody, he's done that before," manager Ned Yost said. "Our timeline with young guys is 45 minutes. With our older guys, it can be an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. But Jeremy, it just seems like anytime we have these kinds of days, he's on the mound."

Last year, Guthrie weathered a similar delay at New York, the third time he'd done it that season. He has a plan for such interruptions.

"I threw a couple of small innings, about 12 pitches. I think I did two of them," Guthrie said. "I sat down for about 20 minutes, stretched and then did seven warmups, and 12-to-15 pitches."

Guthrie remembered doing about three simulated innings last year at New York, which also resulted in a victory.

"I should be a rain delay All-Star," he said at the time in New York.

The trick is for Guthrie to throw enough to stay loose and not cool down during the delay. The warm weather in Minneapolis undoubtedly helped as well.

"I wasn't surprised he came back because he was throwing in the cage," catcher Salvador Perez said. "He was throwing every 15 minutes, keeping loose. We wanted to get him at least five innings so he'd get the win."

Guthrie did that plus two, finishing with a total of 100 pitches.

"Just to be able to maneuver through that made it a great day for us," Yost said.

Yost prides himself on tracking threatening weather on Internet sites and is rarely wrong with his predictions about playability of games. On Sunday, he kept going from the dugout to his office to check the radar "for peace of mind."

Toward the end of the game, he didn't like weather patterns he saw heading toward Minneapolis.

"All this stuff is firing up. That could be tornado-type stuff in Nebraska," Yost said, pointing to the screen after the game. "That's borderline purple. It's all firing up."

Yost didn't want another delay at the end. He wanted to wrap up the win and head back to the hotel.

"We needed to get those last three outs," he said.

Reliever Kelvin Herrera got them for him.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Royals prospect Zimmer makes season debut

Royals prospect Zimmer makes season debut play video for Royals prospect Zimmer makes season debut

KANSAS CITY -- Right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, made his season debut on Sunday.

Zimmer's first action came for Rookie League Idaho Falls against Missoula, where he started the game and faced the first three batters. He allowed one hit, one walk and retired one hitter before departing in Idaho Falls' 4-1 win.

"He was excited to be out there and felt great," Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. "Zim was 96-98 [mph] and threw a couple of good curveballs. Everything was down in the zone. The hit he gave up was on a curveball. He threw 11 pitches."

On May 27, the Royals announced that their No. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com, would miss six-to-eight weeks with an injury to his right lat.

The club had hopes of Zimmer pitching at the Major League level this year after an impressive 2013 season. Zimmer recorded 140 strikeouts in 108 1/3 innings across two levels last year, and ended the season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas by logging a 1.93 ERA in four starts.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Umps give Yost reprieve after arguing balk call

Umps give Yost reprieve after arguing balk call play video for Umps give Yost reprieve after arguing balk call

MINNEAPOLIS -- After issuing one of his six walks on Saturday night, the umpires called a balk on Royals starter Yordano Ventura in the third inning.

While the Twins' Jordan Schafer was waved to second base, Royals manager Ned Yost scampered out onto the field, apparently curious about the balk call. But he quickly retreated without saying much or getting an explanation either.

"[The umpire] kind of did me a favor by not throwing me out there," Yost admitted. "My interpretation was that he didn't step off [the rubber] but the replay and the naked eye clearly showed that he stepped off. That's one of those plays where they don't talk to you about it. You're not allowed to argue a balk, it's automatic ejection, so they kind of did me a favor right there."

Yost was allowed to return to the dugout and continue managing in what became a 4-1 loss.


Dyson gets call over Cain against lefty Milone

Dyson gets call over Cain against lefty Milone play video for Dyson gets call over Cain against lefty Milone

MINNEAPOLIS -- Royals manager Ned Yost made an unusual lineup move for Sunday's game against the Twins' starting pitcher, left-hander Tommy Milone.

Yost used left-handed-hitting Jarrod Dyson in center field instead of right-handed-hitting Lorenzo Cain.

Solid reason: Milone has actually been hit better by left-handed batters (.274) than righties (.263) in his career.

"He's kind of a poor man's [Tom] Glavine," Yost said. "Eight-eight miles an hour, sinker away, changeup, and is really good at it. Real good changeup and lefties kind of take that changeup away a little bit. Lorenzo's 0-for-9 against him lifetime and after four punchouts last night ..."

Cain had four strikeouts in four at-bats in Saturday night's 4-1 loss to the Twins.

Milone was making his first start at Target Field for the Twins after being obtained from Oakland for outfielder Sam Fuld at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

As it turned out, Milone lasted just 1 1/3 innings and gave up seven runs in the second. He walked Dyson the only time he faced him.

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