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Bannister, Gordon sink Twins in finale

Bannister, Gordon sink Twins in finale

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Brian Bannister continued Sunday to upgrade his victory total and his credentials for American League Rookie of the Year.

He dominated the Minnesota Twins for eight innings, and the Royals posted an 8-1 victory as 26,454 fans watched his workmanship at the Metrodome. Fellow rookie Alex Gordon belted two home runs to help back him.

Bannister boosted his record to 12-7, the most victories by a Royals pitcher since Paul Byrd won 17 in 2002.

"He's somewhat of a rookie," manager Buddy Bell said, "but since I've been managing, he's the best pitcher I've been around."

Now that's quite a statement, considering Bell is in his ninth season as a manager. However, all were losing clubs, so apparently, he hasn't had too many pitchers to brag about.

"Check it out," Bell said, grinning. "You need to check it out."

Bannister's victory was his seventh in his last nine starts, and he's 12-4 since June 1. His ERA has dropped to 3.16. Nice numbers for voters to ponder.

Here's another one: This was Bannister's 14th start following a Royals loss. His record in those games is 8-3 and, in the three no-decisions, the Royals were able to win two.

He shrugs off Rookie of the Year talk.

"I just continue to pitch the same way. I try not to let stuff like that affect me. Personal honors are always nice, but this team is really playing well and that's what's exciting," he said.

Bannister worked his way through the Twins' lineup with great efficiency. Through the seventh, he'd given up just four singles, and only one runner had advanced into scoring position.

"He was real aggressive with all four of his pitches. He has an idea of where they're going, and he works both sides of the plate with all four," catcher John Buck said.

"As a hitter," Buck added, "if you've got four pitches that he's throwing inside or out at any time, you can't really sit on anything."

Finally, in the eighth, the Twins ended the shutout when Mike Redmond singled, took third on Garrett Jones' third hit and scored on Luis Rodriguez's sacrifice fly.

Joakim Soria pitched a perfect ninth. Bannister, pitching to contact after getting an early 6-0 lead, finished with just one strikeout and no walks.

"You don't give any free outs, and it makes it easier," Buck said.

Gordon has not exactly shredded Twins pitching in his rookie season. In fact, coming into this game, he was hitting just .196 (9-for-46) against the Twins. However, three of those nine hits were home runs.

The trend continued Sunday as Gordon led off two innings with homers.

In the second against Boof Bonser, he launched a drive high into the right-field upper deck. The ball sailed over a stadium clock just as it clicked to 1:28 and bounced through an entryway.

That launched a five-run inning.

"It gave us momentum for the whole game," Gordon said.

In the third against Julio DePaula, he hit another drive into the upper deck a few rows higher and to the right of the clock which now read 2:01.

This gave him first multi-homer game. The estimated distances were 427 and 411 feet.

Gordon not only has five of his 14 homers against the Twins, but this was his fourth at the Metrodome.

"I think all I do against the Twins is strike out or hit home runs," Gordon said. "But I guess I'll take it. It seems to be working."

Buck not only caught Bannister's gem, but socked a two-run homer in the ninth inning against sidearmer Pat Neshek. It was Buck's 17th homer of the season, but his first since July 21 at Detroit.

"I didn't think it'd take that long," Buck said.

Buck's 17 is the team high, but now Gordon, with three in the last two games, is pressing him for the lead at 14.

"If Alex catches me, that's a good thing for all of us," Buck said. "If he keeps hitting two and I keep hitting one, I'll take that."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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