DiNardo, Royals unable to stifle Twins

DiNardo, Royals unable to stifle Twins

KANSAS CITY -- There's no stopping the Minnesota express, not at Kauffman Stadium anyway.

Denard Span drove in six runs and the Twins knocked off the Royals, 11-6, on Saturday night for their fifth consecutive victory as they kept up with Detroit in the American League Central race. Minnesota has won 11 of its past 12 games.

It was also the Twins' seventh straight win at Kauffman, where 30,690 fans swarmed in during Fan Appreciation Weekend.

"They're playing well right now," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "We've got to be at our best to beat 'em with the momentum they've got going right now."

The Royals will send their best, Zack Greinke, against the Twins in Sunday's game, the last of the first season at the renovated stadium.

There wasn't much to savor for Kansas City in its fourth straight loss, a jarring slide after a happy 12-3 spurt in its previous 15 games.

There was a fine moment, though, for Billy Butler in the eighth inning, as he whacked his 50th double of the season. That caused a stir, because Butler is just the seventh player in Major League history to have that many doubles prior to his 24th birthday.

The previous half-dozen that reached 50 doubles at such a young age includes some illustrious names -- Hank Greenberg, Enos Slaughter, Stan Musial, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Butler is keeping nice company.

In fact, with Musial, Slaughter and Greenberg in the Hall of Fame, the Royals will be calling Cooperstown to see if those folks want some Butler artifact from the event. Certainly the new Royals Hall of Fame will secure something. But it won't be Butler's jersey -- that was auctioned off as part of Saturday night's "Shirts Off Their Backs" promotion to benefit Royals Charities.

"We can't give them his jersey because somebody won it tonight," said Mike Swanson, Royals vice president of communications. "His jersey definitely isn't going to Cooperstown, it's going to somebody's family room."

Butler soft-pedaled the whole matter, saying he'd rather win games.

"I just play baseball, I don't worry about that kind of stuff," Butler said. "I let other people worry about it and just go out and play the game. I'd rather be remembered as a guy that plays hard, not a guy who had a lot of talent and didn't respect it. That's what I care about it."

The Royals haven't won a game since taking the first two of the Boston series, and Butler seemed more concerned about that.

"We're just not playing very good," he said.

During the Royals' 12-3 run, the club was certainly formidable.

"I'd compare us with anybody in baseball, we were just as good as them if not better," Butler said. "But we've reverted back. We've just got to show more consistency."

The latest loss began promisingly, as Alberto Callaspo and Brayan Pena nailed Twins starter Scott Baker with successive home runs in the second inning. Both wound up in the right-field bullpen and were the Royals' sixth back-to-back homers this season.

It was Callaspo's 11th homer this season -- he'd never hit one in his previous three years -- and it was Pena's sixth.

"We just tried to get things going," Callaspo said.

But left-hander Lenny DiNardo didn't hold that 2-0 lead for long. The Twins scored five runs in the fourth, culminating in Span's three-run triple. The inning was helped along by shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt's error, two walks and a hit batsman. The error, the Royals' eighth in their past three games, made four of the runs unearned.

"You can't make those kind of mistakes -- too many unearned runs in a multiple-run fifth," Hillman said. "Sometimes you don't have the punch to get back in. It takes a little wind out of your sails."

It could've been worse. On Michael Cuddyer's double, a relay from center fielder Josh Anderson to Betancourt to catcher Pena cut down Joe Mauer at the plate.

Span upped his RBI total to five in the sixth with a two-run single to center against reliever Jamey Wright.

Meanwhile, after giving up the back-to-back homers, Baker turned tight-fisted. He retired the next 13 batters and didn't allow another hit until Mike Jacobs blooped a single down the left-field line to start the seventh. Jacobs scored on Callaspo's double, and before the inning ended, Baker was lifted.

Span got his fourth hit and sixth RBI in the Twins' four-run eighth against Yasuhiko Yabuta.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected for arguing after ex-Royals pitcher Ron Mahay threw an inside pitch to Butler and plate umpire Eric Cooper issued a warning to both benches. Kansas City's Kyle Farnsworth had hit Cuddyer with a pitch in the top of the eighth.

Butler then doubled to right field, scoring Mitch Maier, for his 50th double. The club record is Hal McRae's 54 in 1977.

"It's a great accomplishment but I'd rather win the World Series, I'd rather win the division, get in the playoffs, do something along those lines," Butler said.

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