MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Nelson Cruz homered twice, continuing his climb up the all-time leaderboard, and the Minnesota Twins beat the Kansas City Royals 4-1 on Monday night.
Devin Smeltzer (2-0) picked up the win in relief of opener Matt Wisler for Minnesota. Smeltzer allowed one hit in 2 2/3 innings while striking out three batters. The Twins won three of four games in the series after being swept by the Royals in Kansas City last week.
“Nelson is getting to a lot of pitches in the zone and finding the barrel,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “When you’re at ground level, and getting to see the actual adjustments he’s making during the at-bats, he’s not just up there swinging. … It’s not happening by accident. The guy’s very talented, but he also makes fantastic adjustments.”
Rookie Kris Bubic (0-3) surrendered two runs on four hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings for the Royals. Hunter Dozier homered in the ninth inning to end Minnesota’s shutout bid.
The 40-year-old slugger led off the fourth inning with a line drive that hit the facing of the second deck in left field. In the seventh, he connected for his eighth of the season into the bullpens in left-center field.
“I think everything starts with the preparation, the way I prepare for every game,” Cruz told the team’s local TV broadcast. “Trust what you’ve got, trust what you see, trust the report that they give us and from there, you take off.”
Cruz surpassed Duke Snider and tied Mark Teixeira with his 409th career homer, good for 55th all-time.
In his past 16 games against the Royals, Cruz is hitting .482 with 13 home runs and 26 RBIs.
“He’s given us a hard way to go,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “You’re looking at guys coming after him with good stuff. When good hitters are hot, they’re going to make you pay when you make even the smallest mistakes.”
Bubic had held up in his first two major league starts this season, but he’s now allowed seven runs over 9 1/3 in his past two starts.
“I’m always trying to get ahead. It’s kind of been a struggle the last few times out,” Bubic said. “Not getting ahead in the count will lead to higher pitch counts. … That’s just a fundamental of pitching, trying to pitch ahead in the count as much as you can. That’s something I’ll try to emphasize going forward to make my life a little easier.”
PÉREZ LEAVES EARLY
Royals catcher Salvador Pérez returned to the lineup after missing a game with blurry vision in his left eye, but he was replaced in the sixth after having more trouble.
Pérez met with an eye specialist on Monday morning and Matheny said a small pocket of fluid was found in the eye. Pérez was told he could keep playing with no risk and the spot will eventually dissipate.
“Mid game, he just was having trouble,” Matheny said. “He had that spot that was getting in the way of him doing what he needed to do. Felt pretty good early when he was catching and then as his at-bats went he just felt like he couldn’t see like he needed to, so needed to get him out.”
Twins: 3B Josh Donaldson has shown steady improvement with his right calf strain, according to the team. Donaldson did machine cardio work on Monday, took ground balls, and has continued to take batting practice and work in the batting cage. The team said Donaldson feels good and is without issue. … Baldelli said that LHP Rich Hill is likely to pitch in the upcoming series against Milwaukee and the team hasn’t announced a starter for Wednesday, but Baldelli was cautious to state outright that Hill would start that game. Hill has been out since Aug. 31 with left shoulder fatigue.
Royals: Kansas City returns home for two games against Cincinnati, which had its weekend series postponed after a player tested positive for COVID-19. Matheny said before Monday’s game that the expectation is the series is still on as scheduled. RHP Brad Keller (2-0, 0.00 ERA) is slated to start Tuesday’s game for Kansas City. He’s thrown 11 scoreless innings in two starts this season.