Alexander the Great: Gordon's Walk-Off Homer Leads Royals to 2-1 Win
For eight-and-a-half innings, fans mumbled about how the “same old Royals” were back. The attendance of just over 13,000 wasn’t good enough for some. The offense was sputtering, plating just two runs in their last 28 innings. The team looked lifeless, hacking away at balls and making mental mistakes like getting picked off.
Then, with one swing, Alex Gordon provided the Royals’ biggest play in the last 20 years.
Gordon hammered a hanging slider from Glen Perkins just over the right-center wall for his second-career walk-off homer, propelling the Royals to a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
After being thoroughly shut down by Ricky Nolasco and Jared Burton for eight innings, manufacturing just three hits, the Royals needed five pitches to log the classic “bloop and a blast” to win the game.
Alcides Escobar opened the frame with an unusual towering bloop single to center field, giving Kansas City some life. The Tigers had just finished off a 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees, meaning that if the Royals couldn’t mount a comeback, their first-place lead would be all the way down to a mere half-game. Callers were already preparing their rants for the upcoming talk shows. Bloggers had already typed up their criticism over the uninspiring effort.
It took a matter of seconds for everything to get a heck of a lot better in Kansas City. For the Royals, it snapped a two-game skid and kept their lead in the AL Central at 1.5 games. For Gordon, it was his second career walk-off homer; the other was against the Orioles back on July 30, 2010. It also placed him back in the team lead in home runs with 16.
While it won’t be the main takeaway from this game, Tuesday night was a terrific pitching duel between the Royals’ Danny Duffy and the Twins’ Ricky Nolasco. The two matched each other pitch for pitch, exchanging zeroes until the top of the seventh inning. It was then when Brian Dozier led off the frame with a double, and Joe Mauer drove him in with a perfectly placed bloop single to left-center. Prior to the RBI knock, Mauer had been 0-9 in his career against Duffy.
The southpaw’s final line was, once again, stellar: 6 2/3 innings, four hits, four K’s, two walks, and the one run.
Kelvin Herrera stranded Mauer to end the seventh inning, and then worked the eighth to complete 1.1 innings. Wade Davis (7-2) got the Twins 1-2-3 in the ninth inning; he would receive the win after Gordon provided the walk-off blast.
Nolasco, who entered Wednesday night with an ERA over 5.90, put forth arguably his best performance of the season. His only blip of trouble occurred in the second inning when he hit Billy Butler and allowed Salvador Perez to single, putting two on with nobody out. He worked out of the jam and settled down to throw a beautiful game, allowing just three hits while striking out six Royals. Burton worked a flawless eighth inning to set things up for Perkins, but the All-Star closer blew his fifth save, taking the loss in the process.
Anybody who didn’t believe that Alex Gordon is an MVP candidate was proven wrong tonight. He may not have the sexy home run total that Nelson Cruz has, and he may not have the RBI count that Mike Trout does. The MVP award isn’t (or shouldn’t) necessarily be the “player who posts the best stats” award. It’s about which player is the most valuable to his team over the course of the season.
It’s hard to find players more valuable to the core of their squad than Alex Gordon is to the Royals. Gordon is the best defensive outfielder in the American League. He’s as smart of a baserunner as you’ll ever see. As we saw tonight, he’s also a dang good hitter. He’s the heart and soul of the Royals, and it’s unjust if he’s not top three in the AL MVP voting come season’s end.
On deck: the Royals will continue the series tomorrow night against nemesis Phil Hughes (14-8, 3.65 ERA). His opponent will not be Yordano Ventura, who will miss a start due to back stiffness. Making the spot start will be the former Twin Liam Hendriks, who will make his Royals debut after being acquired in the Danny Valencia trade back on July 28.