KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli really wanted to give Byron Buxton a rest, a day after the center fielder bruised his ribs when he crashed into the wall chasing down Adalberto Mondesi’s inside-the-park home run.
But then the perfect situation arose to insert the speedster Wednesday, and Baldelli made the move. After Nelson Cruz drew a leadoff walk in the ninth, Buxton entered as a pinch-runner.
On the next pitch, Buxton swiped second, his 30th straight successful steal.
Eddie Rosario followed with a single and Buxton scored the go-ahead run as the Minnesota Twins used a late rally for the second straight day, beating the Kansas City Royals 7-6.
“That’s the only thing he was going to be used for today, regardless of what else happened in the game,” Baldelli said. “He did not waver one bit. He said he was feeling good and he went out there and changed the game again. That’s the kind of stuff that he can do.”
Max Kepler hit a tying, two-run single with two outs in the Twins eighth.
Willians Astudillo and Mitch Garver each had three hits and scored twice for Minnesota.
Whit Merrifield extended his hitting streak to 25 games, tied with George Brett and Mike Sweeney for third longest by a Royals player. Alex Gordon homered and drove in four runs for Kansas City.
Mondesi kept up his fast start for the Royals with two more hits, including his third triple of the season. The 23-year-old shortstop also flashed the leather in the field, laying out for a catch in shallow left to leave the bases loaded in the sixth and then starting an inning-ending double play with two runners on in the seventh.
Trevor May (1-0) threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the win and Blake Parker picked up his second save in as many days.
The game drew an announced crowd of 10,575. A day earlier, the Twins scored the tying run in the ninth and won 5-4 in the 10th on an RBI single by Cruz — that game drew 10,024, the lowest at Kauffman Stadium in eight years.
Despite surrendering a run in the first, Twins starter Kyle Gibson cruised through 4 2/3 innings. But after retiring the first two hitters in the fifth, the next seven batters reached base – one on an error — and he left with the Royals leading 6-3. Albert Mejia threw 2 1/3 innings to keep the Twins in the game.
“I mean, Mejia did a great job. He came in and gave the offense the break they needed right then and put up a couple zeros and gave our guys a chance to fight back,” Gibson said. “We got a lot of quality arms done there and the ability to put up zeros quick and give the team a chance to get one run at a time.”
Three Twins relievers combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings. The Kansas City bullpen faltered, giving up four runs and six hits over four innings.
“Whenever you’re at home and get a come-from-behind loss like that, it’s always frustrating,” Gordon said. “It’s early. We have to keep running them out there and giving them chances. Hopefully it turns around.”
Homer Bailey, who was 1-14 with a 6.09 ERA last year with Cincinnati, was solid in his Kansas City debut. He threw five innings, allowing five hits and three runs and striking out eight. But for the second consecutive day, the Royals bullpen couldn’t shut down the Twins.
“He spotted his fastball well. He had a good split, a good breaking ball. He made a couple of mistakes. But all in all, I thought it was a good first outing for him,” manager Ned Yost said.
GETTING IN A GROOVE
After three off days in the first week of the season, Kansas City will play games on 19 consecutive days beginning Saturday at Detroit, something Yost is looking forward to.
“I’m glad we get past Friday and we get to roll for a while,” Yost said. “I’m happy for that.”
The Twins have five days off in the first 12 days of the season, the most in baseball. Beginning April 12, Minnesota has a game on 13 straight days.
Kansas City added Bailey to the roster prior to the game. RHP Chris Ellis, who made his major league debut on Sunday, was designated for assignment.
Royals: Jakob Junis gets his second start of the season Thursday as the Royals hit the road for the first time this season, traveling to Detroit for a three-game series with the Tigers. Junis was the winning pitcher Saturday in his first start of the season, giving up three runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings of work as the Royals beat the Chicago White Sox 8-6.
Twins: Jake Odorizzi tries to follow up an outstanding first start of the season Friday at Philadelphia as Minnesota continues a nine-day road trip. Odorizzi matched his career high with 11 strikeouts over six innings in a no-decision Saturday against Cleveland.