MINNEAPOLIS — Given a second chance after a check swing call went his way on a two-strike pitch, Lorenzo Cain gave the Kansas City Royals’ playoff hopes a lift.
Cain hit a go-ahead, two-run triple in the seventh inning Sunday in a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Twins.
Kansas City trailed 4-3 and had two on with two outs when Cain fouled off his first four pitches from rookie reliever Alan Busenitz (1-1). Cain took a fastball up, then checked his swing on an outside curveball in the dirt.
First base umpire Mike Muchlinski ruled no swing.
“Every time when I check swing, I kind of drop my whole body into it,” Cain said. “I think it was the right call, and I appreciate him doing that because I needed that.”
Plate umpire Marty Foster ejected Minnesota manager Paul Molitor, who was still in the dugout. Molitor then came out to argue.
“Obviously I thought he went too far,” Molitor said. “Game on the line, I thought he went plenty far enough to get that call, but we didn’t get it. But we didn’t make pitches after that.”
Cain fouled off another pitch, then drove a fastball over Byron Buxton and off the center-field wall. Cain ran through third base coach Mike Jirschele’s hold sign and tried for an inside-the-park home run, but was thrown out at the plate, with right fielder Max Kepler tossing to second baseman Brian Dozier for the relay to catcher Chris Gimenez.
With Kansas City leading 3-2, Cain dropped Joe Mauer’s one-out fly to short center. Buxton hit a two-run single with two outs.
“I wanted to come through for the guys, especially after dropping that ball in the outfield,” Cain said. “To come through with a big hit right there was much needed, not only for me but for this team as well.”
Scott Alexander (4-3) pitched a scoreless inning in relief of Ian Kennedy.
Alex Gordon, a four-time Gold Glove winner, allowed Eduardo Escobar’s leadoff fly to the left-field warning track to deflect off his glove for an error that allowed Escobar to reach second. Brandon Maurer struck out Gimenez, then retired Ehire Adrianza on a flyout and Dozier on a popup for his 21st save in 25 chances.
Minnesota, which leads Baltimore and the Los Angeles Angels by 1½ games for the second AL wild card, lost for the second time in seven games. The Royals closed within 3½ games of the Twins and are a half-game behind Seattle and Texas.
“We had to get this one today,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It was a game that we absolutely had to have. It just shows the character of our team, flushing that game yesterday.”
Melky Cabrera hit a two-run homer for Kansas City, which rebounded from a 17-0 loss Saturday.
Escobar hit his third homer in two days.
Buxton had a scare last week after a bone bruise in his hand, but the speedy outfielder only missed one game and the layoff hasn’t stopped his strong second-half run.
Buxton had two hits, including his fifth triple, driving in two runs with a bloop in the sixth to give Minnesota a lead. He’s 5 for 7 the last two games and is hitting .348 since Aug. 1.
SECURING A STARTER
After another disappointing outing by Dillon Gee on Friday, Minnesota start rookie right-hander Aaron Slegers on Wednesday at Tampa Bay.
Slegers will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to make his second major league appearance. He allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings in doubleheader start as the 26th player against the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 17.
Royals: Yost said LHP Danny Duffy (left elbow impingement) threw from 60 feet on Saturday. There’s still no timetable on Duffy’s return, and Yost said it’s possible RHP Sam Gaviglio would start on Thursday in Duffy’s turn.
Twins: C Jason Castro was activated from the concussion DL. He had been out since Aug. 24 after taking multiple foul tips off his mask. … Molitor said 3B Miguel Sano (stress reaction in his left shin) is feeling better but won’t make the upcoming trip.
Royals: RHP Jakob Junis (6-2, 4.41 ERA) starts the opening game Monday in Detroit. Junis beat Tampa Bay in his last outing, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings while striking out eight. The Tigers will start RHP Artie Lewicki, who will be making his major league debut.
Twins: RHP Jose Berrios (12-6, 3.80) starts Monday at Tampa Bay. He pitched seven scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox in his last outing.