KANSAS CITY -- Finally, the Royals figured out how to beat those annoying Minnesota Twins: Turn Tony Abreu loose on them.
Abreu, a utility infielder playing second base, knocked in three runs on Sunday to lead Kansas City to a 6-4 victory to take the last game of the three-game series against last-place Minnesota. It was just the Royals' fifth win in 15 games this season against the Twins.
Going against a former D-backs teammate in right-hander Esmerling Vasquez, Abreu had a two-run single in the Royals' three-run second inning.
"He doesn't throw so hard now," Abreu said. "Before he threw he threw 97 or 99 [mph]. Now he's got a changeup. He's a good pitcher."
It was a changeup that Abreu hit in the second inning and again in the fifth, when his single opened a one-run inning against Vasquez. Abreu's third hit and third RBI came in the sixth against reliever Tyler Robertson and pushed the Royals back into the lead, 5-4.
"He's been more of a clutch hitter than a good hitter," manager Ned Yost said. "I mean, he's hitting .300 (.344), but the majority of his hits have either tied ballgames or given us the lead. He's done a great job for us."
Vasquez had a control lapse in the second inning, wrapping walks to Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain around a single by Mike Moustakas -- all with nobody out. All three eventually scored, on Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly and, after a double steal, Abreu's two-run single.
Abreu was thrown out trying for second and, after David Lough hustled to a double, Vasquez got the third out. But the Royals had a 3-2 lead.
They added a run in the fifth on Billy Butler's RBI single, scoring Lough, who had singled.
That gave Royals starter Luis Mendoza a 4-2 lead, but Yost decided to take him out after five innings, bringing in left-hander Tim Collins to face the left-handed middle of the Twins lineup -- Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit. Yost thought Mendoza was starting to labor a bit.
"He's a guy that traditionally gets quick outs, so when you look up at that board out there and see he's got 85 pitches after five innings, you know it's been tough for him," Yost said. "But he battled through it and did a great job."
Mendoza, who gave up seven hits, including a solo homer to Chris Parmelee, had no walks, but of his 84 pitches just 49 were strikes. Still he didn't expect to come out at that point.
"I was surprised, but he told me there are four or five lefties coming and he wanted to use Collins," Mendoza said. "I'm fine with it, just to get a win and keep it a close game."
Collins, however, immediately gave up singles to both Mauer and Morneau. Doumit failed on a sacrifice attempt and Parmelee struck out, but Matt Carson walked to load the bases. Alexi Casilla then singled up the middle, scoring two runs for a 4-4 tie.
Abreu, however, came to the rescue. After two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Hosmer doubled and Vasquez was relieved by Robertson. Abreu, a switch-hitter, moved to the right side of the plate and smacked an RBI single to center for a 5-4 lead.
That marked the second three-RBI game of Abreu's career; he knocked in three for the Dodgers at Colorado on Sept. 18, 2007.
He actually had a chance to add a couple more RBIs in the eighth inning against right-hander Alex Burnett. Perez and Moustakas each singled and Cain doubled to left, scoring Perez. Hosmer was intentionally walked to load the bases to bring up Abreu.
Sure, more RBIs and an even bigger lead danced in Abreu's mind.
"I know, I tried. I tried to put the ball in play," Abreu said.
But he struck out.
Greg Holland struck out the side in the ninth inning to record his 10th save in 10 chances since taking over the closer role from Jonathan Broxton on July 31.
"When we traded Broxton, I just had a feeling that he was going to take that opening and run with it. And he's done it," Yost said.
Meantime, Abreu will get another starting opportunity on Labor Day as the Royals open a series against the Texas Rangers.
"We'll probably give Escobar the day off tomorrow and let him play shortstop, just to get him in as much as we can here in the last month," Yost said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.