Gordon lifts Royals past Twins in extras
Two-run homer ends Kansas City's skid in Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS -- It was a game of deep emotions on both sides. The Royals had just learned their manager, Buddy Bell, was resigning after the season. The Twins had just learned of a bridge-collapse tragedy in their city.
In the midst of this turmoil, the teams staged a 10-inning thriller that was won by the Royals, 5-3, on Alex Gordon's two-run homer against Twins reliever Juan Rincon on Wednesday night at the Metrodome.
"All we could do was go out there and give 'em a great game," Royals starter Brian Bannister said. "When you see something like that happen today, you realize how fortunate we are to play this game and how precious life is."
The Royals learned that Bell was stepping down just three hours before the game. Both teams were getting ready to play when images of the highway calamity came on clubhouse TVs.
Afterward, the Twins said they were distracted by worry over family and friends who might have been using the bridge not far from the stadium.
"It was tough, so I just tried to focus on the game," Twins starter Boof Bonser said, "but to turn on that switch and play wasn't easy."
Even so, Bannister felt the Twins were hustling and on fire.
"We knew about it all and I knew they were going to come out and play with intensity," Bannister said. "I know they were playing for their city, and we were playing for Buddy."
With a backdrop of bad news, the 24,880 fans tried to follow the game. Royals left fielder Joey Gathright, just up from Triple-A Omaha, tried to follow the ball and none too successfully.
Justin Morneau led off the second inning with a line drive and Gathright lost it in the lights. It was ruled a double. No harm, though, because Morneau did not score.
When Joe Mauer led off the fourth with a liner, Gathright couldn't see it and the ball sailed past him. This, too, was ruled a double. This time, Mauer scored on Jason Kubel's single to give the Twins a 2-2 tie.
"It's hard. After it goes in the lights, you just hope for it to come out and hit you or something. But I messed those up and I admit that. It was my first time playing here in left field," Gathright said.
When Gathright caught the next fly ball hit to him, by Brian Buscher in the seventh, the Twins fans gave him a standing ovation dripping with sarcasm.
"But, you know, last laugh," Gathright said. "We got 'em in the 10th."
The Twins eased ahead against Bannister, 3-2, in the seventh. The Royals got a tie in the eighth after Billy Butler led off with a single. Pinch-runner Emil Brown got around on a sacrifice, a throwing error and Matt Guerrier's wild pitch.
Then, in the 10th, Brown singled and Gordon came up with two outs. Rincon delivered a 1-1 pitch that would end up over the right-field wall, Gordon's eighth home run.
"Fastball down the middle," Gordon said. "That's what you go up there looking for, as a hitter."
Gordon thought the victory was a fitting way to mark Bell's announcement.
"The best way we can send him off is to keep improving and play hard until the end of the year," Gordon said.
Although Bannister pitched seven strong innings, Zack Greinke worked two perfect innings and picked up his fifth victory. Joakim Soria got his 11th save but his first since succeeding traded Octavio Dotel as the closer.
"I had a little extra out there tonight. I usually don't show that on the mound, but I was fired up a couple of times," Bannister said. "They were fired up and hustling, and that was probably one of the most fun games I've ever pitched in."
The circumstances away from the stadium, though, were grim. Thursday's scheduled fourth game of the series was postponed.
Bell wasn't thinking of himself afterward.
"That's tragic. Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in the city," Bell said. "Things always get put into perspective. The game is important for all of us, but there's nothing as precious as life."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.