Soria's return a success as Royals win
Potent offense, four walks in final frame down the Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- In an ideal world, Joakim Soria would have tested his previously injured right shoulder in an uncomplicated one-inning save situation with a three-run cushion. Saturday night at the Metrodome was not that situation. Not even close.
Soria was summoned in the 10th inning of a tie game with a runner on second base and one out. He shackled Minnesota's offense from that point through the 11th inning in a back-and-forth game that resulted in a 10-7 Royals victory.
It was Soria's longest performance since Sept. 3, 2008. The closer, sidelined for nine days with a sore right shoulder, hadn't pitched since April 22 against Cleveland.
Kansas City waited out Minnesota's bullpen, drawing four walks, one hit-by-pitch and a lone single to manufacture three runs in the 11th.
"I'll stay all night for a win," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "And we almost did."
Twins reliever Craig Breslow walked Coco Crisp and Willie Bloomquist to start the 11th frame. Breslow retired Billy Butler on a checked-swing grounder, but walked pinch-hitter Mark Teahen to load the bases. Minnesota summoned knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who walked the first batter he faced, John Buck, to push home the go-ahead run. The Royals gave themselves plenty of breathing room by scoring two more runs.
The inning took so long that the Royals' coaching staff asked Soria if he felt that he needed to go back to the bullpen and throw pitches to get loose again.
"He said he felt fine," Hillman said.
And so he returned. Soria induced a double-play ball from Justin Morneau to end the game. Soria needed 19 pitches to record five outs.
"If my team needs me for two innings, I'm glad to do that," Soria said. "I'm just trying to help my team and trying to get a win."
The ending of the game was no less frenzied than the events that preceded it, including seven lead changes and six ties.
"It felt like one giant baseline rally in tennis," Royals starter Brian Bannister said. "Because it's like, everybody kept playing really well, but nobody was putting each other away."
Kansas City staked itself to a 2-0 lead but was forced to relinquish the advantage in the bottom of the second.
Mike Aviles' throwing error allowed leadoff hitter Joe Crede to reach. Michael Cuddyer's single put runners on first and second, and two batters later, Delmon Young singled to center field. Crisp conceded Crede's advancement to the plate and instead unloaded a throw to third base to challenge Cuddyer. The throw sailed over the head of Alberto Callaspo and into Minnesota's dugout, sending Cuddyer home and Young to third. Young came home on a sacrifice fly by Nick Punto.
Kansas City knotted the game at 3 in the fifth inning when Bloomquist hit a first-pitch fastball from Twins starter Glen Perkins over the center-field wall. It was Bloomquist's first homer since June 26, 2007, a span of 290 at-bats.
The Twins reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the fifth with Joe Mauer's RBI double, one of his four hits on the night. The Royals stole it right back with Olivo's two-run triple off the right-field baggie in the sixth inning. Cuddyer, Minnesota's right fielder, retreated to the wall and timed his jump, but the ball was out of his reach and Olivo was off to the races.
Cuddyer tied the game with a solo shot in the sixth, and the Twins recouped the lead with Denard Span's RBI single four batters later. The Royals weren't down for long, using Butler's RBI single to square the game at 6.
Alexi Casilla misplayed Olivo's grounder with a runner on third and two outs in the eighth inning, giving Kansas City a temporary lead. Young's RBI single in the bottom half of the frame tied the game once again.
Twins closer Joe Nathan entered in the ninth inning. Crisp dueled the All-Star closer in a 12-pitch at-bat to lead off the inning.
Bench coach John Gibbons turned to Hillman after Crisp's at-bat and said: "All we have to do is keep seeing some pitches, and hopefully we'll only see Mr. Nathan for one inning."
That was the case, and it would prove crucial. Though Crisp grounded out, it forced Nathan to labor, as he ultimately needed 25 pitches to escape the inning.
Matt Guerrier threw a 16-pitch 10th inning before giving way to Breslow.
The Twins were forced to use Breslow and Dickey in a situation to which they are not accustomed. Although Minnesota fans directed boos at both relievers, the true damage was done by a pesky Kansas City lineup that forced Nathan to max out his workload in a mere three outs.
Ron Mahay cleaned up Juan Cruz's mess in the eighth inning and pitched until giving way to Soria in the 10th, throwing 34 pitches in 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
"That was a tough one for me," Hillman said. "I was thinking about it. ... That might be only the third or fourth time I've ever brought a closer in on the road in a situation like that. I felt like Ronnie was getting close to exhausted if he wasn't already, and he had done an exceptional job. Thankfully it worked out."
Bannister allowed six runs -- three earned -- on eight hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings.
It was a very promising day for the Royals' offense, which had 15 hits and drew five walks. Five Kansas City batters had multihit games.
"It was almost like a postseason game, that's how it felt," Bannister said. "We came out on top, but I think either team could have."
Thor Nystrom is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.