Nelson Cruz got a second chance and delivered a go-ahead single with two outs in the 10th inning, giving the Minnesota Twins a 5-4 victory over the Royals on Tuesday night before Kansas City’s smallest announced home crowd in eight years.
Cruz appeared to ground out against reliever Brad Boxberger (0-1) with runners on first and second when third base umpire James Hoye signaled his chopper fair. But plate umpire Mark Ripperger came in and signaled it was foul, and after the two umps visited it was Ripperger’s call that stood.
Cruz followed a couple pitches later with his third RBI of the game.
Trevor Hildenberger (1-0) got the final out of the ninth inning for Minnesota, and Blake Parker worked around a two-out walk in the 10th to earn his first save.
Kansas City announced attendance as 10,024, the lowest at Kauffman Stadium since 9,279 against Cleveland on April 21, 2011.
The Royals took the lead with one out in the eighth on an inside-the-park home run by Adalberto Mondesi, only for starter-turned-reliever Ian Kennedy to cough it right back up in the ninth.
Jorge Polanco led off with a double and, after Nelson Cruz flied out, Eddie Rosario delivered his first hit of the season to tie the game. Rosario eventually reached third on a single by Marwin Gonzalez, but Kennedy bounced back to retire Jonathan Schoop and escape the inning.
Mondesi finished a triple shy of the cycle, driving in a run with a single in the first and hitting a double in the third. Ryan O’Hearn also homered while Hunter Dozier added a sacrifice fly.
The game was supposed to be a matchup of bright young pitchers, and the Twins’ Jose Berrios and Royals counterpart Brad Keller followed up scoreless outings on opening day with solid starts.
They just weren’t around to see the finish.
Berrios allowed three runs on seven hits over seven innings, while Keller struggled with his command most of the night. He got some help when Max Kepler was thrown out trying to steal second, but the right-hander still allowed three runs on five hits over six innings.
The Royals bullpen nearly coughed up the game right after Keller took a bow.
Tim Hill allowed back-to-back singles to the only two batters he faced, and Wily Peralta issued a full-count walk to load the bases with nobody out. But their erstwhile closer bounced back to bookend a pair of strikeouts around a lineout and left the bases loaded.
Mondesi’s drive off reliever Taylor Rogers in the eighth hit high off the wall, just past the outstretched glove of centerfielder Byron Buxton. It bounced far enough away that Mondesi was able to score with ease for his first career inside-the-park homer.
Buxton was removed from the game in the ninth inning to be evaluated.