The hottest team in baseball won their seventh game in a row on Sunday, as the Royals executed a sweep of the San Francisco Giants with a 7-4 victory and held firm at the Detroit Tigers' heels for the lead in the American League Central.
Kansas City (63-53) caused bitten nails on Friday. They eased the tension with a late-game flurry on Saturday. In the series finale, Danny Duffy silenced the opposing lineup as his teammates thrashed Tim Lincecum and won for the 15th time in their last 18 games.
The offensive surplus included a pair of two-run homers by Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez. Billy Butler continued to contribute. Duffy (7-10, 2.57 ERA) tired in the seventh and allowed the Giants to pick up four runs in 6 2/3 innings. But by the time he departed his club was well in front.
Manager Ned Yost saw Lincecum at his apex, in 2007 and 2008, during Yost's final years in Milwaukee. His fastball touched the upper 90s. He tormented batters with splitters and sliders. His funky delivery fascinated observers and perplexed opponents. "There were times, man, when we couldn't do anything against him," Yost said.
No longer does Lincecum invite awe. He has become one of baseball's least productive starters. During the past three seasons, his 4.62 ERA heading into Sunday was the worst among the 36 pitchers who have tallied 500 innings during that stretch. The Royals thrashed him in the first inning on Sunday.
Nori Aoki chopped an infield single. Salvador Perez followed with his first walk of the second half. Lincecum pumped two quick strikes against Butler, then let a 1-2 slider breeze over the plate. Butler shot it down the right-field line for an RBI double.
With two in scoring position, Lincecum presented his hosts with a gift. He flung a 1-0 fastball in the dirt in front of backup catcher Andrew Susac. Susac couldn't corral the wild pitch, and Perez scored. The tittering from the fans had scarcely ceased when Lincecum hung a slider to Alex Gordon.
As the ball soared off his bat, Gordon allowed himself a grin -- or perhaps he was squinting through the hints of sunlight shining on Kauffman Stadium. Either way, the two-run shot crashed into the Royals bullpen for Gordon's second homer in as many days and 12th this season.
A small-ball clinic followed the first-inning muscle flexing. The Royals ran on Lincecum without fear. They swiped five bags in the first four innings, the fifth a heist of third by Alcides Escobar. He scored afterward when Aoki singled through the right side of the infield.
The hit ejected Lincecum from the game. The Royals did not slacken their pace. Facing reliever Juan Gutierrez, Aoki stole his third bag of the day. Perez clobbered a 92-mph fastball located at his waist. He tied Mike Moustakas for the team lead with 14 homers.
The result appeared to be in the bag. But Duffy lost his command in the seventh. He issued a pair of walks. Susac ripped a two-run double. Duffy rebounded to pick up the second out, but Yost pulled him for reliever Jason Frasor.
Frasor experienced a bit of poor luck. Angel Pagan grounded a fastball back to the mound, and the ball bounced off Frasor for a single. Hunter Pence lined an RBI single up the middle to trim the Royals' lead to three.
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