MINNEAPOLIS -- There were tributes on the scoreboard, on the diamond, and a permanent one attached to the mezzanine facade in left field. There were accolades from all over the stadium, the state and the sport.
But the most useful appreciation of Joe Mauer on Saturday may have come from his successor. A Twins first baseman lines a double over the left fielder's head to knock in the game-winning run?
Well played, C.J. Cron.
Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez drove baseballs into the right-field stands, Jorge Polanco contributed a crucial two-out double, and Jake Odorizzi limited the damage to just four runs over six innings in his most difficult start in two months. And once the Twins rallied from a three-run deficit to tie the score, Cron delivered an extra-base hit that would have made the former Twins great proud. His double off the wall brought Eddie Rosario home and delivered a 5-4 victory against the Royals on Joe Mauer Night at Target Field.
A packed house announced at 39,267 roared as Mauer's No. 7 was unveiled alongside those of Twins greats like Killebrew, Puckett and Carew, and enjoyed several taped messages of congratulations that played between every inning. Then, with Mauer exhorting them to "go get 'em tonight, guys," the Twins extended their winning streak to three straight games overall, five straight over the Royals, and 11 straight when Odorizzi is on the mound.
They just took the long way to get there.
Odorizzi (10-2) became just the fourth Twins pitcher in the past decade to reach 10 wins before the All-Star break, but he wasn't the dominant strike-thrower that he has been for two solid months of spectacular pitching. The right-hander allowed an infield hit to Whit Merrifield to open the game, struck out the next two Royals, then made a mistake that he last made one month ago: He left a pitch in the middle that could be hit for a home run.
Jorge Soler did the honors, lining a low screamer into the left-field seats, Odorizzi's first home run allowed since May 15.
Two innings later, Odorizzi loaded the bases with one out on two hits and a walk to Soler, but escaped by forcing popups from Lucas Duda and Chestor Cuthbert. But in the fifth, Merrifield collected his third hit of the night, and it was a loud one: A leadoff home run just inside the foul pole in left field. The Royals added another in the inning -- the first time Odorizzi had given up four runs since April?5 -- on a walk, a Soler single and Duda's sacrifice fly, putting the Twins in a three-run deficit. It also boosted Odorizzi's ERA to 2.24, no longer the best in the American League.
But the Twins were far from finished against K.C. starter Glenn Sparkman. Kepler hit a home run to open the fourth inning, his 17th of the season, extending the Twins' streak of Target Field games with a homer to a franchise-record 19 straight.
After Mitch Garver singled to open the fifth, Marwin Gonzalez blasted a homer of his own into the right-field seats. An error by Cuthbert extended the inning, and Polanco doubled to deep center to drive in the tying run.
An inning later, Rosario walked, Gonzalez singled off reliever Scott Barlow, and Cron doubled Rosario home with a line drive that left fielder Alex Gordon couldn't reach as it sailed over him.
The Twins' bullpen did the rest, with Trevor May, Blake Parker, Ryne Harper and Taylor Rogers all posting zeroes, the last one clinched when Rogers forced a pop fly from Solar with two runners aboard, earning his eighth save of the season.
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