MINNEAPOLIS -- Nelson Cruz is a man of his word. He told Twins officials during spring training that he was going to reach the 40 home run level this season, and the 39-year old proved his swing is just as lethal as ever.
On the final home game of the regular season, Cruz swatted his 40th home run of the season to help the Twins beat the Royals 12-8.
It also was the 400th home run of his career, as he became the 57th member of that club. It highlighted an afternoon in which the Twins reduced their magic number for clinch the AL Central division title to three. Second place Cleveland will face the Phillies tonight in a nationally-televised game.
Also on Sunday, the Twins scored their 900th run of the season, set a club record with 331 two-out RBI on the season. Tyler Duffey ran his scoreless innings streak to 222/3. Jorge Polanco hit his 40th double of the season.
The Twins got two home runs from Miguel Sano in addition to Cruz's milestone swat -- and it looked like they would need them all. After taking a 6-0 lead in first inning, the highlight being a three-run shot from Sano, the Royals got a two-run homer from Nick Dini in the second to get within 6-2. Twins lefthander Martin Perez then took the mound for the third and gave up two doubles and a single to the first three Kansas City batters.
That lit the fuse for a three-run inning that got the Royals within 6-5. After Cheslor Cuthbert's RBI single drove in run No. 5, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli popped out of the dugout to remove Perez.
In his last two starts, Perez has lasted a total of seven innings -- but has given up a mind-boggling 18 hits. Over his last five starts, Perez has a 9.15 ERA, and that includes a Sept. 5 game at Boston where he held the Red Sox to one run over six innings.
Not the best way to earn a spot in the postseason rotation.
That left the bullpen with 20 outs to cover, but seven relievers combined to pull off the task while giving up two runs, a RBI double by Nicky Lopez in the fourth off Zack Littell and two bases loaded walks in the ninth by Sergio Romo, who had just replaced a struggling Fernando Romero.
Zack Littell, 6-0, got the win.
Meanwhile, the offense kept adding on. Sano hit his second home run of the game in third inning, giving the Twins a 7-5 lead. Then Cruz batted in the fourth against Royals reliever Gabe Speier. Speier centered a 93.7 miles per hour fastball, and Cruz feasted on it, driving it into the second deck in right.
The crowd erupted as the 421 foot blast disappeared into the crowd. Cruz pointed toward family members in the stands as he crossed home plate. Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano and Marwin Gonzalez were at the top steps of the dugout to congratulate him.
And, after a few moments in the dugout, he popped out to tip his hat as fans cheered for a curtain call.
The Twins scored twice in the seventh and got two bases loaded walks in the eighth to finish off the Royals. The Twins are 12-4 against Kansas City in the season series.
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