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Thome's three-run shot lifts Twins to win over Royals

CBSSports.com wire reports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Jim Thome has been plagued by aches and pains for the better part of a decade. They just seem to be coming around a little more often in his 19th season.

A strained oblique and bothersome toe injury on his left foot have slowed his chase of 600 career homers, but the Minnesota Twins are sticking with him for moments like the sixth inning on Sunday against Kansas City.

With the game tied and his team in desperate need of a jolt, Thome hit his 596th home run to lift the Twins to a 4-3 victory over the Royals.

Thome's tiebreaking three-run drive off Felipe Paulino soared into the upper deck in right-center field, leaving him four shy of becoming the eighth player to hit 600 home runs.

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"It's always special," Thome said. "That feeling you want to kind of last forever. It went out, it put us ahead. And that's No. 1."

Jeff Francoeur homered and Melky Cabrera added two hits for the Royals. Paulino (1-3) struck out eight in seven innings, yielding four runs and seven hits.

Brian Duensing (7-7) gave up three runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings for the Twins, who started a crucial 12-game homestand by taking three of four from the Royals.

After a relatively healthy season last year in which he hit 25 homers in 108 games, this one has been a tough one. He will turn 41 in August, and it's getting tougher and tougher to get his body ready to grind out each at-bat.

On a sweltering day where the heat index climbed past 110 degrees, Thome looked plenty loose when he sent a 3-2 pitch from Paulino an estimated 490 feet into the stands for a 4-1 lead. He also became the 11th player to hit 500 homers in the American League, according to STATS, LLC.

"He's had some injuries and we know we have to limit what you can do with him to keep him healthy," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That was a big at-bat and it was one mistake. That's what those guys do. You make one mistake and he's going to put it in the seats. That's why he's got that many home runs."

Francoeur came back with a two-run shot of his own in the top of the seventh, but Glen Perkins pitched a perfect eighth and Joe Nathan, who resumed his closer role when Matt Capps began to struggle, picked up his fifth save of the season.

It was a tough loss for Paulino, who has pitched well since joining the Royals at the end of May. Paulino hit 97 mph on the Target Field radar gun. He only walked one hitter, an intentional pass for Joe Mauer, who had two hits and an RBI.

"We're at the point where one mistake kills us," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We're just walking a thin line. Just keep battling through it. We're getting better. We've just got to keep trudging through it."

The Royals made Duensing work through the first three innings.

The Twins left-hander needed 58 pitches to get to the fourth, giving up an RBI single to Alex Gordon to fall behind in the first inning. But he breezed through innings four, five and six, averaging just 10 pitches per frame to keep the Twins in it.

Gardenhire returned to the ballpark Sunday after missing Saturday's game with a chest cold that has bothered him for weeks. He played it safe by watching the game from the air-conditioned clubhouse, while bench coach Scott Ullger made the pitching changes.

Paulino fanned Thome and got him to ground into a double play the first two times up. But he left a slider out over the middle of the plate in the third at-bat, and paid for it.

"He knows what his game's all about," Nathan said. "He came to us and pretty much said, 'There's going to be a lot of times I strike out. There's going to be a lot of times I walk and there's going to be a lot of times that I'm going to barrel one up.'

"We got to see a lot of that today. He punched out, but he also got to barrel one up and we got to see one fly a long way."

Notes

  • The Twins host the Indians for a doubleheader on Monday. Scott Baker will pitch Game 1 against Cleveland's David Huff. Anthony Swarzak will face Fausto Carmona in the nightcap.
  • Royals 1B Eric Hosmer made a terrific, over-the-shoulder catch of a foul popup by Danny Valencia in the seventh inning.
  • Gardenhire and SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who is Japanese, had a bet on the women's World Cup championship. "I wish I could trash talk in Japanese, because he would hear all of it," Gardenhire cracked before the game. But Nishioka had the last laugh, sprinting through the clubhouse saying, 'Oh sorry! Sorry!" after Japan sealed the victory.
 
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Jim Thome is four home runs shy of a milestone as the Twins DH hits HR No. 596 in a win against the Royals. (Getty Images)
Jim Thome is four home runs shy of a milestone as the Twins DH hits HR No. 596 in a win against the Royals. (Getty Images)

Players of the Game
Minnesota

J. Thome
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 3
Kansas City

J. Francoeur
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 2
 

Related Video

Kansas City Royals
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Chris Getz, 2B4000001 .251
Melky Cabrera, CF4120001 .295
Alex Gordon, LF4011011 .296
Billy Butler, DH4110001 .286
Eric Hosmer, 1B4000001 .264
Jeff Francoeur, RF4122000 .266
Wilson Betemit, 3B3000021 .281
Matt Treanor, C3000001 .218
Alcides Escobar, SS3010001 .253
Totals3337303  
Batting
2B - Melky Cabrera (24, Duensing), Billy Butler (22, Duensing), Jeff Francoeur (21, Duensing)
HR - Jeff Francoeur (13, Duensing)
RBI - Alex Gordon (51), Jeff Francoeur 2 (58)
CS - Alcides Escobar (6, 2nd base by Duensing/Mauer)
Team LOB - 3
Fielding
DP - Escobar-Getz-Hosmer, Getz-Escobar-Hosmer
E - Alcides Escobar (10, Throwing)
Kansas City Royals
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Felipe Paulino (L,1-7) 7744181 4.39
Tim Collins 1100110 3.57
IBB - Mauer by Felipe Paulino, Cuddyer by Tim Collins
Pitches-Strikes - Felipe Paulino 113-79, Tim Collins 14-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Felipe Paulino 9-2, Tim Collins 1-1
Batters Faced - Felipe Paulino 27, Tim Collins 5
Minnesota Twins
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Ben Revere, CF4120010 .278
Alexi Casilla, 2B3120001 .260
Joe Mauer, C3121100 .260
Michael Cuddyer, 1B3000125 .293
Jim Thome, DH4113023 .221
Delmon Young, LF3010010 .270
Danny Valencia, 3B3000021 .228
Trevor Plouffe, RF3000001 .208
    Jason Repko, RF0000000 .247
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS3000011 .218
Totals2948429  
Batting
2B - Alexi Casilla (15, Paulino)
HR - Jim Thome (7, Paulino)
SH - Alexi Casilla (7)
RBI - Joe Mauer (13), Jim Thome 3 (22)
2-OUT RBI - Jim Thome 3 (15)
Team LOB - 4
Fielding
DP - Valencia-Casilla-Cuddyer
E - Danny Valencia (11, Misplayed grounder)
Minnesota Twins
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Brian Duensing (W,7-7) 6.1733021 4.14
Alex Burnett (H,7) 0.2000000 6.59
Glen Perkins (H,13) 1000010 1.77
Joe Nathan (S,5) 1000000 5.11
Pitches-Strikes - Brian Duensing 98-60, Alex Burnett 2-2, Glen Perkins 15-11, Joe Nathan 9-6
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brian Duensing 11-5, Alex Burnett 1-1, Glen Perkins 1-1, Joe Nathan 1-2
Batters Faced - Brian Duensing 25, Alex Burnett 2, Glen Perkins 3, Joe Nathan 3
Game Information
Attendance - 38786
Game Time - 2:29
Temperature - 93
Umpires - Home - John Tumpane, First Base - Joe West, Second Base - Sam Holbrook, Third Base - Angel Campos