• New-look Royals impress at home

  • The Kansas City Royals know how to throw a 40th anniversary party.

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  • The Kansas City Royals know how to throw a 40th anniversary party.
    Behind the combined eight-hit, one-run pitching of starter Ervin Santana and Aaron Crow and the clutch hitting of Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar and Billy Butler, the Royals ushered in a new look in a familar setting by downing the Minnesota Twins 3-1 in front of a sold-out crowd of 40,073 Monday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
    The victory came on the 40th anniversary of Kauffman Stadium, which was called Royals Stadium back in 1973 when a lanky left-hander by the name of Paul Splittorff downed the Texas Rangers 12-1 in the first game in the new venue.
    The late Splittorff, who is the winningest pitcher in team history and a member of the Royals Hall of Fame, was honored when his son Jamie (a former standout pitcher at Blue Springs High School and the University of Kansas) threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
    “Winning the opener means a lot,” manager Ned Yost said, “especially since we were down 7-0 in the first inning (to Detroit) last year. Our fans have been reading about our team and seeing the team on television and today they got to see us in person and it was pretty exciting to see Ervin pitch the way he did and to see us get those timely hits in the bottom of the eighth inning.
    “This is a different team. They have a lot of faith and confidence in each other. You could sense it today. They weren’t nervous when we were down 1-0 late in the game, they knew they were going to find a way to make a game out of it.”
    Santana allowed four hits and one run in the top of the first inning and got out of a jam when Ryan Doumit was picked off second base when teammate Justin Morneau stopped at third base on a single by Trevor Plouffe.
    When Morneau stopped at third on Alex Gordon’s throw to home, Salvador Perez whipped a perfect throw to second baseman Chris Getz, who put the tag on Doumit for the third out.
    “That was a game-changing play,” said Butler, who drove home the third run in the eighth inning. “Salvy doesn’t even know how good he can be. He gets two hits, throws out a base runner (attempting to steal) and makes that play in the first. There is no ceiling on his talent. The sky’s the limit.”
    Santana settled down and allowed just four hits over the next seven innings to set up a dramatic eighth-inning rally that began with Cain’s leadoff double.
    Getz sacrificed him to third and Gordon drove him home with a single to right over the drawn-in infield.
    Page 2 of 2 - With Gordon taking off with the first pitch, Escobar lined a double to the left-field corner for the go-ahead run and Butler followed with an RBI single.
    “I love the hit and run, especially with Gordon,” Escobar said. “Ned has faith in me and I wanted to make contact and drive home the run. Santana pitched so well he deserved to win.”
    Butler’s eighth-inning hit capped a memorable day for the Royals’ 2012 All-Star representative, who received a Silver Slugger Award from Hall of Famer George Brett in a pregame ceremony.
    “It doesn’t get much better than this, this early in the season,” said Butler, who won the award for being the top designated hitter in the American League last season. “The best thing is the win. To win like that, in front of a sold out crowd, is the best part of today.”
    Crow pitched a scoreless ninth inning to pick up the save.
    The Royals had not won a home opener since defeating the New York Yankees 5-2 in 2008.
    Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC

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