In the span of a week, Hunter Dozier went from the injured list to the delivery room to the star role in the Kansas City Royals' 6-1 win over the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins.
The young slugger hit a three-run shot during a five-run third inning Sunday, made a couple of stellar defensive plays at third base and gave Homer Bailey and the Kansas City bullpen all the offense they needed against the Twins on a soggy, overcast afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
"I knew my timing was going to be off," said Dozier, who had been sidelined the last three weeks with an oblique strain. "I felt better today. Hopefully keep getting better and better."
Dozier returned to the team on Friday after spending the previous night in the hospital, where his wife gave birth to the couple's second child. And while he struggled at the plate in his first couple of games back, that timing seemed to have returned against Minnesota.
"They struck him out with a slider the first time up, and the second time they tried the same ploy," Royals manager Ned Yost said, "and it didn't work."
Bailey (7-6) only made one significant mistake, leaving a pitch over the plate that Eddie Rosario steered inside the right-field foul pole. Otherwise, the revitalized right-hander followed back-to-back scoreless starts against Detroit and Seattle by giving up five hits and a walk.
The Royals' bullpen shut down the Twins the rest of the way. Kevin McCarthy left the bases loaded in the seventh, then recorded the next six outs to earn his first career save.
"I'd hoped it would come a little sooner," he said, "but I'm glad I got it."
Alex Gordon added two RBIs and Nicky Lopez also drove in a run for the Royals, who did most of their damage against Michael Pineda (4-4) in the third inning. Pineda wound up lasting five, allowing eight hits while taking his first loss since May 5 at Yankee Stadium.
He didn't get much support as the Twins stranded 11 runners on base.
"Bailey threw the ball well. He had to work for everything, but he made good pitches when he had to," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "When you get that big hit or a couple of big hits, it can give you a lift. It's tough to get that first big hit with people on base, and we didn't get that."
With rain in the forecast, Bailey and Pineda engaged in a tidy pitchers' duel through the first couple innings. But that ended abruptly when Pineda took the mound in the third.
After retiring Martin Maldonado, the big right-hander gave up a base hit to Billy Hamilton — the first of what would become five straight. And they came in quite the variety: Whit Merrifield delivered on a hit-and-run, Lopez had a bunt single and Gordon doubled down the right-field line.
The big blow came from Dozier, though. His three-run shot soared over the visiting bullpen in left field, giving Kansas City a 5-0 lead and the youngster another boost in his All-Star bid.
Dozier is among the three AL finalists at third base in voting that begins Wednesday.
"In the third inning they got some soft contact. I hang one pitch, my slider and they hit a big homer," Pineda said. "That cost me the game. I just tried to compete."
Bailey's streak of 16 2/3 scoreless innings finally ended when Rosario cracked his 20th homer of the year leading off the fourth inning. But Bailey got a modicum of revenge in the sixth, when he struck out Rosario after a 14-pitch at-bat to conclude his afternoon.
STATS AND STREAKS
The Twins' Jorge Polanco extended his 36-game on-base streak with a single in the seventh. That is tied for fifth-longest in club history. ... Luis Arraez had his first four-hit game for Minnesota. ... Bailey has not allowed more than three runs in a start since April 30.
NEGRO LEAGUES SALUTE
The Royals wore uniforms of the 1942 Kansas City Monarchs and the Twins dressed as the St. Paul Gophers from 1908 for their throwback day at the K. It also was "Dressed to the Nines" day at the park, and many fans came dressed in suits, dresses and vintage clothing.
Twins OF Byron Buxton hit before the game to test his right wrist, and manager Rocco Baldelli said it's possible he could play Tuesday. "We have to make sure he's 100 percent before we activate him for a game," Baldelli said. "We're very close to making a decision." ... RHP Jose Berrios should make his next start despite leaving Saturday's game with a blister, Baldelli said.
The Royals head to Cleveland on Monday night to open a three-game set with RHP Brad Keller (3-9, 4.45 ERA) on the hill. The Twins are off Monday before starting a three-game set against Tampa Bay.