Not surprisingly, the seats were packed with Twins fans. The section I was sitting in featured plenty of friendly spatting back-and-forth between Royals fans and Twins fans. The Twins faithful started numerous chants aimed at taunting the Royals for their impressive string of last-place finishes, while the Royals fans retorted with, really, their only possible ammunition: "At least we play in a stadium!" (Of course, it's worth noting that the Twins usually manage to draw considerably more fans in their crappy dome than the Royals do in their beautiful outdoor stadium.)
One particularly entertaining fan sitting in my vicinity was the gal just in front of me. It was pretty clear how she chose the players to whom she owed her allegiance. She was generally a fan of the Royals (particularly David DeJesus and Mark Teahen), but she also gave boisterous applause every time Joe Mauer stepped to the plate.
As for the game itself, it was highly satisfying. Luis Rodriguez (starting at second in place of Luis Castillo) put the Twins in an early hole in the first inning when he dropped a fly ball in shallow right field with the bases loaded, allowing two to score. Fortunately, the Twins offense was resilient in this game, scoring to tie the Royals in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings before before scoring twice in the seventh to take a 7-5 lead which would hold until the end of the game.
It was nice to see the Twins' entire lineup contribute in the victory, a refreshing change from the typical lack of production outside of the middle of the lineup. Every starter had at least one hit, with six players collecting multiple hits. To me, the stadium air smelled of hot dogs and beer, but clearly Mike Redmond was smelling RBIs. Getting the start at catcher while Mauer DHed, Redmond delivered clutch run-scoring singles in each of his first three at-bats to help the Twins stick with the Royals, who scored often against Boof Bonser early in the game. Meanwhile, Mauer and Justin Morneau delivered two doubles apiece and Nick Punto collected his first triple.
Beyond the solid offensive effort for the Twins, it was encouraging to see the bullpen get back on track after a rough night in the first game of the series. After surrendering five runs on five hits and four walks with just one strikeout on Friday night, the bullpen bounced back with four near-perfect innings yesterday. Pat Neshek, Dennys Reyes, Jesse Crain and Joe Nathan combined to hold the Royals scoreless after Bonser came out of the game following the fifth with the Twins trailing 5-4. The only damage during the final four innings came on a walk by Reyes, while Neshek and Nathan both struck out the side in their inning of work. This was an especially encouraging sign from Nathan, who had struggled in his past several outings.
So despite making a few ugly mistakes in the field and on the basepaths, the Twins came away with a 7-5 victory and will have a shot at taking the series with Cy Young contender Ramon Ortiz taking the mound.
It's always fun to watch the Twins play in a real baseball stadium, and my experience in Kansas City yesterday was no exception. If any readers were at the game (or one of the other games in the series), feel free to comment with your own impressions. For anyone considering making the trip in the future, I'd highly recommend it. It's a long drive from Minneapolis, but Kansas City is a great town with a lot of cool sights.
On a side note, later in the evening my family and I were walking down the crowded sidewalk of the Plaza in KC, and we walked past a group of Twins players who were out on the town doing some shopping. The group included Castillo, Alexi Casilla and Carlos Silva. We waved hello and congratulated them on a good game. Casilla seemed genuinely excited to be recognized. Gotta love that rookie enthusiasm. It seems Casilla is also starting to enjoy those major-league paychecks; I looked back as I walked away and saw him disappear into Armani Exchange.