Witt and Benintendi lead the way as Kansas City Royals bounce back to beat the Twins

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Kansas City’s Bobby & Benny tandem was anything but comedic to Minnesota Twins pitchers on Saturday afternoon. Royals rookie Bobby Witt Jr. continued his offensive onslaught against the AL Central Division leaders, while Andrew Benintendi worked in sync with Witt to make sure to inflict maximum pain upon their opponents.

Witt went 3 for 5 with three doubles, two RBIs (both times driving in Benintendi) and a run scored, while Benintendi went 2 for 5 with a double and two runs scored to pace the Royals to a 7-3 win over the Minnesota Twins in front of an announced 22,249 in the third game of a four-game set at Target Field on Saturday afternoon.

The Royals, who have now scored five runs or more in five of their last six games, can clinch the series with a victory on Sunday afternoon. They’re now 2-3 on their road trip with four games remaining.

“The start of the season was not how we wanted it to go, but we’ve had some missing pieces, some guys struggling, but I feel like it’s definitely all coming together now,” Benintendi said of the recent offensive strides. “Hopefully, we can hit a stretch here to make up for some lost ground.”

Hunter Dozier went 3 for 5 with two RBIs, while Whit Merrifield (1 for 5) also drove in two runs. All four runs driven in by Dozier and Merrifield came with two outs in the respective innings. Emmanuel Rivera (1 for 4, run scored) also drove in a run for the Royals (16-29).

The Royals went 4 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

Royals star catcher Salvador Perez returned to the lineup for the first time since May 17. He came off the injured list prior to the game and served as the designated hitter. He batted cleanup and went 1 for 4 in his first game back.

Perez’s presence in the lineup, a four-time Silver Slugger and last year’s AL leader in home runs and RBIs, figures to only bolster the confidence and production of the club offensively.

“Having him in the clubhouse and him in the lineup, it changes the whole culture,” Witt said. “He brings that energy. He brings that ‘it’ factor, I feel like. So it’s really great to have him back, and I’m excited.”

The Royals lineup wasted little time getting into the scoring column in the first inning. Benintendi, batting in the No. 2 hole, belted a one-out double off the wall in center field, and then Witt, batting third, laced a double on the ground into the left-center gap for his team-leading 23rd RBI of the season.

“I feel like every time he gets up there, he’s hitting the ball hard somewhere whether it be in the gap or right at someone,” Benintendi said of Witt. “It’s crazy to see how hard he hits the ball every time. He’s starting to get going, this past two weeks or whatever it may be. If I’m on first, I feel like he’s either going to hit a homer or a gapper and I’ll score.”

Witt’s second RBI double came in the third inning. Once again, Benintendi got on base in front of him (single flared to center). Then Witt ripped a 94-mph fastball on the inner half of the plate into left field and off the base of the wall for his 12th double of the season. He drove in Benintendi for the second time in the game.

“It’s always great just to hit behind him,” Witt said of Benintendi. “Just the at-bats he takes are great. It almost gives you confidence, going up knowing what he just did.”

Witt, who fell a double shy of the cycle on Friday night, now has 22 extra-base hits despite having a total of just 41 hits in his major-league career. He quipped that his “goal” on Saturday was just to hit a bunch of doubles after not getting a double on Friday.

Witt’s third-inning RBI double gave the Royals a 2-1 lead after Twins’ slugger Trevor Larnach smashed a solo homer in the previous inning.

Clutch hitting with two outs

Rivera added a run to the Royals’ lead with a two-out RBI single just past the second baseman and into left field. Rivera fought his way through an eight-pitch battle with Twins starter Chris Archer leading up to hit on a 3-2 count.

The Royals led 3-1 when Merrifield crushed a double off the right-field wall to drive in two runs. The Royals scored three runs in the inning, all coming with two outs. A throwing error By Twins second baseman Jorge Polanco on an infield grounder by Nicky Lopez helped set up Merrifield’s big smash. Polanco’s throw allowed Lopez to reach and extend the inning with two outs.

The Royals led 5-1 after four innings.

Royals starting pitcher Brady Singer (2-0) allowed three runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings, and he also struck out eight to collect his second win in just his third start of the season. He did not walk a batter. The final two runs charged to him came after he was taken out of the game with two outs and two on in the sixth.

The Twins (28-20) got within two runs, 5-3, after they scratched out two in the sixth. But Dozier’s two-run single with two outs in the seventh made up for the ground that had been given up.

“It comes down to two-strike hits today, two-out hits,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “Two strikes with Rivera, grinding through an at-bat. Whit’s big one. Bobby had another one. Doz. Those were huge for us. We talked about how do we get this offense going; it’s those big hits in those big situations.”

The Twins loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth against relief pitcher Josh Staumont on two singles and a walk, but Kyle Garlick’s fly ball to left center was caught on the warning track by Merrifield.

“He came in and got two quick outs, but it’s a dangerous lineup,” Matheny said. “They depend on that home run. They get a couple guys on base, and the next thing you know, it can turn into a crooked number in a hurry. I was really happy to see Whit come down with that one. But that would’ve been — anyway, it wasn’t.”

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