MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Joe Mauer will be representing the Minnesota
Twins at the All-Star Game. Josh Willingham, however, might be the
team's most valuable player at this point.
He came through again in the clutch Sunday.
Trevor Plouffe homered twice, Willingham and Drew Butera each
connected and the Twins came back from four runs down to take a big
lead, then held off the Kansas City Royals 10-8.
With one run already across in the sixth, Willingham hit a
three-run homer to tie it at 5. Two batters later, Plouffe hit a
solo shot for his second of the day.
Willingham, who signed a three-year deal in December to
basically replace Michael Cuddyer at a lower price, has 17 home
runs and a team-leading 55 RBIs.
"The only thing I can say is I'm happy with the way my season's
gone so far. Obviously, we want to keep winning as a team," he
said. "(Joe's) going to represent this team well."
Others in the clubhouse were more forthright in their
"He's been there from Day One, he's been carrying the load for
our baseball team an awful lot," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I
sure was hoping he would get a chance to play in an All-Star game.
He's very deserving of it and he just added onto his numbers
Said Plouffe: "Joe is obviously having a great year and
deserves it, and I think Josh deserves it just as much. I'm not
happy to see that he didn't make it because I think he's been
carrying our team all year."
Plouffe also hit a solo homer in the second inning. Butera added
a three-run shot in the eighth for a 10-5 lead.
"I don't get tired of seeing three or four home runs a game,
especially if it's our team," Gardenhire said.
The first three Minnesota home runs came off Bruce Chen (7-7),
who had mostly breezed through the first five innings.
Chen, who had allowed just one earned run in each of his last
two starts, gave up six earned runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Irving Falu drove in four runs for the Royals.
Reliever Jeff Gray (4-0) got the last two outs of the sixth and
the first of the seventh for Minnesota.
Brian Dozier led off the Twins' sixth with his first career
triple and scored on a squeeze bunt by Denard Span. Jamey Carroll
walked and Mauer singled up the middle before Willingham hit a
416-foot home run, his 17th of the season.
Plouffe's second home run was his 18th of the season. Thirteen
of them have come since June 1.
"I'm not trying to hit home runs. I can tell you that much,"
Span added an RBI single in the seventh.
Twins starter Francisco Liriano gave up five runs -- four earned
-- in 5 1-3 innings.
Liriano said he's been more relaxed since rejoining the rotation
in late May, which has led to greater confidence. He was that way
early, cruising through three innings but danced with danger the
The left-hander gave up a single to Billy Butler leading off the
fourth and walked Yuniesky Betancourt two batters later, prompting
a mound visit from Butera. After a single by Eric Hosmer loaded the
bases, a sacrifice fly by Brayan Pena tied it at 1. But Jason
Bourgeois struck out to end the threat.
A double play helped Liriano escape a fifth-inning jam, but he
didn't get that in the sixth.
Betancourt singled with one out and Hosmer was hit by a pitch,
before a batted ball by Pena deflected off Liriano for an infield
single to load the bases. A single by Bourgeois off the glove of
first baseman Justin Morneau scored two -- the latter on an error by
right fielder Darin Mastroianni who overran the ball.
Liriano was replaced by Gray, who promptly gave up a two-run
double to Falu to make it 5-1.
"It's just one of those days," Kansas City manager Ned Yost
Pena added an RBI single and Falu a two-run single in the ninth
against Glen Perkins.
Butler, the Royals' All-Star, was 1 for 4, including a strikeout
with two runners on in the eighth inning.
"It's a good feeling," he said of his selection. "It's just
tough when you have a game like that, it puts a damper on things.
It's an honor to do it, especially when we're hosting it, so I get
to do it in front of my hometown fans."