Frank Viola pitched a six-hitter and Kent Hrbek and Tom Brunansky hit consecutive seventh-inning homers as the Minnesota Twins regained first place in the American League West last night with a 5-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals in Minneapolis.
Viola (16-12) walked two batters and struck out nine to beat fellow left-hander Charlie Leibrandt (9-7). The Twins, with their second straight victory over the Royals, moved one game ahead of Kansas City. The teams play again tonight.
"People don't believe we can do it, but we know we can, and we don't want to prove anything because the darker it is, the easier it is to sneak up on someone," Hrbek said.
The Twins scored the first run in the third inning when Tim Teufel doubled and scored on Mickey Hatcher's single.
With two outs in the seventh, Teufel doubled and again scored on a single by Hatcher. Hrbek then hit a line drive into the right-center field gap and circled the bases for an inside-the-park home run. It was his 25th homer of the season.
Brunansky hit the next pitch into the left field seats for his 30th homer and a 5-0 Minnesota lead.
Brunansky said, "On my home run, all I had to do was jog. The fans like to see Herbie (Hrbek) run. To watch Herbie pass out in the bat room was kind of fun, too."
Hatcher, a .306 hitter, is now nine for nine with three walks and 13 RBI when he's batted in the seventh inning or later with runners in scoring position.
Kansas City scored its run on a sacrifice fly in the ninth by Don Slaught.
Royals Manager Dick Howser said pitching, not home run power, is the Twins' strength. "Their top three pitchers (Viola, Mike Smithson and John Butcher) are as good as anybody we've seen in any division," he said. "That's why they are leading -- their pitching staff."