The Kansas City Royals' hot streak not coincidentally coincides with Alcides Escobar's blistering bat.
Escobar had two hits and two RBIs and Scott Alexander picked up his first major league victory as the Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 6-2 on Sunday.
The Royals have won 15 of 21 games to move a game above .500 and into a tie with the Twins for second place in the American League Central.
Escobar went 7-for-16 with four extra-base hits, including a home run, with seven RBIs and scored four runs in the four-game series. He has raised his average 50 points since June 13 from .180 to .230, going 27-for-71, .380, in that 19-game span with the Royals winning 13.
"I'm trying to hit the ball to the other side, just waiting more for the ball and feeling more comfortable right now," Escobar said. "More comfortable, more patient, just looking for a strike in the strike zone."
"When I try to go the other way my hands are always inside the ball. When I try to hit on top of the ball I hit a ground ball to third base. When my hands are inside I hit the ball up the middle."
Escobar doubled in Ramon Torres and scored on Whit Merrifield's double in a three-run third. Escobar's single in the fifth scored Jorge Soler, who led off the inning with a double.
Travis Wood, who was making his first start since Sept. 19, 2015 while with the Chicago Cubs and 108 relief appearances, was pulled after 81 pitches and four-plus innings. He had not thrown more than 49 pitches in an outing this year and that's the most pitches he had thrown in a game since 97 on May 14, 2015.
Wood was removed in the fifth after facing three batters and retiring none. Brian Dozier and Robbie Grossman had RBI-singles in the inning.
Alexander (1-2) replaced Wood and induced Eduardo Escobar to ground into an inning ending double play with the bases loaded.
"That was huge," Alexander said.
After throwing 30 pitches Saturday, Alexander threw 33 more over two scoreless innings to pick up the victory in his 42nd career appearance. He got a game ball.
Merrifield had three hits, including two doubles, scored a run, drove in a run and stole three bases.
Hector Santiago (4-8) was charged with four runs on four hits, a hit batter and a walk. He was pulled after 3 1/3 innings and 58 pitches.
"Short on the pitch count," Santiago said. "I definitely didn't see that coming, for sure. I don't know exactly what went into all that. Obviously coming back, short start last time, only about 40/50 pitches. So, kind of maybe something between that. I thought I was throwing the ball well."
In his last three starts, Santiago has a 12.38 ERA, allowing 11 earned runs in eight innings. He is 0-7 in his past eight outings and missed three weeks in June with a shoulder strain.
Twins manager Paul Molitor noted Santiago's velocity diminished. He missed three weeks in June with a shoulder strain.
"I thought there would be more in there, especially after the velocity we saw in Boston," Molitor said. "It was down today, for whatever reason. Whether he choose to try to have more command or whatever, it was obvious to everybody it was down."
ROYALS LINEUP ALTERATIONS
Gordon started in center field for only the second time in his career, while Brandon Moss was the Royals' starting first baseman for the second time this season. 1B Eric Hosmer was the DH for the third time this year. CF Lorenzo Cain, who played in every June game and in both games Saturday, was rested. Cain was the Royals player of the month, hitting .333 with eight home runs and 26 runs in June.
Royals: A MRI revealed LHP Matt Strahm has a torn left patella tendon. Strahm will seek a second opinion. The Royals won't know the severity or recovery timetable until after the second opinion. Manager Ned Yost said he is not sure Strahm will require surgery. Strahm said his knee popped while jumping for a chopper over his head Saturday. "I'm just trying to manage the pain," Strahm said.
The Royals optioned rookie LHP Eric Skoglund to Triple-A Omaha after the game. Skoglund was recalled Friday, but did not pitch in the four-game series.
Royals: RHP Ian Kennedy was scheduled to draw the starting assignment Monday at Seattle.