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Associated Press, Published July 01 2012

Plouffe homers twice as Twins topple Royals

MINNEAPOLIS – 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 disappointment.

“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 today.”

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 5Xc 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,” he said.

Span added an RBI single in the seventh.

Twins starter Francisco Liriano gave up five runs – four earned – in 5Zc innings.

Kansas City Minnesota

ab r h bi ab r h bi

AGordn lf 4 0 1 0 Span cf 3 0 1 2

AEscor ss 3 0 0 0 JCarrll 2b 3 1 0 0

Butler dh 4 1 1 0 Mauer dh 4 1 1 0

Francr rf 5 0 1 0 Wlngh lf 4 1 1 3

YBtncr 3b 4 1 1 0 Mornea 1b 4 1 1 0

Hosmer 1b 4 2 3 0 Plouffe 3b 4 2 2 2

B.Pena c 4 2 2 2 Mstrnn rf 3 1 1 0

Bourgs cf 3 1 0 1 Butera c 4 1 1 3

Dyson ph-cf 1 0 0 0 Dozier ss 3 2 1 0

S.Perez ph 1 1 1 0

Falu 2b 5 0 3 4

Totals 38 8 13 7 Totals 32 10 9 10

Kansas City 000 104 003— 8

Minnesota 010 005 13x— 10

E—Bourgeois (1), Morneau (2), Mastroianni (2). DP—Minnesota 1. LOB—Kansas City 11, Minnesota 2. 2B—A.Gordon (25), S.Perez (3), Falu (4), Morneau (14). 3B—Dozier (1). HR—Willingham (17), Plouffe 2 (18), Butera (1). SB—Hosmer (8), Span (9), Dozier (4). CS—Francoeur (4). S—Span. SF—B.Pena.

IP H R ER BB SO

Kansas City

B.Chen L,7-7 5Xc 6 6 6 1 5

K.Herrera Xc 0 1 1 1 0

Mijares Xc 1 0 0 0 0

Crow 1 2 3 3 1 2

Minnesota

Liriano 5Zc 5 5 4 4 6

Gray W,4-0 1 2 0 0 1 0

T.Robertson H,1 Xc 1 0 0 0 0

Burton H,12 1 1 0 0 1 2

Perkins 1 4 3 3 0 0

HBP—by Liriano (Hosmer). WP—Liriano.

T—3:05. A—37,819 (39,500).