Thursday June 20, 1985
Kansas City, MO
Just a few months removed from a season in which the Twins were in contention until the last weekend, the wheels seemed to be coming off. Manager Billy Gardner’s job seemed to be hanging by a thread as the Twins limped to a 26-35 record on June 20, 1985. They sat in sixth place of a seven-team division, 8.5 games behind the first-place White Sox. June 20th marked the last game of a nine-game road trip. After winning the first two games, the Twins had won just once in the last six games, including three consecutive losses to Kansas City heading into the fourth of a four-game series.
For the Royals’ part, they couldn’t have been happier to see the struggling Twins come to town. At the start of the series, Kansas City sat with a 30-30 record. Though only three games out of first at that time, they were coming off a West Coast swing in which they won just four out of ten games. Taking the first three from the Twins seemed to have put the defending AL West Champions back on track.
The lineups posted for the fourth game of the series:
Minnesota Twins Kansas City Royals 1. K Puckett CF 1. W Wilson CF 2. R Washington 3B 2. L Smith LF 3. M Hatcher LF 3. G Brett 3B 4. T Brunansky RF 4. J Orta DH 5. K Hrbek 1B 5. F White 2B 6. R Smalley DH 6. D Motley RF 7. T Teufel 2B 7. S Balboni 1B 8. G Gagne SS 8. J Sundberg C 9. T Laudner C 9. B Biancalana SS J Butcher P C Leibrandt P
Both teams scored in the first inning. The Twins struck first when a Tom Brunansky single plated Ron Washington from second. The Royals came back in their half of the inning when a lead off triple by Willie Wilson became a run on a sacrifice fly.
The Twins scored two in the third, and the Royals answered with one in their half of the inning to make the score 3-2. The Twins got a solo home run from Tim Laudner as part of a two-run fourth that pushed their lead to 5-2. That is when John Butcher really ran into some difficulty.
After the first Kansas City batter in the fourth popped out, Steve Balboni doubled off of Butcher. With two outs, Buddy Biancalana singled to push Balboni to third. Wilson followed with an RBI single, and Lonnie Smith singled to load the bases for George Brett to clear them with a rare three-run single. The four-run inning ended John Butcher’s night and put the Royals ahead 6-5.
The respective bullpens were able to settle things down a bit, though the Royals did add a couple of runs to the lead in the sixth. Down 8-5 in the seventh, the Twins went to work, possibly with the motivation of saving their manager’s job. Mike LaCoss, who had been solid in relief for the past couple of innings, walked the first three men he faced in the seventh. With the bases loaded Tim Teufel singled off of Joe Beckwith to score Tom Brunansky and to cut into the Royals’ lead. Beckwith retired the next two batter with strikeout, and looked like he might get the home team out of the seventh with the lead in tact.
It was not to be, however, as Kirby Puckett cleared the bases with a triple.
The Twins added two in the ninth, including another Puckett RBI, to eventually win the game 11-8. After Butcher’s rough start, the Twins’ bullpen settled down to hold the Royals, including a combined effort by Frank Eufemia and Len Whitehouse to hold the Royals scoreless for the final three innings.
Stars of the Game
1. Kirby Puckett MIN 4-for-6, 4 RBI
2. George Brett KC 3-for-5, 5 RBI
3. Tom Brunansky MIN 2-for-4, R, 2 RBI
The next morning it was announced that the Twins had fired Billy Gardner. A few hours later, Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller was announced as the new skipper for the team. Under Miller’s guidance, the Twins went 50-50 the rest of the way to finish 77-85, fourth in the AL West.
A week later, the Royals took two out of three in a series at the Metrodome. Though they seemed to have a relatively easy time with the Twins, Kansas City simply treaded water at about .500 until the All-Star break. From July 18th on, the Royals went 47-29 to win their second straight division title and ultimately went on to win the World Series.