KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)It was a tough moment for rookie third baseman Luis Arraez.
It could have been a lot worse.
Arraez sprained his right ankle during the seventh inning of Minnesota’s 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday, leaving his status for the Twins’ AL Division Series against the New York Yankees in question.
Arraez collided with first baseman Willians Astudillo while he was chasing Hunter Dozier’s popup at the mound. Astudillo caught the ball and Arraez grabbed the back of his right leg as he tumbled to the ground.
Arraez, who is batting .334 in 92 games for the AL Central champions, had to be carted off the field. But X-rays were negative.
”He’s already in there breaking a few smiles and doing a little better than he initially thought,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. ”He was definitely scared at the time. At least we got some good initial news.”
Baldelli wouldn’t speculate on when Arraez might return. The Twins’ playoff opener is Friday in New York.
Nelson Cruz hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth for Minnesota (101-60), which has won six in a row and eight of nine overall. The Twins can match the franchise single-season record for wins set in 1965 with a victory in the finale Sunday.
Kansas City slugger Jorge Soler went deep twice to move into the AL lead with 47 homers. Soler snapped a tie with the Angels’ Mike Trout, who is out with an injury.
Soler is looking to become the Royals’ first league home-run champion. With his father, Jorge Sr., and other family members in the stands, Soler matched Rafael Palmeiro for the most homers in a season by a Cuban-born player.
”It means a lot, there’s a lot of pride tying him at 47 – for the organization, for my family, for the people of Cuba,” Soler said.
Whit Merrifield had three hits in Ned Yost’s penultimate game with Kansas City. The 65-year-old Yost is retiring after Sunday’s finale to his 10th season as Royals manager.
Soler connected in the first against Cody Stashak, sending a drive soaring over the wall in center. He added a two-run shot in the seventh against Tyler Duffey (5-1), tying it at 3.
”Cannon shots – they were just like they were shot out of a cannon,” Yost said.
Cruz then led off the eighth with a drive to left for his 41st homer on a 3-2 pitch from Jacob Barnes (1-5).
It was a bittersweet moment for Cruz after Arraez’s injury.
”It was difficult. He’s a huge part of our team,” he said. ”We’re a better team when he’s playing. Hopefully he’s ready for Friday.”
Sergio Romo worked the eighth for the Twins before Taylor Rogers got three outs for his 30th save.
Cruz has nine homers, 28 RBIs and a .371 average in 16 games against Kansas City this year.
The game ended with rain failing. The start time was moved up five hours because of thunderstorms in the forecast.
GLASS FAMILY SALUTED
Video highlights of the Glass family’s 20-year ownership of the Royals were shown on the scoreboard prior to the game, which was fan appreciation day at Kauffman Stadium.
Chairman David Glass, who plans to sell the franchise to John Sherman pending approval from other major league owners, waved and applauded his appreciation to the fans from his suite.
”It meant a lot,” Yost said. ”I got emotional for that too. We’ve gone through a lot of good times together. It was good to see him.”
Kansas City starts right-hander Jorge Lopez (4-9, 6.35 ERA) on Sunday against Twins left-hander Martin Perez (10-7, 5.13 ERA).