MINNEAPOLIS — The Kansas City Royals reclaimed first place with a resounding three-game sweep on the road of division rival Minnesota.
The Twins were beaten so soundly, well, they lost their shirt.
One of them, at least.
Alex Gordon hit a three-run homer, Edinson Volquez struck out six batters over seven innings and the Kansas City Royals beat the Twins 7-2 on Wednesday, a night spiced up in the eighth inning by an ejection of Torii Hunter that prompted an equipment-throwing tantrum by the Minnesota star.
"You know what he's trying to do. He's trying to fire everybody up and get 'em going," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "They've been in a little slow bat period themselves, and he's trying to get everybody fired up and get 'em going. It's a bit entertaining."
Hunter was heaved by home plate umpire Mark Ripperger for arguing a called third strike. Hunter had to be restrained briefly, before yanking off his elbow pad, shin guard and batting gloves and throwing them around the batter's box area.
Then Hunter ripped off his jersey and hurled that over the first-base line, before retreating to the dugout.
"We have bad days, all of us, as hitters, pitchers. Even umpires have bad days, and he had one," Hunter said.
Hunter has long been a fiery player, but his blow-up likely wouldn't have happened had the Twins not been swept at home for the first time this season. Manager Paul Molitor was given his first career ejection during the conflict, too.
Was that satisfying to see for the Royals, who arrived at Target Field on Monday trailing the Twins by one game in the American League Central?
"No, I find satisfaction in winning baseball games. To get out of town sweeping the series, it's a good feeling," Yost said.
The Twins scored 11 runs while stumbling to a 1-5 record on this home-stand. They hadn't been swept since the opening series of the season at Detroit.
Volquez (5-4) pitched the Royals to victory by reaching the seven-inning mark for only the second time in his last nine starts. He scattered seven singles, walking two.
"With our pitching staff, the way they've done it the past three games makes our offense feel comfortable even though we're not scoring a lot of runs," Gordon said.
The Royals went 2-9 over an 11-game stretch until Sunday. Now they've won four in a row.
"You're going to have slumps throughout the season. It's how you respond to it," Gordon said. "We kept our heads up. It was frustrating at times, but we knew we were going to get out of it and play some better baseball, and that's what we're doing now."
Kyle Gibson (4-4) found a groove after Gordon's big hit, finishing six innings with six strikeouts while allowing five hits and two walks, but he had little help. Plouffe, whose triple in the seventh was Minnesota's only hit against Chris Young the night before, homered off Luke Hochevar in the eighth.
Gibson had a 2.03 ERA in the five previous starts of his career against the Royals, and he was in command again.
Except for that first inning.
Eric Hosmer's single drove in the first run. With two outs and a full count, Gibson left enough of a changeup over the plate for Gordon to drive it into the right-field seats for a 4-0 lead. The Royals stretched their lead with two of their three unearned runs in the seventh against J.R. Graham, including an RBI single by Mike Moustakas.
Kansas City: The Royals must decide on Thursday whether to keep Drew Butera or return Aaron Kratz as catcher Salvador Perez's backup, when Kratz's rehabilitation assignment for a foot injury expires.
Minnesota: Shortstop Jorge Polanco went 1 for 3 with a walk in his season debut and was charged with one of three errors by the Twins. He was returned to Double-A Chattanooga after the game. Outfielder Eddie Rosario is expected from paternity leave on Friday.
Kansas City: The Royals start a three-game intrastate, interleague series against St. Louis after a day off. Yordano Ventura (3-5, 4.62 ERA) will pitch for the Royals on Friday, opposite Jaime Garcia (1-3, 2.67 ERA) of the Cardinals.
Minnesota: After an off day, the Twins travel to Texas for a three-game series. Tommy Milone (2-1, 4.55 ERA) will start on Friday for the Twins against fellow Wandy Rodriguez (3-2, 3.25 ERA) of the Rangers.