MINNEAPOLIS -- He might look more like a fullback than a baseball player. His resume might read more "suspect" than "prospect." But Willians Astudillo has become something of a folk hero in Minnesota, and on Sunday he rewarded Twins fans for their support.
Astudillo hit a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning that gave Minnesota a 3-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
Max Kepler doubled off Jason Hammel (2-13) with two outs in the Twins ninth. Astudillo then hit a drive deep to left field for his third home run of the season, touching off a raucous celebration at home plate.
The 5-foot-9 Astudillo is conservatively listed at 225 pounds, but he's a better athlete than his frame might suggest. In two stints with the Twins this year, the 26-year-old rookie has started games at catcher, second base and third base. He played left field and center field in his major league debut at Wrigley Field. And he's even pitched an inning.
But he's most known for his aggressive, contact-heavy approach at the plate. In 38 plate appearances with the Twins he's yet to draw a walk, and he's only struck out twice. It's a pattern that he's followed throughout his minor league career, which has already spanned four franchises.
"I just go out there with a plan to make good contact, a good pitch, specifically a good pitch," said Astudillo, who took a pitch in the dirt before jumping on a hanging slider from Hammel.
Twins manager Paul Molitor admitted he considered using catcher Mitch Garver to pinch-hit for Astudillo.
"I'm glad I paused," Molitor said, "because it worked out pretty good."
"He's probably going to put it in play, and you hope he finds a hole. And as it turns out he hits it over the fence, so that was a bonus," he said.
Trevor Hildenberger (4-3) got two outs to pick up the win.
Adalberto Mondesi homered for the Royals, who were held to three hits on the day. The closest they came to a rally was in the third inning, when an error and two walks filled the bases. But Hunter Dozier grounded out to end the threat.
"We had the bases loaded looking for a clutch hit, and we couldn't get it," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Just not a lot going on offensively for us out there."
Royals starter Ian Kennedy made his first appearance after missing two months with a strained oblique. He ended up throwing 93 pitches over six innings, allowing one run on four hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
Zack Littell followed De Jong for the Twins and gave up Mondesi's tying home run in the sixth but was otherwise sharp, allowing just two runners in 3 1/3 innings.
An estimated 300 fans arrived more than three hours before the first pitch to watch Twins reliever Trevor May show off his skills against some elite competition. But May wasn't on the mound. He was playing the video game Fortnite, with the action being streamed on the Target Field video board.
May, an avid video game player who is a brand ambassador for a professional e-sports organization, squared off against three pro gamers in a Fortnite streaming party. Garver served as the emcee, interviewing the players and answering fans' questions during the one-hour event.
Twins: 3B Miguel Sano missed his fourth straight game with a lower left leg contusion.
Twins' Joe Mauer on retirement: 'Risk of concussion is always there'
Twins veteran Joe Mauer, the 2009 AL MVP and the only catcher to ever win three batting titles, has announced his retirement. The six-time All-Star played 15 seasons.
J.P. Ricciardi leaving Mets after eight seasons
J.P. Ricciardi, who has served as special assistant to Mets GM Sandy Alderson for eight seasons, is leaving the team and is free to take a job with other teams.
Olney: Cubs 'more open to talks' for Bryant
ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Cubs will be listening to offers for former MVP Kris Bryant and may trade him as soon as this winter.
Cubs open to trading 3B Kris Bryant
As part of their early offseason discussions, the Cubs have indicated to other teams they are willing to discuss trade proposals for almost all of the players on their roster, including 3B Kris Bryant, according to sources.
A Corey Kluber blockbuster? These teams might be in the mix
The Indians are open to trade offers -- even for their ace. Adding Kluber to one of these clubs could help shift the balance of power in 2019 and beyond.
NL West offseason preview: Will Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado be dealt?
Will franchise faces Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado be traded? How will the Dodgers get back to the World Series? We size up the NL West.