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Royals' bullpen turns out the lights

The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It took only one batter for the Kansas City Royals' bullpen to find its groove. Once it did, the game was essentially over.

Royals' relief pitchers retired the final 12 Minnesota hitters to preserve Kansas City's fifth straight victory, 5-4, over the Twins on Saturday at Kauffman Stadium.

"They've been lights out," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said of his bullpen. "They're now starting to get accustomed to the season. This is as good as Wade Davis has thrown. He came out of the gate with a 95- or 96-mph fastball. (Greg Holland) was at 96 or 97. (Danny) Duffy's been great since we got him up here.

"You get these gut feelings. In the fifth inning, I looked at (pitching coach) Dave Eiland and said we were going to have to focus on protecting the one-run lead. If we get more, good. But it turned out to be true. Duffy was fantastic. He walked the first batter and then really settled down and got us two big innings."

The bullpen bailed out starter Bruce Chen (1-1), who battled through five innings, allowing eight hits and four walks, to pick up the win. The Royals' bullpen pitched four scoreless innings.

"We got the win and that's the most important thing," Chen said. "The defense did a really good job, and the bullpen was phenomenal. That's one of our strengths. I was very glad I got to contribute. We got five (wins) in a row and tomorrow we've got Yordano Ventura, which we're feeling really good about."

The Royals put five runs on the board in the fourth inning against Minnesota starter Kevin Correia (0-2). He gave up four earned runs on nine hits and two walks over six innings.

The Royals got rolling with a couple of streak breakers.

Designated hitter Billy Butler laced a double into right-center for his first extra-base hit of the season, which moved outfielder Alex Gordon to third with none out.

Third baseman Mike Moustakas scored Gordon with a sacrifice fly, then outfielder Justin Maxwell recorded his first hit -- a single -- and run batted in, tying the score.

After shortstop Alcides Escobar was hit by a pitch, outfielder Nori Aoki and second baseman Omar Infante stroked RBI singles. The Royals' fifth run -- matching a season high in one inning -- scored on a double steal by Aoki and Infante, and a throwing error by Pinto.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was clearly frustrated.

"A tough inning," Gardenhire said. "Correia battled through a lot there. Unfortunately, we misplayed a ball hit to right, went over our head.

"(Third baseman Trevor Plouffe) didn't see one down the third base line. And then we threw one away on a steal. That guy should have been dead. And there's the ballgame.'

The way the Royals' bullpen has performed of late, the five runs seemed like enough.

"As an offense, you want to extend the lead a little bit," Gordon said. "But we weren't able to do that. The bullpen really stepped up and hammered it down, with Wade, Duffy -- Duffy's been great since he came back -- and Greg."

The Royals extended a remarkable record. They are 9-0 in games in which they have scored at least four runs, and they are 0-7 in games with three or fewer runs.

"It just shows you how good our pitching is," Yost said. "Last year, our numbers were phenomenal when we scored four runs too. That's the goal every day, get to four and keep it going. But it's a tough game. There's nothing cut-and-dried about this game."

The Twins broke on top in the second.

Outfielders Chris Colabello and Jason Kubel opened the inning with singles. Chen then walked catcher Josmil Pinto to load the bases with none out.

After designated hitter Kurt Suzuki flied out to short center, Aaron Hicks walked, forcing in a run. Chen got out of further trouble by inducing a double-play grounder from shortstop Pedro Florimon.

The Twins added another run in the fourth when Suzuki yanked a home run, his first of the season, into the Royals' bullpen in left field.

After the Royals' fourth, the Twins came right back with two runs in the top of the fifth.

First baseman Joe Mauer led off with a bunt single and third baseman Trevor Plouffe doubled. Chen struck out Colabello, walked Kubel and struck out Pinto.

Suzuki then rolled one barely past Escobar, driving in Mauer and Plouffe.

But that was as close as the Twins could get, thanks to another lights out effort by the Kansas City bullpen.

NOTES: Twins 1B Joe Mauer celebrated his 31st birthday Saturday. He played on his birthday for the sixth time. He was 5-for-17 (.294) in his previous five birthday games, and he went 1-for-5 on Saturday. ... Saturday was the 13th day game for the Twins (out of 17). Minnesota entered the game 6-6 in day games and 2-2 in night games. ... Kansas City was 64-13 when scoring four or more runs last season and 22-63 when scoring three or fewer.

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