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Twins walk over error-prone Royals

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins got timely hitting and a great start from pitcher Ricky Nolasco in their 7-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday at Target Field.

The Twins scored six runs in the second inning, capitalizing on two Royals errors, to build an early lead.

After a leadoff home run by Twins second baseman Brian Dozier in the first inning, Minnesota blew the game open in the second.

Royals right-hander James Shields allowed back-to-back singles to open the inning before committing an error on catcher Kurt Suzuki's sacrifice bunt. With the bases loaded, Shields walked the No. 8 batter, Aaron Hicks, to make it 2-0.

After a strikeout, Kansas City had a chance to get out of trouble when Dozier hit a sharp grounder right at Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. But instead of starting a potential inning-ending double play, Moustakas booted the ball into left field, scoring two runs.

"Walks always kill you, errors kill you, especially at this level," Dozier said. "The last few games, we've done a good job of (taking advantage)."

First baseman Joe Mauer capped the inning by blasting a home run over the wall in right, his first of the season, to make it 7-0.

"I was trying to go down and away and get a ground ball," Shields said. "Even though it was a 3-2 count, I was trying to go change-up down and away and just hung it to him. He's a good enough hitter, he's going to hit that every time."

After struggling badly in his first two starts as a Twin, Nolasco showed why the club signed him to a four-year, $49 million contract over the winter. He went eight innings, allowing one run on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts.

"I thought I had better command of the fastball today and that's what it kind of started with," Nolasco said. "Doing a good job of staying closed on the front side, something I hadn't been doing in my last start and just getting on top of the ball a little bit better and keeping it down."

Three of the five hits Nolasco (1-1) allowed came in the top of the fifth, when the Royals strung together two doubles and an infield single to push their lone run across.

His rocky second inning aside, Shields was solid. He retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced and came within one out of a quality start. He allowed seven runs, but only one of them was earned, over 5 2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked three.

The elixir for struggling Twins pitching has been the Royals' offense. After getting only one quality start in its first eight games, Minnesota has seen two in a row. Kansas City has scored two runs in two games against the Twins and their 29 runs this season are the fewest in the American League.

"We're just not getting the job done," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "But that will turn around quick. The thing about offense is it can turn in a day. Nolasco pitched a good game today, changed speeds, kept the ball down, was ahead in the count. We're just not firing on all cylinders right now."

After snapping a three-game losing streak on Friday, the Twins will go for the series sweep of the Royals on Sunday. Minnesota will start right-hander Kevin Correia (0-1, 6.17 ERA) against Kansas City left-hander Jason Vargas (1-0, 1.20).

NOTES: The Twins placed OF Josh Willingham on the 15-day disabled list before Saturday's game and recalled RHP Michael Tonkin from Triple-A Rochester. Tonkin will provide an overworked Twins bullpen with an extra arm. ... Before the game, the Royals recalled LHP Danny Duffy from Triple-A Omaha. He replaced 2B Johnny Giavotella, who was recalled earlier in the week with uncertainty surrounding 2B Omar Infante after he was hit in the jaw by a pitch. Giavotella was optioned to Omaha. ... Twins 1B Joe Mauer's second-inning home run was his first dating back to last Aug. 16. ... 2B Brian Dozier's leadoff home run was his second leadoff shot of the season and fifth of his career. Dozier has four of Minnesota's nine home runs this season. ... Five of Kansas City's six hits were doubles. The other was an infield single.
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