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Ryan goes seven strong innings; Larnach and Miranda homer in Twins’ 6-5 win over Royals

There was a brief moment of concern for Twins starter Joe Ryan when he slipped on the mound in the fifth inning on Monday, throwing the ball straight into the ground. Ryan tried to wave off manager Rocco Baldelli and head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta, but they emerged from the dugout to check on him nonetheless.

It was funny, Ryan said, because he had been “talking (expletive)” about slipping on the mound and sure enough, he was the one to do it.

The duo departed soon after, clearly content with what they heard from the right-hander. The Twins certainly had to be content with what they saw from him, as well.

Ryan pitched seven innings, helping the Twins to a 6-5 win — one that got tense in the ninth inning, well after his departure — over the division-rival Kansas City Royals in the series opener at Target Field.

“He was awesome,” Baldelli said.

Ryan was tagged for just four hits in his start — three of them in the sixth inning, producing the Royals’ (34-21) only run of the day off him. He didn’t allow a walk and struck out nine.

Ryan got 15 swinging strikes in the outing, including 11 on his four-seam fastball, which accounted for 52% of his pitches. He also threw the hardest pitch of his career, which clocked in at 96.6 miles per hour.

His seven-inning start was his second consecutive outing of that length and the third time he completed seven innings in his last four starts.

“I think that’s just the nature of it — limit pitch counts and see how deep I can go in the game,” Ryan said. “That’s pretty much the goal, so definitely happy with that result.”

Ryan received his run support from a couple of big swings from third baseman Jose Miranda and outfielder Trevor Larnach. Miranda’s two-run home run off starter Alec Marsh in the third inning, a two-run shot, was tracked at 437 feet.

Larnach’s traveled even further.

After a pair of walks earlier in the inning, Larnach crushed a fastball from Marsh left over the heart of the plate to the second deck in right-center. It went 441 feet.

“He’s got good stuff,” Larnach said. “I just want to put together a good at-bat, no matter what it is that he throws. I’m just trying to be ready and prepare well.”

The Twins (6-5) tacked on a run in the eighth thanks to some shoddy defense by the Royals as they were unable to catch a couple of balls with two outs. Alex Kirilloff’s single eventually scored Max Kepler.

That run ended up being particularly important because in the ninth, the Royals put balls in play and made things interesting. After Cole Sands allowed three hits, Jhoan Duran entered with a four-run lead, needing just one out.

It didn’t come easy, but finally, after four runs had scored in the inning, Duran got Bobby Witt Jr. — the last hitter the Twins wanted to see at the plate with the lead hanging in the balance — to ground out softly to wrap up the win and his seventh save.

“They just tapped them to where we couldn’t get to them. But you have to finish the game and you have to find a way to make a play or just get the last out,” Baldelli said. “There was a little more drama than most 6-(1) games when you go into the ninth inning may have but I liked the way that we just kept going.”

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