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Twins rally to edge Royals, take three of four from AL Central rival

Carlos Correa hit a bases-clearing triple in a four-run sixth inning as the Twins rallied from a three-run deficit to beat the Kansas City Royals, 7-6, on Thursday in front of an announced crowd of 22,542 at Target Field.

Ryan Jeffers hit a pair of home runs and drove in three for the Twins, who took three of four from the American League Central Division rivals. Minnesota has won seven of its past nine games and starts a three-game series at Houston on Friday night.

“It was an important series for us,” said Correa. “It’s a division rival that has been playing great and looks like one of the best teams in the league. They pitched real well. They’ve got a great pitching staff. They play defense. They do the little things great. That’s why they’ve been so successful this year.

“For us to take three out of four, it definitely is meaningful. Moving forward, we have a couple good series coming up, so it gives you confidence and gives you momentum. It’s always great.”

Twins relievers Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Alcala and Griffin Jax combined to throw 2⅓ scoreless innings before closer Jhoan Duran came on for the ninth. The heat-throwing right-hander allowed a two-run single to Bobby Witt Jr. before retiring Vinnie Pasquantino on a comebacker to end the game and earn his ninth save.

Duran has earned the save in his past three appearances but has allowed a combined five hits and a walk. The first two batters reached on Thursday, one on an error after Kyle Isbel tapped back to the mound. It was assessed to first baseman Carlos Santana, but the throw wasn’t great.

“He’s had about four, at least, tappers right back to the mound,” manager Rocco Baldelli said of Duran. “Those are effective pitches. Those are quality pitches; he’s getting good results on them. We have to turn those into outs.”

The Royals took a 4-0 lead on a two-run homer by Vinnie Pasquatino in the first, a run-scoring double by Witt Jr. in the third and a solo home run by MJ Melendez in the fourth before the Twins began to chip away.

Twins starter Chris Paddack was tagged for all four runs but settled down enough late to keep his team in it.

“Just excited that we won as a team,” Paddack said. “Being down 4-0 against a division rival like that, that’s been playing some good baseball over there, it just says a lot about our team here that we’re able to come back when we’re down.”

In the fourth inning, Jeffers hit a two-run home run off substitute starter Daniel Lynch IV after Correa reached on an error by Royals third baseman Maikel Garcia to cut the lead in half. His solo homer in the fifth made it 4-3.

Jeffers, the designated hitter on Thursday with Christian Vazquez behind the plate, leads the Twins with 12 homers but hadn’t hit one since May 13, a total of 13 games.

“I know I’ve been close for a little while now,” Jeffers said. “To get some results felt really good.”

Minnesota sent nine batters to the plate in the sixth to finally take a lead, and control, against right-hander Chris Stratton.

Pinch-hitter Max Kepler tied the game with a single that scored Willi Castro, who reached on an infield single and went to second on a throwing error by shortstop Witt Jr. The Twins then loaded the bases on walks by Santana and Manny Margot to bring up Correa.

The veteran shortstop hit a long liner foul down the left field line before stroking a 3-1 pitch from Stratton down the right field line to clear the bases and make it 7-4.

“When I was ahead in the count, they were throwing me a lot of offspeed,” Correa said. “When I was behind, they would throw me fastballs. I knew the slider was a possibility after the 2-0 slider, (so) 3-1 could have been a possibility. I just try to hit a low line drive the other way, try to stay on everything. It worked out. So, boom.”

Stratton (0-4) took the loss, charged with four earned runs on three hits and two walks in relief of Lynch, a right-hander who was recalled from Class AAA Omaha to start after lefty Brady Singer was scratched because of illness.

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