By Rhett Bollinger and Jeffrey Flanagan
KANSAS CITY -- Right-hander Mike Pelfrey threw seven shutout innings, while Brian Dozier and Kennys Vargas each delivered RBI singles in a three-run first as the Twins cruised to a 3-0 win over the Royals on Wednesday night.
The Royals' three-game winning streak was snapped in the finale after taking the first two games of the series at Kauffman Stadium.
Pelfrey, who entered 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA, handcuffed the Royals on five hits. He walked two and struck out four.
"Mike really picked us up," manager Paul Molitor said. "A tough loss last night and we've had trouble on the road, even though it's early. He seemed to get a little stronger. We let him ride through seven and he got through it."
Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie took the loss, going just five innings while giving up six hits and three runs. He matched a career high with six walks.
Asked what he turns to when he doesn't have much command, Guthrie grinned and said, "I turn to luck. Or guys trying to steal bases with the bases loaded."
"He did a phenomenal job of getting us through five innings, though," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Twins strike early: Minnesota got on the board in a hurry with Dozier bringing home the game's first run on an RBI single with one out in the first after Guthrie's throwing error moved runners to second and third. Vargas followed with an RBI single of his own before Oswaldo Arcia brought home a run after being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. The Twins loaded the bases again in the second, but Hunter was caught attempting to steal home to end the inning. More >
"I said he doesn't look at me, I'm going, and he didn't so I took off," Hunter said. "I saw a weak link there with his slow delivery, but he kind of sped it up and short-armed the ball. He threw it in the dirt and it was right there for [Salvador] Perez, who has a Gold Glove. But he throws it anywhere up I'm safe."
Missed chance: The Royals' best chance to do some damage came in the fifth. With one out, Christian Colon singled and went to second on a wild pitch. Alcides Escobar blooped a single to left-center, pushing Colon to third. Escobar stole second, but with the infield back, Mike Moustakas hit a harmless pop to short left. Lorenzo Cain was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Then, Eric Hosmer, who walked three times on Tuesday night and once more in this game, got ahead in the count, 3-1, against Pelfrey. But Hosmer then hit a grounder that one-hopped over the bag at first -- it was ruled fair and first baseman Mauer made an easy play. Hosmer stood in disbelief, thinking the ball should have been ruled foul.
"I thought it might be foul," Hosmer said. "I know [Mauer] caught it in foul territory, but it might have gone over the bag fair."
Pelfrey deals: It had been quite some time since Pelfrey threw at least seven innings with no earned runs, as it last happened on Sept. 14, 2011, while he was with the Mets. So Wednesday's outing marked the best performance for Pelfrey since he joined the Twins in 2013. The right-hander scattered five hits and two walks with four strikeouts to get his first win since Aug. 20, 2013. More >
"He just had a real good two-seamer working," Hosmer said. "And he got his changeup over for strikes, so you couldn't really cheat as much on the two-seamer."
Pino stellar in relief: Add right-hander Yohan Pino to the mix of weapons at manager Ned Yost's disposal. Pino, just called up last week, has thrown 7 2/3 scoreless innings in two long relief outings, including three with four strikeouts against the Twins. After 10 years in the Minors, Pino made his Major League debut last season with the Minnesota before signing as a free agent with the Royals over the winter. Pino enjoyed pitching against his old teammates.
"I played with those guys all last year," he said. "But now I'm with a new team and I'll try to help them." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Hunter was attempting to become the first Twins player with a straight steal of home since Rich Becker on Sept. 27, 1997. It's been done just 10 times in franchise history.
The last Royals opponent to steal home was a guy named, ahem, Brett Lawrie, exactly three years ago on Wednesday. Lawrie was then a member of the Blue Jays.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: The Twins head to Seattle for a three-game series starting on Friday night at 9:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Phil Hughes, Minnesota's best starter last season, is still searching for his first win of the season. But he'll be going up against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
Royals:The Royals open a four-game set at U.S. Cellular against the White Sox on Thursday in a 7:10 p.m. CT start. Right-hander Yordano Ventura makes his first start since being ejected Saturday from the Oakland game when he hit Lawrie with a pitch. Ventura, who was fined an undisclosed amount, is 2-1 with a 4.80 ERA.