By Jeffrey Flanagan and Rhett Bollinger
KANSAS CITY -- Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson continued his mastery of the Royals by humming through eight scoreless innings and allowing just four singles in a 2-0 win on Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals lost their fourth straight as the Twins moved 3 1/2 games out of first in the American League Central.
"They all sting," Royals manager Ned Yost said, "but sometimes you just got to tip your cap to the other team."
Gibson entered the game with a 4-2 career mark against the Royals and a 2.68 ERA. He walked four and struck out seven.
"I wouldn't say that we needed to come out and make a statement because it's just July, but any time you're facing a team above in your division, it's an important game," Gibson said. "You have to win games like that so it was a good win for us."
The Twins scored the game's first run in the fifth. Kurt Suzuki led off with a double against Royals starter Chris Young. After a sacrifice, Danny Santana stroked a triple into the left-center field gap.
Young gave up six hits and one run in 5 1/3 innings.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Gibson great over eight: Gibson cruised through seven scoreless innings, outside of loading the bases in the fourth, but he found himself in trouble in the eighth. Omar Infante led with a single and pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson stole second to give the Royals a runner in scoring position with none out. Gibson walked Mike Moustakas with one out, to put two runners on, but he struck out Lorenzo Cain and got Eric Hosmer to ground out to second to get out of the jam. It was an impressive showing for Gibson, who threw 114 pitches, which was the second most in his career. More >
"My thoughts were more on the way Gibson threw the ball more than our offensive output," Yost said. "He did a really nice job tonight executing pitches. He has tremendous run on his fastball. He started in on lefties and run it back to the corner, or start even in farther trying to get us to bite on balls off the plate.
"Same way to righties, he'd start on the corner and run off, or he'd start it outside and run it back over. Mixed in nice sliders. I think we had, really, two run-scoring opportunities: one with the bases loaded and two outs, and then one there in the eighth inning. He just made quality pitches in those spots."
Santana's triple provides lead: Suzuki led off the fifth with a double and set the stage for an RBI triple from Santana after a sacrifice bunt from Escobar. It was the team-leading fourth triple for Santana, but his first since May 15. But Santana was stranded at third, as Brian Dozier popped out and Torii Hunter grounded out to end the inning.
"He hasn't had a lot of success with runners at third with less than two outs, in general, but he made sure he got a pitch elevated," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's what you like to see, going to the opposite gap."
Morales keeps it close: Royals left-hander Franklin Morales did a fantastic job in relief. After Young gave up a single, a wild pitch and a sacrifice bunt in the sixth, Morales came in with a runner on third and one out. With the infield in, Morales struck out Eddie Rosario. Then, Morales struck out Sano to end the threat.
"I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but he'll never forget it. It's just the way it worked out." -- Molitor, on Sano's first hit being an infield single
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Sano became the first Twins player to make a Major League debut as a designated hitter since Randy Ruiz in 2008. It was also just the eighth time in franchise history a player debuted as a DH. At 22 years and 52 days old, he also became the 10th youngest DH in club history.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Left-hander Tommy Milone will start the second of a four-game set against the Royals on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Milone has been impressive since rejoining the rotation in June, posting a 2.03 ERA in five starts.
Royals: Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie gets the ball for the rematch on Friday at Kauffman Stadium. Guthrie is coming off a 5-3 win at Oakland in which he struck out a season-high seven batters in six innings. He has a 1.88 ERA over his last four home starts.