By Jeffrey Flanagan and Rhett Bollinger
KANSAS CITY -- Minnesota left-hander Tommy Milone threw seven strong innings, giving up just six hits and two runs, and Eduardo Escobar had three hits and three RBIs as the Twins beat the Royals, 6-2, on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Twins remain 1 1/2 games behind the Rangers for the second American League Wild Card spot. The Royals' magic number to clinch the AL Central is 15.
Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura, who in his previous five starts had posted a 1.13 ERA, gave up four runs and eight hits while striking out eight. The Royals lost their fourth straight.
"We haven't played up to our standards," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Our starting pitchers haven't been exceptional through this stretch, and offensively, we've faced some good starting pitching. Tonight Milone did a great job against us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Everyday Eduardo: Since essentially taking over as Minnesota's regular shortstop on July 28, Escobar has been one of the club's hottest hitters, batting .313 with 19 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs in 36 games. He had a big night offensively as the No. 9 hitter, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs, including a go-ahead RBI single as part of a three-run sixth.
"The most important thing is playing every day," Escobar said. "I think playing every day has been the biggest change. Your body is good and your swing is ready, so I think that's why I'm hitting good now." More >
Morales hits century mark: Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales delivered a run-scoring fielder's choice in the first inning for his 100th RBI of the season. Morales has had more than 100 RBIs only once in his career, in 2009, when he had 108 with the Angels. He also singled and scored in the seventh. More >
Mighty Milone: Milone kept the Royals off balance through seven innings for his second straight strong start. He has a 2.97 ERA over his last six outings since coming off the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 16.
"I said this after my last start, but I think the two-week stint on the DL helped me get a little bit of a refresher there," Milone said. "I'm feeling pretty strong right now, and I'm hoping to keep it up in September."
Big play at the plate: The Royals seemingly had a mini-rally going in the seventh, when Morales singled, advanced to third with one out on Mike Moustakas' single and scored on Salvador Perez's sacrifice fly. Then Paulo Orlando ripped one off the left-field wall. Left fielder Eddie Rosario threw wildly toward the cutoff man, missing him completely. Moustakas was waved in from third by third-base coach Mike Jirschele; Rosario's throw went straight to third baseman Trevor Plouffe on one hop -- Plouffe threw a strike home to nail Moustakas and end the inning.
Yost said it was a good send.
"Jirsch is back in the line [of the throw], and he saw right away that the throw was offline," Yost said. "But Plouffe made a nice play and threw him out at home."
Twins manager Paul Molitor saw it the same way.
"I think Eddie rushed it a little bit," Molitor said. "He picked it up a little quickly and tried to get in to the guy he was supposed to but missed him. [Plouffe] reacted well to the play, and we took advantage and got a big out at the plate."
"It's encouraging. You get down to this point of the year, and the guys who do their work are rewarded. You have to do maintenance to keep yourself strong to the end, and he's one of those guys, for sure." -- Molitor, on Milone
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Aaron Hicks led off the game with a homer, giving the Twins a Major League-leading eight leadoff homers this season. The Twins also lead baseball in leadoff homers dating back to 2013, with 18, three more than any other team over that span.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Right-hander Kyle Gibson starts the second game of the series at 7:10 p.m. CT. Gibson has strong career numbers against the Royals, going 5-2 with a 2.20 ERA in seven starts.
Royals: Right-hander Edinson Volquez (12-7, 3.53 ERA) takes the mound on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Volquez gave up six runs on eight hits in his most recent start, on Thursday against the Tigers.