By Jeffrey Flanagan and Rhett Bollinger
KANSAS CITY -- Right-hander Edinson Volquez turned in seven strong innings and Eric Hosmer delivered a three-run double as the Royals snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Twins on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
With the victory, the Royals' magic number to clinch the American League Central dropped to 13. The Twins, meanwhile, fell 2 1/2 games behind the Rangers for the second Wild Card spot with Texas' 9-6 win at Seattle.
Volquez gave up six hits and two runs and didn't walk a batter. He struck out three and grabbed his 13th win of the season.
Royals manager Ned Yost was grateful for the outing.
"I thought he got settled in, in the first inning," Yost said. "He got two guys on right away and then got a big double play. I just thought he threw the ball great and got us through seven innings with the lead for our bullpen, which we haven't been able to do lately."
After a shaky start in which he gave up four first-inning runs, Twins starter Kyle Gibson shut out the Royals the rest of the way. He gave up six hits, walked two and struck out four in his first career complete game.
"He was able to show he's got heart," manager Paul Molitor said. "He's a pitch away from not recording an out and he gives us a complete game, however, on the losing end. They just ambushed us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED First-inning ambush: The Royals' stagnant offense arose in the first inning and they captured their first lead in a game since last Thursday against Detroit. Singles by Ben Zobrist and Alex Gordon on Gibson's first two pitches set up a walk to Lorenzo Cain. Then, Hosmer drilled a bases-clearing double to right-center, giving him a career-high 81 RBIs. Kendrys Morales followed with an RBI double to make it 4-0. More >
Yost said there was no actual plan to ambush Gibson by swinging early.
"You can talk about it all you want, but it doesn't happen that way," Yost said. "We just did quick damage -- four runs on something like nine pitches."
Buxton's speed sparks rally:Byron Buxton started a two-run rally in the third, when he singled with one out and stole second. Buxton scored easily on a single to left from Brian Dozier, who went to second on the throw home. Joe Mauer followed with an RBI double to bring home Dozier.
"I've only seen him a handful of times up here and that was one of his better jumps," Molitor said of Buxton's swipe. "I think he was hoping for a breaking ball on an 0-2 count, but got a fastball, and it's obviously tougher to steal on. He's fast enough to still outrun a good throw from probably the best catcher in the league."
Big play Esky: Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar made the defensive play of the game when he dived up the middle to grab a one-hop liner from Mauer, who led off the ninth. He then threw a bullet from his knees that one-hopped to first baseman Hosmer, who made a terrific scoop to just get Mauer.
"I was shading up the middle for him because he hits the ball that way," Escobar said. "It just stuck in my glove and I got enough on the throw."
Hosmer made a great scoop that he didn't take credit for.
"Nah, that was nothing," Hosmer said. "I was just finishing his play."
Gibson settles in: After allowing four runs just nine pitches into the game, Gibson was able to turn it around and get through eight innings. The right-hander gave up just two hits the rest of the way, retiring 23 of the final 25 batters he faced. More >
"He gave us a chance," Dozier said. "Sometimes, you see people lose their focus when they give up four runs in the first, but Gibby is a bulldog. He rebounded from it and kept us in the game."
"They came out swinging and I was definitely surprised. I don't think I've ever had a team do that to me that quick. It was [nine] pitches and four runs, and that's tough to do." -- Gibson
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
On Escobar's dazzling play, the Twins challenged the ruling of first-base umpire Greg Gibson, but after a review, the call was confirmed and Mauer was out.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Right-hander Mike Pelfrey (6-9, 4.17 ERA) will get the ball on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT for the finale of this three-game set at Kauffman Stadium. Pelfrey has been unable to reach the six-inning mark in five of his last six starts, giving up seven runs over four innings in his previous start on Friday against the Astros.
Royals: Right-hander Kris Medlen (3-1, 4.88) will start the series finale against Minnesota on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT before Kansas City gets an off-day on Thursday prior to opening a 10-game road trip in Baltimore. Medlen gave up seven earned runs in 5 2/3 innings last time out against the White Sox on Friday.