By Rhett Bollinger and Jeffrey Flanagan
MINNEAPOLIS -- Eduardo Nunez, Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano homered to help the Twins avoid a sweep at the hands of the Royals with a 7-5 victory in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon at Target Field.
The Twins jumped on right-hander Dillon Gee early, as Nunez and Dozier hit back-to-back homers to open the top of the first. Sano later gave the Twins the lead in the fifth with a two-run shot to knock Gee from the game. Gee lasted four-plus innings, surrendering six runs (five earned) on 10 hits and a walk.
"I mean, it definitely [stinks]," Gee said. "You know you put your team behind the eight ball early.
"I just didn't make good pitches there. When I made mistakes, they hammered them."
Right-hander Tyler Duffey gave up five runs in the fourth, but was able to get through 6 2/3 innings to pick up the win -- and become the first Twins starter to win two games this season. He was hurt by a two-run double from Eric Hosmer, an RBI double from Salvador Perez and an RBI triple from Omar Infante.
Duffey exited with two outs in the seventh with two runners on, but Trevor May was able to strike out Lorenzo Cain to get out of the jam. The Twins added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning on a two-out RBI single from Byung Ho Park.
"It's good to win a game," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Our homestand was mostly a struggle, going 2-5. But we've had a lot of series where the disappointing aspect has been sweeps. We try to salvage something, but we haven't really found a way to do that. So to come back and find a way to win a game today was good."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Twins go back-to-back: Nunez and Dozier combined to open the first inning with consecutive homers off Gee. It marked the second time this season the Twins hit back-to-back homers. It was also the fifth time in franchise history the Twins opened with consecutive homers, and the first time since June 9, 2014, when Danny Santana and Dozier did it against the Blue Jays.
"I didn't make very good pitches today," Gee said. "I battled with command. I'd make some good pitches, strike some guys out, then I'd make some bad ones. Like that all day."
Big fourth: The Royals were quiet against Duffey until the fourth, when they erupted for five runs. Hosmer laced an opposite-field two-run double to score rookie Whit Merrifield and Cain, and Hosmer scored the tying run at the time on an RBI double from Perez, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Perez scored on Infante's triple, and Infante scored on a wild pitch.
The Royals still won their fourth straight series and went 4-2 on the road trip.
"It was a great road trip," manager Ned Yost said. "You look at our offense, and it is swinging the bats really, really well. And I think our pitching was good this road trip. I mean, we had a hiccup today. The bullpen has been fantastic. Our bullpen is pretty much back to full strength, too."
Sano doubter: With the Twins trailing by one in the fifth inning, Sano crushed a two-run blast to left to give Minnesota the lead and knock Gee from the game. It was the first homer since May 17 for Sano, who was in a 2-for-22 slump before the two-run shot. It was also the hardest-hit ball by exit velocity by Sano this year, as it left the bat at 111.9 mph and went a projected 439 feet, per Statcast™.
"I'm really excited to be able to hit the ball like that and help the team win today," Sano said. "I feel really happy. I want to be able to help the team 100 percent."
Big miscue: The Royals gave away a run in the second. Eduardo Escobar hit a short pop fly into right field that Infante tried to track. Right fielder Paulo Orlando came in and appeared to call for the ball. But when Infante backed away, the ball dropped between the two. Infante was charged with an error. Escobar then went to third when Gee made a wild pickoff throw to first, and he wound up scoring on Santana's single.
"I called it, but I think I called it too late," Orlando said.
"It feels a lot better in here after a win. We played a lot better baseball today. It's obviously always good to score early, and you see the life and some of the swagger come back. We felt that from the first inning. It was good to see." -- Dozier
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Twins entered the game a combined 0-17 against the division-rival Royals, White Sox and Tigers, and they snapped an eight-game losing streak to Kansas City dating back to last year with the win.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: The Royals return home to open a four-game series with the White Sox beginning on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. CT. Left-hander Danny Duffy (0-0, 2.13 ERA) makes his third start this season as he transitions from the bullpen. His pitch count will now be about 70-75.
Twins: After an off-day on Thursday, the Twins head to Seattle for a three-game series that begins on Friday at 9:10 p.m. CT. Lefty Pat Dean is set to make his second career start. He fared well in his first outing against the Blue Jays on Saturday, allowing two runs on three hits over six innings.