Trevor Plouffe had three extra-base hits for the first time in his career, supplying the early damage with a two-run double in the first. But there was a scary moment for the Twins in the fifth when the Royals, down 5-0, mounted a stubborn rally against Hughes, who hadn't gone past five innings in any of his three previous starts.
The Royals had a run in with two on when Salvador Perez smashed a ball up the middle that looked like an RBI single off the bat. But second baseman Brian Dozier made a diving stop and glove-hand flip to start a double play that picked up the Twins, and Hughes in particular.
"That's a game-changer," Plouffe said. "That's what [Dozier] brings to the table defensively. I thought he should have won a Gold Glove last year. He's a guy who can make that type of play."
Dozier was shading Perez up the middle, but the ball was hit so hard that only Dozier's quick reaction saved him on the play.
"Salvador has been hitting the ball really well," Dozier said. "He hit it hard and those are fun plays. It was a play to get us out of the inning. It could have been a big inning."
With that reprieve, Hughes was able to go six innings before Alcides Escobar's two-run homer finished him in the seventh. Hughes still left with a five-run cushion, and the bullpen unit of Brian Duensing, Casey Fien and Glen Perkins was rock solid down the stretch.
Hughes picked up a win for the first time since last July 2 with the Yankees. He dropped his final seven decisions with New York last year and was 0-1 with the Twins prior to Sunday.
"This being my first [win] with a new team, it's special," Hughes said. "I'll definitely remember this one."
Hughes escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the second when he got Nori Aoki to fly out. Then Dozier gave Hughes the big defensive boost in the fifth when the Royals were angling for a big comeback.
"Dozier made a great play and it picked us up and gave us momentum," Hughes said. "Then we scored a few more runs."
Royals manager Ned Yost just wished he could have seen how the game would have unfolded if the Perez smash in the fifth had gone past Dozier's glove. Kansas City would have been within three runs with runners at first and third and only one out.
"There's no telling what would have happened if that ball goes through right there," Yost said.
Ventura started the game with a 0.69 ERA, but lasted just four innings. He was lifted after allowing six hits and four walks. Hughes left after allowing nine hits and one walk in his six innings. The two-run homer by Escobar convinced Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to call on his bullpen.
"Our guys made Ventura work a little bit and throw some pitches," Gardenhire said. "He throws the living fire out of the ball. We got a couple of runs early, which was huge. And Hughes did a nice job of getting us deeper into the game."
The Twins gave Hughes a baseball in honor of his first win as a Twin. He threw 23 of 27 first-pitch strikes.
"That's what I try to do," Hughes said. "Just attack the hitter and get ahead. Sometimes, I catch a little too much of the plate, but I like to avoid walks and avoid falling behind. It's definitely nice to get that one. Hopefully, I can get on a run and pick up a few more."