Kansas City, Mo. It seemed as though the Kansas City Royals had a perfect chance to climb in the standings.
The Minnesota Twins came to Kauffman Stadium with the worst record in the majors and eight players, including Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome and Francisco Liriano, on the disabled list. Plus, Justin Morneau and Denard Span did not play the final two games of the series because of injuries.
Instead, the Twins capped a four-game sweep of the Royals with a 6-0 victory Sunday. Brian Duensing and Matt Capps combined on a seven-hitter, and Jason Repko drove in three runs.
“It’s a good time to take advantage and we didn’t,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “The Minnesota Twins came in here with all their stars gone, all their big players out of the lineup and kind of a mix-and-match lineup, if you will, and they kicked our tails four straight. They did it. They came in and they weren’t playing great baseball.”
All three Twins runs in the first inning were unearned after Eric Hosmer’s throwing error to second on Alexi Casilla’s bunt.
“I was maybe just a little too aggressive right there,” said Hosmer, a rookie first baseman. “I should have taken the safe route and got the out. That’s things I’ve got to learn.”
Losing pitcher Jeff Francis (2-6) needed 29 pitches to get out of the first, but allowed just one more run and made it through seven innings.
“I wasn’t too sharp the first inning, walking two guys. That didn’t help us,” Francis said. “After that, I was throwing strikes and getting groundball outs. It’s hard for a team to play from behind a lot. I didn’t help us out by doing that.”
Duensing (3-5) gave up six hits with one walk and four strikeouts in his longest outing of the season and avoided becoming the first Twins starter in four years to lose six straight decisions. The left-hander had five losses and two no-decisions since beating Cleveland on April 23.
He was replaced in the ninth by Capps.
“A really good performance by Mr. Duensing,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “With the heat out there, to last that long was pretty impressive.”
Matt Tolbert, who had two doubles on Saturday night, had a two-run triple off Jesse Chavez in the ninth.
The Twins had not recorded a four-game sweep since winning four in a row against Oakland from July 12-15, 2007. They had not swept four from Kansas City since Aug. 3-6, 2006.
The slumping Royals managed only six runs in the four games and were shut out for the third time. They are 3-12 in their past 15 games.
“We didn’t help our cause too much in that first inning,” Yost said. “Hosmer trying to force a play at second base. He would have been better just taking the out at first base and kept that situation a little bit in control.”
Repko’s first hit in 15 at-bats drove in two runs as the Twins took a 3-0 lead in the first inning with three unearned runs. Ben Revere, on first with a leadoff single, sped to third when Hosmer threw wildly to second on Casilla’s sacrifice bunt.
With runners at second and third, Michael Cuddyer popped out and Danny Valencia walked, loading the bases. One run scored on Delmon Young’s fielder’s choice grounder. Repko then delivered a two-run single up the middle that was just barely out of second baseman Mike Aviles’ reach.
Luke Hughes doubled off Francis in the sixth inning and scored on Repko’s RBI single.
Yost said Joakim Soria is close to reclaiming his closer’s role after two promising outings. ... The Twins are hopeful RHP Nick Blackburn, who left Saturday’s game with a stiff back, won’t miss his next start. ... Morneau was out with a sore left wrist and Span was nursing a stiff neck. ... Morneau’s next game will be No. 1,000. ... Royals DH Billy Butler was 3-for-3 with a walk and Hosmer had a single to run his hitting streak to seven games.