Kansas City, Mo. Jonathan Broxton expected Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham to pull the ball. Instead, they both stroked opposite-field hits to give Minnesota the win.
Mauer went 3-for-4 and scored the winning run in the 11th inning to lead the Twins to a 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
Mauer, a career .359 hitter at Kauffman Stadium, led off the 11th with a double to left off Broxton (1-2) and he scored on Willingham’s groundball single to right.
“The first guy got a hit and it was downhill from there,” Broxton said. “It was a slider. He managed to put a real good swing on it and shot it down the line and got a double out of it.
“They don’t shoot the ball too much the other way and both of them did it. Willingham is a big-time pull hitter. We need to pitch them better and hopefully get a win.”
Victories are elusive for the Royals, who have lost 14 of 18. They have scored just two runs in their past two games and for the third time in six games scored only one run.
“We’re really struggling to put runs on the board,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
The latest struggle came against Twins starter Nick Blackburn, who entered the game with an 8.10 ERA that resulted in a two-week demotion to the minors.
“Blackburn never really gave us anything to hit,” Yost said. “He stayed on the corners and kept the ball down.”
The Royals wasted a solid start by Luke Hochevar. The first overall pick in the 2006 draft retired the last 10 batters he faced and allowed five hits, all with two outs, in seven innings. He struck out six and walked none, throwing 67 strikes in 109 pitches.
Hochevar is 3-1 with a 2.68 ERA in his past seven starts.
Nick Mastroianni homered in the second inning on a 3-1 pitch, the only run Hochevar allowed.
“I was working him in with a fastball and thought it was a pitch he would take,” Hochevar said. “ I fell behind and I was trying to get back in the count, but he put a good swing on it.”
Casey Fien (1-0) worked two perfect innings to pick up his first major-league victory. Glen Perkins worked around Alcides Escobar’s leadoff double in the bottom of the inning to pick up his fifth save in eight opportunities.
Greg Holland, the third Kansas City pitcher, worked out of a 10th-inning jam, which Mastroianni led off with a triple. Holland stranded him by retiring Alexi Casilla on a grounder with the infield in, then struck out Ben Revere and Jamey Carroll. Holland struck out four in two innings.
Blackburn, who was just recalled from Triple-A Rochester, held the Royals to one run and seven hits over 6 2-3 innings, while walking none and striking out two. He did not reach a three-ball count on any hitter.
Yuniesky Betancourt’s two-out double in the seventh scored Eric Hosmer, who led off the inning with a single, for the only run Blackburn allowed.
Twins reliever Jared Burton, who worked a scoreless eighth, has not allowed a run in his past 14 appearances, covering 14 2-3 innings.
Notes: The Royals have lost 14 of their past 18 games. .RHP Jeremy Guthrie, who was 3-9 with a 6.35 ERA in 19 games with Colorado, was acquired in a trade for LHP Jonathan Sanchez and will start Sunday for the Royals. LHP Everett Teaford, who was slated to start Sunday, will go to the bullpen as a long man. .Minnesota 3B Trevor Plouffe left with a bruised right thumb and is listed as day-to-day. Brian Dozier struck out as a pinch-hitter for Plouffe in the ninth inning. .Twins starters went 1-4 with a 6.51 ERA in their 2-5 homestand that ended Thursday. .LHP Scott Diamond, who won his only career start against the Royals, will start Saturday for the Twins. The Royals will counter with RHP Luis Mendoza, who has five quality starts in his past six outings.