Kansas City, Mo. Royals manager Ned Yost turned to pitching coach Dave Eiland in the fifth inning Saturday and told him that Kansas City was going to have to protect a one-run lead against Minnesota.
The way his bullpen has been going, there was no need to worry.
Danny Duffy, Wade Davis and Greg Holland allowed one walk and no hits over the final four innings, and the Royals held on for a scrappy 5-4 victory over the Twins.
“They’ve been lights-out, and they’re starting to get accustomed to the season,” Yost said of his relief corps, which helped starter Jason Vargas polish off a shutout in the series opener.
The Royals have won five straight after getting swept last weekend in Minnesota.
“We all compete together,” Holland said. “We take it upon ourselves that we’re one unit out there. You throw in the competitiveness, and you expect your teammates to pick you up.”
Bruce Chen (1-1) allowed all four runs on eight hits and four walks, but the damage could have been a whole lot worse. The crafty left-hander twice walked the bases loaded, and his only clean inning was the first, when Brian Dozier hit a fly out that nearly left the park.
Still, a five-run fourth inning off Kevin Correia (1-1) staked Chen to a lead, and one of the best bullpen’s in baseball last season made it stand up on a sun-splashed afternoon.
Duffy tossed two scoreless innings, and Davis navigated a perfect eighth before turning the game over to Holland, who set down the top of the Minnesota lineup for his sixth save.
The Royals are 9-0 when scoring at least four runs. They’re 0-7 scoring three or fewer.
“When we get that magic number,” DH Billy Butler said, “we’re hard to beat.”
Kurt Suzuki homered and drove in three runs for the Twins, and Aaron Hicks also drove in a run. But it wasn’t enough for Correia, who wound up allowing all five runs, four of them earned.
The Twins didn’t help him much with their shaky defense.
Left fielder Jason Kubel lost a fly ball in the glaring sun and it fell for a double in the second inning. Then in the fourth, right fielder Chris Colabello misplayed a fly off the bat of Billy Butler that ended up at the warning track and put runners on second and third.
“I took a chop step in and kind of froze. I didn’t think he hit it that good,” Colabello said. “Obviously there’s nobody who feels worse about it than I do. Everything was being pushed toward center. When I froze I got turned around.”
That was the start of the Royals’ game-changing charge.
Mike Moustakas followed with a sacrifice fly and Justin Maxwell added an RBI single to tie the game. Alcides Escobar was plunked on the elbow, and Nori Aoki followed with a go-ahead single.
Moments later, Escobar and Aoki took off on a double steal, and Twins catcher Josmil Pinto threw the ball into left field, allowing both runners to advance and making it 4-2. Omar Infante added a single to cap the five-run inning and give Kansas City a comfy cushion.
“We’re a starting staff that pitches to contact. We pride ourselves on making plays,” Correia said. “These guys are going to come back and play good defense.”
The Twins got two runs back on Suzuki’s single in the fifth, but Chen managed to get Hicks to ground out with a pair of runners on board to preserve his one-run lead.
“Some good things happened. Unfortunately, we had one bad inning and it cost us a ballgame,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “If we make the plays we’re supposed to make we win.”
Notes: RHP Yordano Ventura pitches the series finale today for Kansas City. RHP Phil Hughes is on the mound for Minnesota. ... Hicks collided with Colabello while making a catch at the wall in the fifth inning. Both players were OK. ... Twins 1B Joe Mauer, celebrating his 31st birthday, delivered a bunt single and scored in the fifth. ... Yost expects OF Jarrod Dyson (bereavement list) to return Monday.