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Royals land Rios -12/16/2014, 9:27 AM

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K.C. opens series with 'W'

Published on -7/1/2014, 10:06 AM

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MINNEAPOLIS (MCT) --   His debut was energizing. His encore was harrowing. Yohan Pino settled somewhere in between during his third start Monday, that fifth-starter no man's land that can be summed up in one syllable: Meh.

The 30-year-old righthander, the third pitcher to inhabit the tail end of the Twins' rotation this season, didn't exactly fool the Royals in a 6-1 Kansas City victory in the first game of a three-game series at Target Field. But he didn't self-destruct, either.

Pino gave up four runs on seven hits against the AL Central's lowest-scoring team, lasting 5.2 innings mostly because he held the first three hitters in Kansas City's lineup to a 1-for-11 night.

But he also surrendered doubles to Alcides Escobar (which drove in two runs in the second) and Alex Gordon (who scored in the fourth), and a solo home run to Salvador Perez in the sixth, a clout that just cleared Sam Fuld's reach at the bullpen fence.

It was a mediocre performance for Pino, a Venezuelan junkballer, especially compared with his two-runs-in-seven-innings performance against the White Sox 11 days earlier. But it was a decent outing, in the context of his five-runs-in-three-innings crash in Anaheim last week. It was, in other words, the sort of night a sub-.500 team can expect from its fifth starter.

Pino limited the damage by allowing only one walk and holding Kansas City, which started the day only three games out of first in the division, to 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position. But for the seventh consecutive game, the Twins allowed their opponent to score in the first or second inning, forcing them to play catch-up all night.

That's not so easy against Royals lefthander Danny Duffy, a second-year pitcher whose fastball can reach 98 mph. Duffy entered Monday's game on a two-game losing streak, despite allowing only three runs over 13 innings in those games. More indicative of his ability is his 2.69 ERA, sixth-best in the AL -- an ERA that fell to 2.60 against the Twins.

"We know how tough he is," manager Ron Gardenhire said before Duffy limited Minnesota to just one hit through the first four innings. The Twins finally broke the shutout in the fifth inning, when Chris Parmelee doubled -- extending his career-best hitting streak to 10 consecutive games -- and Eduardo Nunez singled him home. But the Twins mounted only one other serious threat against Duffy, putting runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth. Duffy battled for nine pitches against Twins slugger Josh Willingham, finally getting the first out on a foul fly down the right-field line. Then Kendrys Morales hit what appeared to be a double-play ball, but Kansas City settled for only one out when third baseman Mike Moustakas briefly bobbled the grounder.

Aaron Crow relieved Duffy and finished off the Twins by getting Trevor Plouffe -- 1-for-4 in his first game off the disabled list -- to fly out to center.

The Twins defense was as sloppy as their pitching, too, with Brian Dozier committing two throwing errors in the eighth inning, allowing a pair of unearned runs to increase the Twins' deficit to 6-1.

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