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Twins take weekend split with 1st-place Kansas City

USA TODAY Sports Minnesota starting pitcher Phil Hughes delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals on Saturday at Target Field.

MINNEAPOLIS — When the weather gets tough, the Kansas City Royals have Jeremy Guthrie. At least that’s how it always seems.

Guthrie (9-10) weathered a pair of rain delays, pitching seven innings as the Royals piled up a season high in runs in a 12-6 win against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday at Target Field.

“Every time we have these days, it seems like he’s on the mound,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. “Just being able to maneuver through that, made it a great day for us.”

After expected rain delayed the start of the game nearly 40 minutes, Kansas City’s bats provided the thunder in the second inning. Playing in a steady rain, the Royals turned five hits, two walks and a hit batter into seven runs, providing Guthrie with all the offensive support he would need.

“That second inning, I don’t know if it was the elements, but we had the swing in it,” Royals first baseman Billy Butler said. “We were making (Twins pitcher Tommy Milone) work, not leaving the strike zone. He was trying to get us to chase some stuff and then coming to us when we were squaring it up.”

Butler started the inning with a single and drove in a run with another single later in the inning. In between, shortstop Alcides Escobar and right fielder Nori Aoki each had two-run singles, and second baseman Omar Infante’s sharp liner bounced off the mound and under the glove of Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, allowing two more runs to score.

Milone, making his first home start as a Twin, took the loss, allowing all seven runs (six earned) on four hits and two walks over 1 1/3 innings, seeing his season ERA jump from 3.52 to 3.99 in the process. Of his 80 career starts in the majors, Sunday’s outing was the shortest.

“Awful,” Milone said. “Couldn’t get a good feel. I tried not to walk guys so I was leaving the ball over the plate. It seemed like every time I got a new ball, it was immediately soaked. One of those (outings) where you just need to forget about it.”

After a 54-minute rain delay in the fourth inning, Royals left fielder Alex Gordon added a two-run homer in the fifth inning to give Kansas City a 9-2 lead.

Guthrie allowed four runs on five hits and two walks while striking out seven to record his ninth win.

More importantly, Guthrie gobbled up key innings in the middle of the game following the delay, while the Twins were forced to empty the bullpen.

“It was huge for us. This was a day we didn’t need rain,” Yost said.

“The weather was not conducive to pitching, I know that,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “It was pretty much a mess out there.”

Catcher Salvador Perez had a solo homer for the Royals and designated hitter Josh Willingham, a former Twin, added an RBI double and a late solo home run, his first in a Kansas City uniform.

Minnesota got a solo home run from first baseman Joe Mauer and two-run homers by designated Kennys Vargas and right fielder Oswaldo Arcia. Vargas also had an RBI single in the first that gave the Twins a brief 1-0 lead.

Notes: Twins 1B Joe Mauer homered in the third inning Sunday, his second since coming off the disabled list on Monday. Mauer had only two homers in his previous 303 at-bats this season before going on the DL July 2. ... Twins LHP Tommy Milone lasted only 1 1/3 innings, the shortest start of his career. Sunday’s game marked his 80th career start in the big leagues. ... Royals RHP Jeremy Guthrie lasted seven innings for only the third time in his last 12 starts dating back to June 13. He had seven such starts over his first 13 games this season. ... Royals DH Josh Willingham hit a solo home run in the ninth inning, his 13th of the season and first as a Royal. He was traded to Kansas City by Minnesota on Monday.

Saturday’s Result

Twins 4, Royals 1

Phil Hughes allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings as host Minnesota cooled off Kansas City and knotted the four-game series at one victory apiece.

Kurt Suzuki homered and scored twice and Brian Dozier had an RBI double as the Twins handed the Royals only their second loss in 13 games. Hughes (13-8) won his third consecutive start, striking out six while permitting seven hits and not walking a batter, and Glen Perkins got the final three outs for his 31st save.

Nori Aoki, Alex Gordon and Raul Ibanez had two hits apiece for Kansas City, which had its three-game winning streak snapped to cut its lead atop the American League Central to a half-game over Detroit. Rookie Yordano Ventura (9-9) gave up three runs on four hits and a season-high six walks to lose for the first time since July 20.

Aoki led off the fourth inning with a double and stole third as catcher Suzuki threw wildly into left field, allowing him to come home with the game’s first run. Ventura escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second and allowed only one hit through six innings before running into trouble in the seventh when Chris Parmelee followed Suzuki’s leadoff single with a bunt single.

Danny Santana plated the tying run with a groundout and Dozier doubled in the go-ahead run before Joe Mauer was intentionally walked to load the bases and Kennys Vargas followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1, ending Ventura’s night. Hughes got in a jam in the eighth but Casey Fien retired the final two batters and Suzuki added insurance with a solo shot in the bottom of the frame.

Notes: Mauer went 0-for-3 to halt his hitting streak at 16 games, which tied a career high. ... Aoki had his fifth two-hit game in the last 10 contests and has scored eight runs in that span. ... Suzuki is 6-for-10 in his last three games.