Valencia hit in 10th lifts Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- Danny Valencia hit a bases-loaded single with one out in the 10th inning to lift the Minnesota Twins to a 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.
While the Twins' bullpen pitched four perfect innings, including the 10th by Dusty Hughes (1-0), reliever Robinson Tejeda (0-1) failed the Royals.
He gave up a one-out single to Delmon Young and walked Michael Cuddyer. Then came Jason Kubel, who crushed a pitch to right-center where Jeff Francoeur nearly made a nifty running catch with his glove outstretched and his body bent awkwardly at the wall. Francoeur dropped it, though, giving Kubel a really long single and loading the bases for Valencia.
Royals starter Jeff Francis was stuck with his third straight no-decision.
The Twins led the majors in first-inning runs last season, but they haven't scored yet in the first or the second in 2011.
They came in with the second-worst team batting average in the league, too, including an AL-worst 24 runs and just three homers in nine games. The Royals rolled in with the second-best batting average.
The sample size is small, but that offensive discrepancy is remarkable considering Kansas City's payroll of roughly $36 million and the $23 million the Twins are paying Joe Mauer alone.
The lack of punch has prompted some restlessness -- plus a few boos -- from the fans, but manager Ron Gardenhire shrugged off the frustration before the game.
"They just want us to get hits," he said, adding: "Everybody wants to get off to a good start. Obviously we haven't."
Cuddyer lifted his batting average 112 points with singles in each of his first four at-bats, and he scored on a two-run single by Luke Hughes in the fourth that put the Twins up 3-2.
Mauer avoided the dreaded 4-6-3 double play with a well-hit sacrifice fly with runners at the corners and one out, but the Twins again were missing the clutch, extra-base hits the well-paid veterans in their lineup are being counted on to produce.
With runners at the corners and two outs in the ninth, following a leadoff walk by Valencia, Mauer flied out to center to end the inning.
Until Valencia, the second-year third baseman, came through in the end.
The Twins are 38-17 against the Royals since the start of 2008.
Francis has given up just six runs in his first 20 2-3 innings for the Royals -- and got 12 outs over his last 13 batters.
Brian Duensing was the biggest beneficiary of the big boost from the Minnesota bullpen.
Duensing walked Billy Butler -- the imposing slugger who's been leading Kansas City's early offensive surge -- with one out in the fourth inning and soon surrendered the lead on Wilson Betemit's RBI single and a sacrifice fly smacked by Mike Aviles to make it 2-1.
The left-hander was in a groove after that, until his defense -- literally his own -- let him down.
Alcides Escobar reached on an infield single when Valencia's on-the-run off-balance throw needed to be perfect for the out, but it was wide left.
Then Duensing picked up Chris Getz's sacrifice bunt back to the mound and tossed it two feet over the head of Hughes with the second baseman covering the bag, an egregious error that put two runners in scoring position and set up Melky Cabrera's sharp tying single that glanced off Duensing's right knee.
He got up and shook off the pain, but that was his last batter. Jose Mijares struck out Alex Gordon, and Matt Capps got Butler to pop out to second and retired Francoeur on a called strike three on the inside corner. Francoeur disagreed with home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, and Duensing clapped his hands and cheered for Capps with a clenched jaw from the dugout.
Capps pitched a perfect eighth inning, Joe Nathan worked a perfect ninth, and the former Royals right-hander Hughes went 1-2-3 in the 10th, including a diving catch of Gordon's leadoff line drive.
NOTES: The announced crowd was 38,154, short of the official capacity of 39,500 and ending Target Field's sellout streak at 81 straight games. ... The Royals were planning to recall Vin Mazzaro from Triple-A to start Saturday's game against Seattle, but he was roughed up in his first outing for Omaha. Sean O'Sullivan will get his first start instead. The Royals haven't needed a fifth starter yet because of off days. ... Jim Thome has more career homers, 47, against the Royals than anyone else in history. ... Kila Ka'aihue, off to a 6-for-34 start for the Royals, got his first rest of the season, with Butler playing 1B and Aviles as the DH. ... Twins 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka was on the field for some throwing before the game and walking gingerly without crutches. His broken left leg will keep him out for at least a month.