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Twins outslug Royals

By Joe Christensen, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Strange as it sounds, this is the way the Twins drew it up in the offseason.

They never expected to have this many starting pitching issues, but they knew they’d need to score in big quantities to win, especially in the American League.

(PHOTO: Minnesota Twins’ Justin Morneau (33) is congratulated by Josh Willingham (16) after hitting a two-run homer in the fifth inning against the Kansas City Royals on June 4, 2012, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.)

Joe Mauer is out because of a sprained right thumb, but the rest of the offense didn’t break stride Monday night, pounding out 12 hits as they defeated the Royals 10-7 at Kauffman Stadium.

Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and Trevor Plouffe hit home runs and Cole De Vries pitched into the sixth inning for his first major league victory as the Twins improved to 6-1 in their past seven games.

Over that seven-game span, the Twins have outscored their opponents 36-27.

“We can pop a baseball,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve always said if our pitchers give us an opportunity, we can play some baseball.”

De Vries (1-1) wasn’t spectacular in his third major league start — allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits in five-plus innings — but he definitely competed. He tossed five shutout innings in his previous start against Oakland, but in that one he walked five batters. This time, he had four strikeouts and no walks.

Two of those strikeouts came when the righthander from Eden Prairie was up against the ropes. Kansas City capitalized on errors by Brian Dozier and Alexi Casilla to score three runs in the fourth inning, tying the score at 4-4, but with runners on second and third, De Vries caught Jarrod Dyson and Humberto Quintero looking at strike three.

“Those (errors) happen, no big deal,” De Vries said. “Something like that happens, someone has to pick them up.”

And the offense gave him an immediate lift in the fifth inning, as Morneau hit his two-run homer off Royals rookie Will Smith (1-2), and Plouffe made it 7-4 with a two-out shot to left field.

“Scoring early is definitely something you want to do because it takes some pressure off the pitcher,” Plouffe said. “But the big thing we’ve been doing has been answering. When a team comes out scoring, we score and take the momentum right back. It kind of deflates them a little bit.”

Plouffe has seven home runs in 36 games, and his batting average is at .200, up from .103 on May 7.

“He’s getting a little more confidence and he’s had some quality at-bats,” Gardenhire said. “One thing we see is when they make a mistake, he pops it. He’s putting them in the seats — seven of them — and his average is rising, which is a good thing.”

De Vries had an 8-4 lead in the sixth, but Gardenhire wasted little time giving him the hook when the Royals opened that inning with back-to-back hits. Alex Burnett entered and limited the damage to one run.

Burnett wound up pitching two innings. Jared Burton struck out the side in the eighth, and the Royals scored two runs off Jeff Gray in the ninth, allowing Matt Capps to record a one-out save — his 13th save in 14 opportunities.

Afterward, the Twins presented De Vries with the game ball. His parents, Dave and Diane, had made the trip from Eden Prairie, Minn., to see his first big league win.

“The guys were pretty excited out there (in the clubhouse),” Gardenhire said. “(De Vries) gave a little speech. It lasted two seconds. We didn’t give him much time, but it was a nice win for him.”

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