Kyle Zimmer (4-0) was the first of five relievers who pitched an inning apiece, and Scott Barlow handled the ninth for his fourth save and second in as many games to set up the Royals for a shot at the series sweep.
“To see how we’ve played the last two games, it’s a good start,” Duffy said. “We need to continue down this path.”
The Fourth of July weekend wasn’t nearly as kind to Griffin Jax (1-1), the first draft pick ever from the Air Force Academy. In his first career start and fifth big league appearance, the right-handed Air Force captain allowed six runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings while striking out three.
“He battled through that start,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Got us through five, you know, gave us a chance. Kind of held it together enough to give us a chance to stay in the ballgame. We needed to tack on some more runs.”
Trevor Larnach homered in the eighth for Minnesota, which is 0-5 on its six-game road trip. Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz also drove in runs.
The Twins struck first for the second consecutive game when their first two batters reached in the fourth and Gilberto Celestino grounded to shortstop. The Royals tried to turn a double play, but second baseman Hanser Alberto’s throw to first went wide for his second error in as many games, and Ryan Jeffers scored the first of two runs in the inning.
The Royals wiped out all of Minnesota’s work in the bottom half, though.
Jax had set them down without a problem the first three innings, but the Royals tagged the current Air Force reserve officer with four runs in the fourth. The first two came on Dozier’s double and the second two when Olivares hit the first pitch he saw into the left-field bullpen for his first homer of the year.
The Royals pushed across a couple more runs in the fifth before Jax’s day was finally done.
“It’s what we saw (Friday),” Baldelli said after watching another early lead slip away. “Coming up with adjectives to really get into what it feels like, it’s hard to do. But we had to do more today in order to get this win. It wasn’t just about any particular thing. I think we could have played better overall.”
Royals: OF Andrew Benintendi (fractured rib) has been taking light swings in batting practice and remains on schedule to return sometime after the All-Star break. Benintendi got hurt last month during a game in Oakland.
Twins: Donaldson came up with a tight right hamstring rounding first on a double in the third inning. He slowed so much heading into second that he was nearly tagged out. Nick Gordon pinch ran and remained in the game.
The Royals traded Kelvin Gutierrez to the Orioles for cash. The 26-year-old infielder has struggled with injuries the past couple of years and was hitting .215 with a homer and eight RBIs before he was designated for assignment June 28. Gutierrez arrived in Kansas City in a 2018 trade with Washington.
Twins RHP Kenta Maeda (3-3, 5.56 ERA) and Royals RHP Brad Keller (6-8, 6.67) take the mound in Sunday’s series finale trying to rebound from lousy outings. Maeda gave up seven runs on eight hits and five walks Tuesday against the White Sox, while Keller allowed six runs on 10 hits and five walks the same night in Boston.