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Twins' late rally falls short in 2nd-half opener

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

KANSAS CITY -- After winning nine of 11 heading into the All-Star break, the Twins were hopeful to keep their momentum riding high to start the second half, turning to veteran Kyle Gibson against a club he's historically had plenty of success against.

But Gibson didn't have his best stuff against the Royals and the Twins opened the second half of the season with a 6-5 loss on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. Gibson, who entered with a career 3.22 ERA in 16 starts against Kansas City, surrendered four runs on six hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings to fall to 4-7 with a 3.57 ERA. It dropped the Twins to 8 1/2 games back of the Indians with 11 days before the July 31 Trade Deadline.

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KANSAS CITY -- After winning nine of 11 heading into the All-Star break, the Twins were hopeful to keep their momentum riding high to start the second half, turning to veteran Kyle Gibson against a club he's historically had plenty of success against.

But Gibson didn't have his best stuff against the Royals and the Twins opened the second half of the season with a 6-5 loss on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. Gibson, who entered with a career 3.22 ERA in 16 starts against Kansas City, surrendered four runs on six hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings to fall to 4-7 with a 3.57 ERA. It dropped the Twins to 8 1/2 games back of the Indians with 11 days before the July 31 Trade Deadline.

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"You can't lose sight of one game," Gibson said. "Obviously, every game as you get closer to the end, there's more urgency, but I think a couple pitches, here or there, and we're up two to end the game. But unfortunately, it didn't go our way."

Gibson scuffled early, allowing a leadoff single and a walk to open the first, but nearly got out of the jam. He induced a weak pop-up down the left-field line from Lucas Duda with two outs but Eduardo Escobar couldn't track it down and it landed for a two-run single.

"It's tough," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "The wind is drifting towards right. It brought it back a little bit. It's a difficult angle."

It set the tone for the Twins, who couldn't get anything going against lefty Danny Duffy, who surrendered one run over seven strong innings to get the win. Minnesota's lone run against Duffy came in the fourth, when the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out and Max Kepler plated a run with a sacrifice fly to snap Duffy's scoreless streak at 16 innings. But the Kansas City southpaw escaped further trouble, getting Jorge Polanco to fly out to deep left-center field and Bobby Wilson to pop up to second to end the inning.

"Duffy stymied us for the most part again," Molitor said. "We kind of missed an opportunity with the bases loaded, nobody out, and we plated one."

The Twins also stranded Joe Mauer after he reached second with nobody out in the fifth after reaching on a single and a throwing error. Minnesota went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

After scoring twice in the first, the Royals scored again in the fourth on an RBI double from Hunter Dozier to score Duda, who then added a solo shot off Gibson in the sixth, which was only the 13th clout allowed by Gibson in 20 starts this season.

Kansas City added two much needed insurance runs with a two-run double from Salvador Perez off reliever Alan Busenitz. Mitch Garver ripped an RBI triple in the eighth off reliever Jason Hammel, and the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth to bring the tying run to the plate. Eddie Rosario and Brian Dozier provided RBI groundouts and Garver drew a bases-loaded walk to make it a one-run game, but Kepler flied out to left to end the game.

Video: MIN@KC: Dozier picks up an RBI on groundout in 9th

"Too little, too late," Molitor said. "It was nice to see us make a run there. You try to keep pushing until the game is over. But it just puts a lot of pressure on your team to try to find a way to come back when you're down by four. Just little turns in the game. At the end of the game, it's opportunities taken advantage of and sometimes we missed them. In one-run games you can point to a lot of things that create the final outcome."

Video: MIN@KC: Garver picks up an RBI with walk

SOUND SMART
The Twins dropped to 3-4 against the Royals this season. They're a combined 16-11 against the rest of the American League Central with at least a .500 record against the Indians (6-3), White Sox (7-5) and Tigers (3-3).

HE SAID IT
"It was exciting to watch. I think as we've told you all along, we have a lot of fight. We're not going to give up because we're down three or four runs. The offense did a great job getting out of the hole and almost digging us all the way back." -- Gibson on the near comeback in the ninth.

UP NEXT
Right-hander Lance Lynn (7-7, 5.22 ERA) will make the start for the Twins in the second game of the series on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. CT. Lynn had an 8.37 ERA in April but has posted a 4.12 ERA over his last 13 starts since May 5 and has registered a win in each of his last two starts. The Royals will start right-hander Jakob Junis (5-10, 5.13 ERA).

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins, Kyle Gibson