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Royals top Twins, move into tie for first

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kendrys Morales belted a two-run homer and left-hander Jason Vargas tossed six shutout innings as the Royals held off the Twins, 3-1, on Monday night at Target Field.

Kansas City moved into a tie with Minnesota for first place in the American League Central.

"We're treating it as a big series," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "This is a team at the top of the division right now and they're playing good baseball. That's how seasons work. A team is hot and we're scuffling, but if we win the series, we can turn it around."

Video: [email protected]: Vargas gets drilled by liner and gets the out

Vargas gave up five hits and walked none, striking out two. He survived a shot back at him off the bat of Aaron Hicks in the fifth inning. The ball seemed to slam into Vargas' midsection, or lower, though Vargas recovered to throw out Hicks.

"He probably reached down and saw three ... and didn't know which one to pick up," Royals manager Ned Yost joked afterward. "But he was fine. He bounced back fine after that."

Video: [email protected]: Vargas provides six scoreless innings in win

Righty Phil Hughes turned in a solid effort for the Twins, throwing 7 2/3 innings and giving up three earned runs. He walked one and struck out three.

Eddie Rosario hit his third homer of the season for Minnesota.

Video: [email protected]: Rosario's solo homer puts Twins on the board

"He's been playing really well the last couple weeks," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "His beginning was a little bit up and down but he seems like he's kind of leveled off in terms of more consistency."

Kendrys goes upper deck: Morales came up after Hosmer singled to lead off the second and crushed a Hughes offering into the upper deck in right-center field. Statcast™ estimated the homer to land 432 feet away from home plate. It was Morales' seventh blast of the season and it gave the Royals a 2-0 lead.

"We had some really good at-bats," Yost said. "Omar [Infante] hit three rockets and had nothing to show for it. Hoz had good at bats. Morales did. Sal [Salvador Perez] had three of the best at-bats he has had all year long. Moose [Mike Moustakas] had good at-bats. Good signs."

Dozier ends rally: After Rosario's home run cut the Royals' lead in half, the Twins had an opportunity to inflict more damage. The next two hitters -- Eduardo Escobar and Hicks -- singled off Royals reliever Ryan Madson, but Brian Dozier struck out to end the rally.

Hosmer provides insurance: Hosmer delivered a key hit in the eighth. Kansas City started a two-out rally with singles from Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. Then with Aaron Thompson on the mound, Hosmer ripped a single past Joe Mauer at first base to make it 3-1.

Video: [email protected]: Hosmer adds insurance with RBI single

"That was big because we've got a great bullpen, obviously," Hosmer said, "but it's always nice to give them a little bit more cushion."

Hughes hurt by homer: Hughes gave up 16 home runs in nearly 210 innings last season. This year, he's been burned by the long ball and gave up another one Tuesday -- his 13th in 12 starts.

Video: [email protected]: Hughes holds Royals to three in 7 2/3 innings

"While [today was] a step in the right direction, still not where I want to be and not where I have to be if we want to continue down this path of winning baseball," Hughes said. More >

"I just hope we never have to talk about this again." -- Vargas, after a comebacker hit him in the groin

Royals: Right-hander Chris Young (4-2, 2.56 ERA) takes the mound for his seventh start Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Young has allowed 10 runs over his past 11 innings. Opponents scored just three earned runs in his first 34 2/3 innings (0.78 ERA). In eight career games against the Twins, Young has a 3.35 ERA.

Twins: The Twins will send Trevor May (4-3, 4.45) to the mound for the middle game against the Royals on Tuesday at Target Field. The righty lost to Kansas City earlier this season, giving up five runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.

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Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for
Read More: Eddie Rosario, Jason Vargas, Kendrys Morales, Phil Hughes, Eric Hosmer