MINNEAPOLIS -- Eduardo Escobar had four RBIs, including a three-run homer in the seventh, while Miguel Sano connected on a three-run triple earlier in the inning to lead the Twins to a 9-1 win over the Royals on Wednesday at Target Field.Twins lefty Hector Santiago was solid, limiting the Royals
MINNEAPOLIS -- Eduardo Escobar had four RBIs, including a three-run homer in the seventh, while Miguel Sano connected on a three-run triple earlier in the inning to lead the Twins to a 9-1 win over the Royals on Wednesday at Target Field.
Twins lefty Hector Santiago was solid, limiting the Royals to one run on four hits and two walks over five-plus innings. He was lifted after 88 pitches because he's not fully stretched out after pitching for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. He helped the Twins to their first 2-0 start since 2007.
"With our young players, I think the better start you have, the better chance you're going to have," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We're trying to build confidence and culture out there, and winning a couple games early helps."
Santiago outdueled Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy, who also went five frames, surrendering three runs on three hits and five walks. Walks were an issue again for the Royals, as they issued nine free pases with five of those coming around to score.
"It's uncharacteristic," Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland said of the walks. "But it's just two games. But yeah, it's unacceptable."
Kennedy ran into trouble in the second after issuing a pair of one-out walks to Sano and Jason Castro. Escobar followed with an RBI single up the middle on an 0-2 curveball before Eddie Rosario hit a 3-2 fastball to center to bring home another run. James Dozier plated the third run with an RBI groundout after another walk to Robbie Grossman.
Kansas City scored its lone run in the fourth on a two-out RBI single to left from Paulo Orlando to score Lorenzo Cain. But the Twins broke it open in with a six-run seventh, keyed by Sano's triple off Nathan Karns and Escobar's homer off Matt Strahm.
"He was excited to play," Molitor said of Escobar. "The first hit was huge on the 0-2 breaking ball and then on the home run he saw a fastball and timed it well."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
An 0-2 oops: After Kennedy walked Sano and Castro in the second, he quickly got ahead of Escobar 0-2. But Kennedy got burned when he tried to float an offspeed pitch past Escobar, who promptly jumped on it and lined an RBI single to center. That gave the Twins a 1-0 lead, the first of three runs that inning.
"I wanted that pitch down by the back foot and just left it over the plate," Kennedy said. "It doesn't move when you leave it there."
Game, set, match: Sano put the game out of reach in the seventh inning against Royals right-hander Karns, who is scheduled to start Sunday but came into a tight game here. Karns gave up a one-out single to Dozier, then walked to Max Kepler and Joe Mauer, loading the bases with two out. Sano then took a 93-mph fastball that was down and in and blasted it off the wall for a three-run triple, making it a 6-1 game. The exit velocity was 104.8 mph according to Statcast™.
"The location was where I wanted it," Karns said of the pitch. "The count was 1-0 and he's a pull hitter so I wanted it in. And he went the other way with it. He did a good job. I tip my cap to him. He's a strong kid. He took an inside-out swing and almost drove it out of the park."
"It's fine. I just wanted to make sure they knew it hit me so I played it a little." -- Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, on his right hand, which is fine after he seemed to bruise it badly when he was hit by a pitch in the first inning
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The hardest-hit ball by a Royal turned into an out. Catcher Salvador Perez smoked a liner that had a 106.3 mph exit velocity and a 72 percent Hit Probability, according to Statcast™. But Sano snared the liner at third for the final out of the sixth.
HALEY STRONG IN DEBUT
Twins right-hander Justin Haley, a Rule 5 Draft pick, made his Major League debut, throwing a 1-2-3 ninth inning. Haley got the game ball from his debut, and gave it to his wife, Casey.
"There's always nerves going into a game, and this was my first big league outing. I just tried to stay under control and stay composed and throw strikes."
Royals: Right-hander Jason Hammel makes his first career start for the Royals in the series finale at 12:10 p.m. CT Thursday. Hammel, signed to a two-year deal in February, was 0-2 with a 6.45 ERA in Spring Training.
Twins: Right-hander Kyle Gibson is set to make his first start of the year against the Royals at Target Field. Gibson, who posted a 5.07 ERA last year, worked to refine his delivery this offseason, and saw results in Spring Training with a 1.59 ERA.
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Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, **Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter [@RhettBollinger](https://twitter.com/RhettBollinger)** and listen to his podcast.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.