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Twins get key hits, outs to sweep Royals

MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- It wasn't quite the six-run outbursts the Twins had in the seventh inning in their first two games, but a two-run seventh, keyed by a go-ahead RBI double from Jason Castro, was enough to help Minnesota to a 5-3 win over the Royals on Thursday to complete a three-game sweep at Target Field.

With the game locked at 3, Miguel Sano stayed hot with a one-out single off lefty Mike Minor and scored on an RBI double into the right-center-field gap from Castro, who reached safely nine times in 12 plate appearances during the series. Jorge Polanco followed with an RBI double off third baseman Mike Moustakas' glove to give Minnesota an insurance run.

Full Game Coverage

MINNEAPOLIS -- It wasn't quite the six-run outbursts the Twins had in the seventh inning in their first two games, but a two-run seventh, keyed by a go-ahead RBI double from Jason Castro, was enough to help Minnesota to a 5-3 win over the Royals on Thursday to complete a three-game sweep at Target Field.

With the game locked at 3, Miguel Sano stayed hot with a one-out single off lefty Mike Minor and scored on an RBI double into the right-center-field gap from Castro, who reached safely nine times in 12 plate appearances during the series. Jorge Polanco followed with an RBI double off third baseman Mike Moustakas' glove to give Minnesota an insurance run.

Full Game Coverage

"It's fun," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We talk about perspective a lot, but to come out and beat a good team three times in a row to start your season makes you feel pretty good. There were a lot of good things again today. Another clean game."

The Royals had rallied to tie the game, scoring twice in the fifth against right-hander Kyle Gibson, with Salvador Perez connecting on a solo homer and Alcides Escobar stroking a two-out RBI double. After the Twins scored in the fifth on an RBI double from Max Kepler off right-hander Jason Hammel, Moustakas tied it up with a solo shot off Gibson in the sixth.

Video: KC@MIN: Moustakas launches a solo shot to right field

Minnesota took an early 2-0 lead, as Polanco had an RBI single to center before Eddie Rosario brought home a run on an RBI groundout that was a potential inning-ending double play but was mishandled by second baseman Raul Mondesi.

Neither starting pitcher factored into the decision; both surrendered three runs over five-plus innings. Minnesota's bullpen excelled yet again -- it didn't allow a run all series -- while Kansas City's bullpen gave up 14 runs in eight innings. Closer Brandon Kintzler picked up his first save of the year for the Twins, while new addition Matt Belisle threw a scoreless inning in all three games.

Video: KC@MIN: Kintzler fans Cain to lock down the save

"I think our bullpen is a little underrated this year," Gibson said. "People might've wanted a couple bigger signings or whatever, but Matty Belisle brings a veteran presence and Kintzler is just Mr. Steady out there."

The Royals' bullpen has been elite in recent years.

"We didn't have this problem in Spring Training," said manager Ned Yost, whose staff walked 23 hitters in 24 innings. "It'll iron itself out."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pressly to the rescue: The Royals tied the score at 3 in the sixth on Moustakas' second home run of the series. The Royals then had a chance to break the game open as they loaded the bases with one out on singles by Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer and a walk to Brandon Moss. But right-hander Ryan Pressly came on and got Paulo Orlando to line out to center and Escobar to ground out softly to short.

"I wasn't really thinking," Pressly said. "I just wanted to go out there and pitch. In a weird way, it was kind of calming. I can't really explain it. It was just me and Castro and letting the defense work behind you."

Video: KC@MIN: Pressly escapes a bases-loaded jam in the 6th

Moylan beats Buxton again: For the second straight game, Royals right-hander Peter Moylan was called upon to face Byron Buxton in the late going with runners on. Moylan struck out Buxton in the seventh Wednesday. This time, Buxton came up with the bases loaded in a 3-3 tie in the sixth with two out. Moylan struck him out on three pitches.

Video: KC@MIN: Moylan fans Buxton to escape bases-loaded jam

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The last time the Twins opened the year with a three-game sweep was 2007, when they swept the Orioles at the Metrodome. They're aiming to start 4-0 for the first time since 1987, which was the first year they won the World Series.

The Royals were swept in three games to start the season for the first time since 2001, when the Yankees took three.

WHAT'S NEXT
Royals: The Royals open a three-game set in Houston on Friday night at 7:10 CT as left-hander Jason Vargas makes his first start of the season. Vargas, who had Tommy John surgery in 2015, threw a team-high 23 1/3 innings in Spring Training, with a 3.84 ERA.

Twins: The Twins head to Chicago for a three-game series that begins Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Phil Hughes, who is coming off surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, is set to make his first start of the season.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @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.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.