KANSAS CITY -- If the Twins are going to get it going after a sluggish first two months of the season, they're going to need right-hander Lance Lynn to continue to pitch better and for the offense to get rolling like it did in the second half of the 2017 season.
Lynn showed more signs of turning it around, pitching his way out of several jams to turn in a second straight strong outing, while the offense got back on track to snap a four-game losing streak in an 8-5 win over the Royals on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium. It was a night that saw several key Twins players come up with timely hits, including Miguel Sano with a two-run homer in the fifth, James Dozier with a go-ahead RBI single in the sixth, a three-run double from Eddie Rosario in the eighth and a two-run single from Mitch Garver in the ninth.
"I thought Lynn had to battle," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Not too many 1-2-3's. A lot of baserunners, but he had some good pitches with two outs. He was able to contain."
Lynn, who threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Tigers in his last start, backed up his solid showing by allowing two runs on six hits and three walks with five strikeouts in six innings. It helped him lower his ERA to 5.94 on the season, while registering back-to-back quality starts for the first time with Minnesota.
"Early on in the year, the stuff was there, but the location wasn't at times," Lynn said. "I had to get back into the flow of games and get my feet back under me."
The two runs scored in the fifth on a double from Mike Moustakas to tie the game. Lynn surrendered a leadoff double to Jonathan Jay and walked Whit Merrifield to set up Moustakas' double that was hit over the head of center fielder Byron Buxton, who initially broke in on the play.
The two-run double came after Sano connected on his first homer since returning from the 10-day disabled list on Thursday. Sano jumped all over a 1-1 fastball from Royals starter Jakob Junis, depositing it just out of Jay's reach as he leapt up to try to rob Sano of the homer. It was a good sign from Sano, who went 1-for-10 in three games against the Mariners and had struck out in his first two at-bats against Junis.
"It was good to see Miggy hit one over the fence," Molitor said. "It had been a while since we'd seen that."
Minnesota took the lead for good in the sixth, as Garver singled with one out and went to second on a grounder from Buxton. Dozier cashed Garver in with a bloop RBI single to right.
The Twins added three more insurance runs in the eighth on a bases-clearing double from Rosario. Rosario's hustle into second forced a throw and allowed Dozier to score all the way from first.
Those insurance runs proved to be important, with the Royals scoring twice in the eighth against reliever Zach Duke with two outs. Jay and Merrifield hit back-to-back RBI singles before closer Fernando Rodney struck out Moustakas looking to end the inning.
Garver brought home two more runs with a two-out single in the ninth, while Rodney picked up his first four-out save of the year and his first since June 21, 2016, despite giving up a solo homer to Jorge Soler.
"I prefer not to use him in that situation too often," Molitor said. "But they had the tying run coming to the plate, who is a really good hitter, particularly against lefties. So we had to bring in Fernando for those last four outs."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Twins escape seventh: Minnesota got out of several jams on the night, but none bigger than in the seventh after Jay opened the frame with his third double of the night. However, Jay made a baserunning mistake on a grounder to shortstop, as Eduardo Escobar threw him out at third for the first out. Salvador Perez later singled off Thomas Pressly to put two runners on with two outs, but Soler grounded out to end the inning.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Rosario's three-run double off reliever Burch Smith was a strange one, as it came on an 0-2 changeup that was a broken-bat flare into right that had an exit velocity of 70.1 mph, per Statcast™. Rosario ran hard out of the box, with a sprint speed of 29 feet per second, which is more than two feet per second better than the MLB average of 27. His season average is 27.9 feet per second.
"It's just one of those plays where you're trying to score backdoor with two outs," Molitor said. "That one set up perfectly. It was a close play at second, and by the time they put down the tag, it was too late to get the last runner."
HE SAID IT
"We're just kind of looking for a spark. Sometimes, you're going to catch a few breaks. Yesterday, we hit some balls hard for outs. Tonight, Doz didn't hit that one particularly well. But it was a two-out single and it's something we haven't had a lot of. And by the time it got to Rosie, we had a good feeling, because he's a guy who has clutched up for us. Adding those runs were huge." -- Molitor, on the offense
Right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-3, 4.02 ERA) will take the mound for the Twins in the second game of their three-game series against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Gibson has historically done well against the Royals, posting a 3.46 ERA in 15 starts, including a 3.09 ERA in seven starts in Kansas City. The Royals will start lefty Danny Duffy (2-6, 6.14 ERA), with first pitch set for 7:15 p.m. CT.