The Kansas City bullpen picked up starter Danny Duffy when he labored in his return from Tommy John surgery, keeping the Minnesota Twins guessing Wednesday night and sending the Royals to a 5-2 victory and series win.
Duffy struck out seven in 3 2-3 innings in his first outing since May 2012, but needed 93 pitches to get that far. He left trailing 2-1 on another humid night at Kauffman Stadium.
Louis Coleman (2-0) and three more Kansas City relievers managed to navigate the next 4 1-3 innings, and All-Star closer Greg Holland worked around a single in the ninth for his 30th save.
Royals pitchers combined to strike out 16.
Alex Gordon homered off Samuel Deduno (7-5) to tie the game once Duffy left. Alcides Escobar hit a go-ahead single later in the fourth, Lorenzo Cain hit an RBI single in the fifth, and Gordon drove in another run in the seventh with the 200th double of his career.
Deduno, who hadn’t lost in his last four starts, allowed four runs on 12 hits in 5 2-3 innings. He didn’t walk a batter for the first time this season.
Minnesota made sure that Duffy would work hard in his return to a big league mound.
Brian Dozier, whose leadoff homer set the tone in a 7-0 win Tuesday night, opened the game with a triple off the young left-hander. Brian Colabello worked a two-out walk before Ryan Doumit delivered an RBI single to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.
Doumit would leave the game in the fourth inning after feeling nauseous.
The Royals answered in the third when Brett Hayes, who’s filling in at catcher while Salvador Perez is out with a concussion, lined a double off the third-base bag. Deduno recovered to retire the next two Royals, but Escobar drove in Hayes with a tying single.
The Twins pulled back ahead in the fourth when Clete Thomas worked a walk and Dozier hit a two-out double that also knocked Duffy from the game. But the Royals answered again in the bottom half on Gordon’s homer – which snapped a 1-for-23 skid – and a series of singles by Miguel Tejada, Hayes and Escobar, the last of them allowing Tejada to score the go-ahead run.
Kansas City took some of the pressure off its bullpen in the fifth.
Hot-hitting Eric Hosmer doubled to lead it off, and Billy Butler put runners on the corners with a single. Cain followed with an RBI single that bounced off Deduno and into right field, bringing the Twins training staff out from the dugout to check on the pitcher.
He wound up staying in the game until getting two outs in the sixth.
The damage was already done the way the Royals bullpen was pitching, though. Coleman retired five batters to run his streak of scoreless innings to 16 1-3, and Tim Collins struck out the only three he faced. Aaron Crow escaped a jam of his own creation in the seventh, and Kelvin Herrera left runners that he had walked on second and third to end the eighth.
Holland ensured there would be little drama in the ninth.
Notes: The Royals optioned LHP Will Smith to Triple-A Omaha. … RF David Lough (left quad tightness) was back in the KC lineup. … Perez began light workouts and could return from the seven-day concussion DL on Sunday. … Minnesota RHP Liam Hendricks will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester and start the second game of doubleheader Friday at the White Sox. The Twins are off Thursday. … The Royals open a four-game set Thursday against Boston.