For almost three seasons, Josh Willingham’s family was there to greet him outside the Twins clubhouse at Target Field.
Willingham’s family was waiting for him again on Friday, only this time the slugger came out of a different door.
Willingham returned to Target Field and hit a bases-clearing double in Kansas City’s five-run fourth inning, and the surging Royals hung on to beat the Minnesota Twins 6-5.
When Willingham popped his head out of the visitor’s clubhouse after the game, his three young sons ran excitedly to be with their dad in his new surroundings.
"I knew it was going to be a little strange playing against your former team," said Willingham, who was traded from the Twins to the Royals four days ago. "I’m just happy we won the game tonight."
Danny Dufy (8-10) allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings to win his third consecutive start. Kansas City has won 11 of 12 and sits atop the AL Central.
This one didn’t come easy, though.
Oswaldo Arcia hit an RBI double in the ninth and pinch-hitter Chris Parmelee drove him in with a groundout to cut the Royals’ lead to 6-5. But Greg Holland struck out Danny Santana for his 37th save in 39 chances.
After Minnesota took a 2-0 lead in the third, the first six Royals hitters reached base to start the fourth off Ricky Nolasco (5-8). Willingham drilled a bases-loaded double down the left-field line to make it 3-2.
Two batters later, Alcides Escobar tripled to score Willingham and Mike Moustakas. Escobar also blooped an RBI single in the eighth to make it 6-3.
Nolasco made his first start since going on the disabled list July 8 with an elbow strain. He struck out three and looked sharp in every inning besides the fourth.
The right-hander signed a four-year, $49 million free-agent contract in the offseason, the richest free-agent deal in Twins’ history, and now has a 5.99 ERA.
"I don’t think it’s about building confidence up with a guy like him, it’s about results and we need to get results out of him," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We need to see him get going stronger and more consistent, and giving us a chance."
After Duffy was removed, Aaron Crow and Francisley Bueno finished the sixth inning before Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Holland preserved the victory.
That trio has allowed only four runs over the last 44 1/3 innings, including two by Holland on Friday. The Royals are 19-4 over that span.
Kurt Suzuki had three hits for Minnesota.
Third-base umpire Chris Segal called Trevor Plouffe safe after Royals C Salvador Perez tried to pick him off in the fourth. The call stood after a 3-minute, 23-second replay review. Two pitches later, Plouffe scored when Arcia grounded into a double play. Gardenhire wandered out of the dugout to consider challenging the Arcia call, but returned without challenging.
"I’m wearing Greg out. I can’t find any way to get him a break," Royals manager Ned Yost said about his closer. "It’s more my fault than it is his, but he’s so good, you just have to do it."
THE BODY GETS BOOED
Former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura was booed loudly when he and his wife were shown on the Target Field big screen for "kiss cam." Ventura has been in the news recently after winning a $1.8 million defamation lawsuit against the estate of "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle. It’s probably the loudest Ventura has been booed since he wore a feather boa and wrestled as a bad guy at the old St. Paul Civic Center in the glory days of the AWA.
Twins: Top prospect Byron Buxton will head to the Twins’ facility in Fort Myers, Fla., to rehab from a concussion suffered during an outfield collision while playing for Double-A New Britain on Wednesday night.
Royals: After a Thursday X-ray showed he’s not ready to return, 1B Eric Hosmer won’t have his fractured right hand examined again until after the Royals’ current 10-game road trip ends. Once cleared, Hosmer likely would need a week or two of work before rejoining the team.
Yordano Ventura (9-8, 3.45 ERA) pitches for the Royals against Minnesota’s Phil Hughes (12-8, 3.88) in the second game of this four-game series. … The Royals play 32 of their final 42 games against teams currently at or below .500. … After doubling in the eighth on Friday, Twins 1B Joe Mauer will try to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 17 games.