MINNEAPOLIS — Three consecutive wins has restored some confidence for the Minnesota Twins, an early boost for their final record.
After all, dropping their first nine games last year undeniably paved the way for a major league-leading and club-record 103 losses.
Jason Castro and Jorge Polanco hit consecutive RBI doubles in the seventh inning as the Twins dented Kansas City’s bullpen again and beat the Royals 5-3 Thursday to sweep the season-opening series.
“It beats the alternative, as we know all too well from just a year ago,” manager Paul Molitor said. “But to get a couple wins under our belt here early, it’s got to make those players feel awfully good about what they’re doing.”
The Twins are 3-0 for the first time since 2007. The Royals have their first 0-3 start since 2001. This was Minnesota’s first sweep of Kansas City in 18 series between them since April 2014. The Royals went 53-23 against the Twins over the last four seasons.
“We don’t care who’s standing across from us. We’re going to go out there and take what’s ours,” said Max Kepler, who had an RBI double in the fifth and reached base three times.
Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas homered off Twins starter Kyle Gibson to take Jason Hammel off the hook in his Royals debut, but new left-hander Mike Minor (0-1) surrendered the two-runs in the seventh inning, when the Royals were outscored 14-0 in the series.
Taylor Rogers (1-0) worked the seventh for the victory, and Brandon Kintzler pitched a perfect ninth for his first save.
“Everybody’s not walking on eggshells around here,” said Twins right-hander Ryan Pressly, who escaped a one-out, bases-loaded situation in the sixth. “We’re going to keep this going, and it’s going to be a fun year.”
The Royals walked 23 batters in the series.
“That’s unheard of,” Hammel said. “That’s just absurd. We’ve got to throw strikes.”
Sure enough, a one-out walk by Castro, already his sixth this season, was in the middle of a two-run second inning by the Twins that gave Gibson an early edge. Polanco had an RBI single during the rally.
“I think guys are just trying to get in a groove right now,” Minor said. “Beginning of the year. I don’t really look at it too much.”
The Royals allowed 14 runs in eight relief innings in the series. The Twins got 10 scoreless innings from their bullpen, with five hits, two walks and 11 strikeouts.
“It’ll iron itself out. We didn’t have this issue in spring training, so it’s just a little bump in the road for us,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Byron Buxton fanned with the bases loaded to finish the sixth and is 1 for 14 with an infield single, a walk and seven strikeouts. Molitor said he’s not going to move the 2012 second overall draft pick out of the third spot in the batting order.
Hammel began his 12th major league season, with his sixth different team. He signed a $16 million, two-year contract in February with the Royals, who needed a replacement in the rotation following the death of Yordano Ventura in a Dominican Republic car crash. Hammel gave up six hits and four walks in five innings.
Royals: Limited to 27 games last season by injuries to his thumb and knee, Moustakas is 4 for 13 with two homers to start 2017.
Twins: Perkins threw a bullpen session Wednesday, but progress in regaining strength in his surgically repaired left shoulder has been limited to “baby steps,” general manager Thad Levine said.
Royals: Stay on the road with a visit to Houston for a three-game series starting Friday, with LHP Jason Vargas scheduled to start. Vargas returned from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery to make three starts at the end of last season. The Astros will send RHP Mike Fiers to the mound.
Twins: Travel to Chicago for a three-game series beginning Friday, with RHP Phil Hughes making his first start since June 2. A batted ball broke the femur bone in his left leg before Hughes was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome that required removal of a rib. For the White Sox, LHP Derek Holland will take the mound.