Correia turning out to be good for Twins

If there’s been an early surprise for the Minnesota Twins, it’s right-hander Kevin Correia.

In his first season with the Twins, Correia made his second start of the year Monday in Kansas City. For seven innings, he shut the Royals out as Minnesota held onto a 1-0 lead.

Correia took the mound in the bottom of the eighth. It was the first time since June 12, 2011 that Correia pitched into the eighth inning. He pitched into the seventh inning five times last season with Pittsburgh. Of course, Correia has pitched in the National League his entire career, meaning he was more likely to be pinch-hit for later in games. Moving to the American League has, so far, allowed Correia to pitch deeper into games.

After seven nearly-flawless innings, Correia unraveled in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff double to Lorenzo Cain, who advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Chris Getz. Cain then scored on Alex Gordon’s base hit to right for Kansas City’s first run of the game. After a trip to the mound from pitching coach Rick Anderson, Correia surrendered another double, this one off the bat of Alcides Escobar that plated Gordon for the go-ahead run.

Escobar’s double ended Correia’s second start as a Twin after 7-1/3 innings. With Jared Burton pitching in relief, Escobar came around to score on a single by Billy Butler. Correia ended up allowing three runs on eight hits with one walk and one strikeout.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked after the game if he considered turning to his bullpen — particularly, set-up man Jared Burton — in the eighth inning, but Gardenhire said he wanted to let Correia finish out the inning after pitching seven scoreless.

“He still had great stuff. He was pitching well,” Gardenhire told reporters. “We had all the confidence in him to get the outs.”

Through two starts, Correia has given up a total of five runs in 14-1/3 innings. His strikeout numbers are low — just three in two starts — but Correia has limited the damage for the most part and has given his team a chance to win in both starts. Prior to the eighth inning, he didn’t allow an extra-base hit.

Correia earned a no-decision in his first start on Wednesday in the Twins’ 3-2, walk-off win against Detroit. He wasn’t helped out Monday by his offense, which mustered just one run against Royals starter Ervin Santana.

“We had some other opportunities earlier in the game to give (Correia) little bit of a cushion,” said designated hitter Ryan Doumit. “We weren’t able to do that.”

Still, Correia has been a pleasant surprise for the Twins through the first seven games of the 2013 season. Many were skeptical when Minnesota signed the National League veteran to a two-year deal this offseason as the Twins hoped to bolster the struggling rotation. Correia was 12-11 with a 4.21 ERA last season and owned a career 4.54 ERA in 10 seasons prior to joining Minnesota.

It’s only two games, but so far so good for Correia in a Twins uniform.

Mauer climbs the hits list: With his base hit in the first inning of Monday’s game against the Royals, Twins catcher Joe Mauer passed Gary Gaetti to move into sixth place on Minnesota’s all-time hits list. Mauer now has 1,277 hits in his career. Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew is fifth on the list with 1,713.

Mauer finished Monday’s game 2-for-4 at the plate and scored Minnesota’s lone run. He is now batting .267 on the young season.

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FOX Sports North’s Jamie Hersch contributed to this report.