KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Take a look at those standings. That’s right, that’s the Royals sitting atop the American League Central Division.
And before anyone chirps that it’s just April, as if we don’t know what month it is, merely remember last April and that sour-time 12-game losing streak that effectively killed the season.
The Royals rode a five-run first inning to a 7-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on a Tuesday night that ended with the forecasted rain arriving on scheduled over the last few innings.
Jeremy Guthrie served up three homers among the six hits over his 6 2/3 innings, but all three came with the bases empty. He handed a 7-4 lead to Tim Collins with a runner at first with two outs in the seventh inning.
Collins retired Joe Mauer on a grounder to third and pitched around a leadoff single in a scoreless eighth.
Greg Holland injected some high anxiety into the ninth — the Twins loaded the bases — but he closed out the victory by striking out Mauer for his second save in three chances.
Alex Gordon’s leadoff single keyed a six-hit attack in the first inning against Minnesota starter Mike Pelfrey, a former star at Wichita State who lasted just two innings in his first career appearance at The K.
Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Salvy Perez, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain delivered RBIs in that five-run first, which marked the Royals’ biggest single-inning output in the young season.
Guthrie (2-0) extended his non-losing run to 13 starts (seven victories and six no-decisions). That’s the Royals’ longest streak since Kevin Appier also went 13 starts in 1994-95.
Pelfrey (1-1) worked 5 1/3 scoreless innings against Detroit in his previous start but lasted just two innings against the Royals before exiting after allowing six runs and eight hits.
The Royals have won five of six since opening the season with two losses and, at 5-3, hold a one-half-game lead over second-place Chicago in AL Central.
Mauer’s one-out homer in the first inning, a line-hugging drive to left that stayed just fair, staked the Twins to a quick 1-0 lead. It wasn’t only his first homer of the season; it was his first RBI.
The Royals answered immediately with their biggest inning of the year.
Gordon opened their first with a single through the right side and went to second when Alcides Escobar’s blooper into short left-center field fell between three Twins. It was the first of Escobar’s three hits.
Butler tied the game with a double past third, and Moustakas followed with a sharp RBI single to right for a 2-1 lead.
Perez sent a drive deep into the right-center gap that center fielder Darin Mastroianni reached but couldn’t hold. The result was an RBI double. Moustakas scored on Hosmer’s grounder to short, and it was 4-1.
Pelfrey struck out Jeff Francoeur, but Cain bounced an RBI single up the middle. The five runs were a season best; the Royals scored four on two occasions last weekend in Philadelphia.
The foul line bit Guthrie again in the second inning. This time it was a leadoff double by Trevor Plouffe that fell just fair in the right-field corner. That turned into a run on Eduardo Escobar’s two-out single.
The Royals answered that immediately, too.
Gordon started the second inning with a hard grounder past first that turned into a triple when right fielder Chris Parmelee was slow to the ball in the corner.
Minnesota shortened its infield, and Alcides Escobar lined an RBI single through the left side for a 6-2 lead.
Joshn Willingham’s one-out homer in the third closed the gap again to three runs. There was no line-hugging this time; it was a bomb to left.
Again, though, the Royals answered — this time against reliever Anthony Swarzak, who replaced Pelfrey to start the inning.
Hosmer lined a leadoff single into center and scored when Francoeur drove a double into the left-center gap for a 7-3 lead.
Guthrie finally got a shutdown inning in the fourth and, with nothing to answer, the Royals didn’t. But Minnesota opened the fifth with Escobar hitting the first homer of his career.
Mastrioanni followed with a soft grounder to third that Moustakas booted for the Royals’ first error of the season, but Guthrie retired the next three hitters.