KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Wednesday night that initially focused on Danny Duffy’s return to the big leagues turned into a statement performance by the Royals’ bullpen in a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Duffy lasted just 3 2/3 innings in his first big-league appearance since leaving a May 13, 2012, game in Chicago because of elbow pain later diagnosed as a torn ligament. That led to Tommy John surgery.
Once Duffy exited, the Royals turned to their bullpen — the American League’s best — and got 5 1/3 scoreless innings from Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland.
That lowered the unit’s ERA to 2.80 which is the best in the American League. Holland worked the ninth for his 30th save, including his 23rd straight successful conversion. Coleman (2-0) got the victory.
The Royals rallied from a 2-1 deficit after Duffy departed. Alex Gordon tied the game with a leadoff homer in the fourth before Alcides Escobar capped a two-out rally later in the inning with an RBI single.
Lorenzo Cain added an RBI single in the fifth before Billy Butler and Gordon hit successive one-out doubles in the seventh.
Herrera, wobbled a bit through the eighth after a leadoff walk to Chris Colabello and a one-out walk to Trevor Plouffe, which brought the tying run to the plate.
Herrera struck out Oswaldo Arcia but, facing Clete Thomas, threw a wild pitch that moved the runners to third. The threat ended when Thomas grounded to third.
Crow also had some anxious moments after inheriting a 4-2 lead in the seventh from Collins with one out and nobody on. Brian Dozier reached on a single through third baseman Mike Moustakas.
Dozier stole second and went to third when Jamey Carroll single to right, but Crow wiggled free when Justin Morneau grounded into a first-short-pitcher double play.
The Royals then extended their lead later in inning on one-out doubles by Butler and Gordon against Caleb Thielbar. Gordon’s double was the 200th of his career.
The victory represented a bounce-back effort for the Royals after Tuesday’s 7-0 loss. It was also their 15th victory in 19 games since the All-Star break and boosted their record to 58-53.
Minnesota starter Sam Deduno (7-4) lasted until two outs in the sixth, when he departed with a runner on first and trailing 4-2. He was lucky to give up just four runs since he permitted 12 hits.
Duffy didn’t start well.
He opened the game by yielding a triple to Dozier on a line drive into the left-center gap — and then uncorked a wild pitch to Carroll that permitted Dozier to score.
Duffy retired the next two hitters before walking Colabello and allowing a single to Ryan Doumit on a grounder through the left side. Duffy ended a 31-pitch inning by striking out Plouffe.
The Royals opened their first with singles by David Lough and Eric Hosmer against Deduno, who escaped by getting a double-play grounder from Butler before Gordon lined out to first.
Duffy worked around a leadoff single in the second by striking out three straight batter but found more trouble in the third when Carroll and Justin Morneau led off with singles. Duffy then retired the next three hitters.
The Royals pulled even in their third after Brett Hayes led off with a double through Carroll at third. Escobar followed with an RBI single to center.
Duffy couldn’t hold the lead through the fourth. He issued a one-out walk to Thomas, who scored on Dozier’s two-out double over Gordon’s head in left.
That also finished Duffy who, after Coleman ended the inning, finished with a line showing two runs and six hits in 32/3 innings while striking out seven and walking two. He threw 54 of 93 pitches for strikes.
The Royals pulled even immediately when Gordon started the bottom of the inning with a 415-foot boomer to center for his 11th homer of the season.
Deduno retired the next two batters before the Royals took a 3-2 lead by bunching two-out singles by Miguel Tejada, Hayes and Escobar.
The Royals added another run in the fifth after Hosmer led off with a double and went to third on a Butler single.
Gordon struck out, but the Royals caught a break when Cain’s sharp grounder ricocheted off Deduno’s leg into right field for an RBI single.
Cain was slow out of the box before sprinting for second when the ball went into the outfield, but Colabello recovered in time to make an accurate throw for the second out.
So the Royals settled for one run and a 4-2 lead.
Coleman got the first out in the sixth before the Royals called on Collins, who struck out three straight hitters before Crow took over with one out in the seventh.