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Royals can't recover from rough start in 4-1 loss to Twins

Royals starter Kyle Davies got a quick hook Friday night against the Minnesota Twins. Just not quick enough, as it turned out.

Davies gave up three runs in 2 1/3 innings — enough to send the Royals to a 4-1 loss on an otherwise gorgeous night in front of a big crowd at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals’ attack remained stalled through a third straight loss and failed for the second straight game to produce an extra-base hit. The Royals have five runs in their last three games after winning seven of their previous eight.

Twins starter Kevin Slowey evened his record at 8-8 by limiting the Royals to one run in 5 2/3 innings. The Royals mounted threats in the closing innings but couldn’t break through against the Minnesota bullpen.

Even so, the Royals trailed just 3-1 until Minnesota scored once in the ninth against Ramon Ramirez. Joe Mauer collected his second RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly.

Slowey dominated the Royals earlier this year in a 5-1 victory here on May 29 for his first career complete game. That night, he struck out six and walked none. He was just as good this time through five innings. Slowey carried a 3-0 lead in the sixth but exited after three singles produced one run and put runners at first and third with two outs.

Craig Breslow stranded both runners by retiring Alex Gordon on a fly to center.

Jesse Crain, Dennys Reyes, Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan completed the victory, which enabled the Twins to remain one-half game behind first-place Chicago in the American League Central Division.

The Royals loaded the bases against Nathan in the ninth on a hit batsman and two singles. But Nathan secured his 31st save in 33 opportunities by retiring David DeJesus on a grounder to short. The Twins have won eight of 10 games this season against the Royals. The crowd of 33,653 was the largest at the K since the Cardinals’ late-June visit.

Minnesota managed just six hits, all singles, but bunched three in their three-run third inning. The Royals finished with 11 hits, including four by Mike Aviles, who raised his average to .341.

The loss wasted some fine work by the Royals’ bullpen once Davies, 5-3, exited after throwing 69 pitches in his 2 1/3 innings.

Davies started well enough — a one-two-three first inning — and pitched around three walks in the second. He gave up three runs in the third before Joel Peralta stopped the damage.

It marked the sixth time in seven starts that Davies failed to last six innings.

Peralta worked a career-high 3 1/3 innings before Horacio Ramirez went 1 1/3 innings. Ramon Ramirez worked a scoreless eighth before stumbling in the ninth.

Minnesota’s three-run burst started when Denard Span opened the third inning with a single. Nick Punto followed with a walk before Mauer’s single to left scored Span for a 1-0 lead.

Justin Morneau loaded the bases with a sharp single to left.

Jason Kubel’s slow grounder to second scored two runs. Punto scored on the grounder, and Mauer scored from second when Aviles threw wild to first in an effort to get a double play.

When Davies walked Delmon Young, Manager Trey Hillman summoned Peralta, who reloaded the bases by walking Brendan Harris before retiring the next two hitters.

Peralta held the Twins in check until weakening with two outs in the sixth. A two-out single and steal by Carlos Gomez and a walk to Span brought Horacio Ramirez into the game.

Gomez and Span executed a double steal, but Ramirez retired Punto on a hopper back to the mound.

The Royals finally broke through against Slowey in the sixth after Aviles led off with a single through the left side. Aviles went to second on Mark Teahen’s grounder to first and scored when DeJesus grounded a single into right field.

Billy Butler moved DeJesus to third with a two-out single, which finished Slowey. Manager Ron Gardenhire called on Breslow for a lefty-lefty matchup against Gordon.

Breslow won.

The Royals stirred again in the seventh against Crain after Esteban German reached on a two-out error by shortstop Adam Everett. Aviles’ hit-and-run single moved German to third.

In came Reyes, who ended the inning by striking out Teahen on full-count fastball after a passed ball moved Aviles into scoring position with the tying run. The Royals also put runners on base in the eighth and ninth but got nothing.

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