- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 9, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Twins’ surprising offense helped Minnesota take a surprising lead in the American League Central over the Kansas City Royals.

Kansas City and soft-tossing left-hander Jason Vargas then used the Twins’ aggressiveness against them.

Vargas threw six shutout innings and Kendrys Morales hit a long home run against his former team to push the Royals to a 3-1 victory on Monday night. The Twins - who entered the day fifth in the AL in scoring - left six runners on as their offense has gone flat in recent games.

“Not a lot going on offensively,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Vargas had a soft stride, kind of fell into the trap of getting out front, hitting a lot of balls off the end of the bat, rolling some balls over. Yeah, it wasn’t a real good night for us offensively.”

Rookie Eddie Rosario had two hits, including a solo homer, but the offense couldn’t help as Phil Hughes (4-6) had one of his strongest outings of the season for the Twins. Hughes gave up three runs on seven hits and struck out three.

Vargas (5-2) gave up five hits and struck out two, Morales hit a two-run shot in the second inning and Eric Hosmer drove in another run in the eighth to move the AL champion Royals (32-23) ahead of the Twins (33-24) by percentage points for first place in the AL Central. Greg Holland got his 10th save in 11 chances.

“We’re treating it as a big series,” Hosmer said. “It’s a team that’s at the top of the division right now. They’re playing good baseball. That’s how seasons work. When a team is hot and a team is going through a scuffle, if we come and win a series here it can get us going.”

The Twins squandered their few chances, including in the third when Torii Hunter grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded. Minnesota had runners at second and third in the seventh following Rosario’s home run, but Brian Dozier struck out.

“Sometimes when he has that changeup and that curveball going, he changes speeds like he did today, hitting his spots, he’s tough to get good wood on,” Hunter said of Vargas. “We did hit some balls hard, it was just right at guys. At the same time, he kept us off balance. We couldn’t put the barrel on the ball. We kept getting it off the end.”

The bottom third of the Twins’ lineup went 6 for 10 but Dozier and Hunter left seven runners on base.

“Offense isn’t in high gear right now, runs are a little tough to come by,” Molitor said. “So the best way to do that is to try and spread it out like we did earlier when we were rolling a little better.”


Hughes hasn’t been near as sharp as he was last season for the Twins. But he bounced back from consecutive starts against the Boston Red Sox in which he allowed nine runs over 11 innings.

“I had nowhere to go but forward,” Hughes said. “While a step in the right direction, still not where I want to be and where I have to be if we want to continue down this path of winning baseball. I need to be better and forget about this, and hopefully win a series.”


The Twins drafted Illinois left-hander Tyler Jay with the sixth overall pick in the first round on Monday night. Jay went 5-2 with a 1.08 ERA in 30 appearances as a junior for the Fighting Illini this season.


The Twins send RHP Trevor May (4-3, 4.45) to the mound to face RHP Chris Young (4-2, 2.56) in Game 2. May is coming off his best outing of the season, seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts in a win in Boston. Young has lost two straight starts and given up 10 runs in his last 11 innings pitched.

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