KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Nick Blackburn stopped overthinking and started getting outs.
Blackburn shook off a slow start and pitched five effective innings, helping the Minnesota Twins beat the Kansas City Royals 4-2 on Wednesday night.Justin Morneau hit a go-ahead, two-run single with two out in the fifth as Minnesota won for the fourth time in five games. Morneau, Ben Revere and Ryan Doumit each had two hits.Blackburn (2-4), who was making his first start since coming off the disabled list after a left quad strain, allowed two runs and five hits. He threw 92 pitches while lowering his ERA from 8.37 to 7.75."He was looking really strong," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "His ball was sinking and he had a plan. When a guy can go out there like that, that's a confidence booster for them."Yuniesky Betancourt hit a two-run homer in the first, but that was it for the Royals. Four Twins relievers combined for four innings of two-hit ball, with Matt Capps tossing a perfect ninth to log his 14th save in 15 opportunities.Blackburn attributed the shaky first to a recurring problem."It's the same thing I've been going through for a while," he said. "I'm thinking too much. In the second inning I told myself to take my brain out of it a little. I was thinking about the same thing too much. To be a part of a win when they didn't have to score seven for me is big, to be a part of a low-scoring win."I needed to go out there with confidence. Obviously I was not trusting my stuff. Tonight was a big step in that direction in trusting my stuff."Royals right-hander Felipe Paulino faced four batters in the first inning before leaving with a strained right groin. Paulino was injured on his 13th and final pitch, retiring Morneau on a fly ball."He got the popup to Morneau and when he went to cover third base, he felt something in his groin," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They're checking it and we're seeing exactly what it is."It does change your plan a little bit. There are always things that pop up over the year that you have to make an adjustment. Hopefully this won't be one of them, but we'll just have to wait and see what the extent of it and how bad it really is. Right now we just don't know."Paulino, who began the season on the disabled list with a right forearm strain, is 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA and had not allowed a run in four of his first six starts.Luis Mendoza (2-3) came in and pitched five innings, yielding two runs and five hits.Morneau's bases-loaded hit in the fifth scored Revere and Jamey Carroll, giving the Twins a 3-2 lead. Revere also tripled and scored on Carroll's single in the seventh for Minnesota's final run.The Twins scored an unearned run in the first after shortstop Betancourt committed an error. Doumit's double brought home Carroll, who reached on Betancourt's third error in five games.
C Joe Mauer, who has a career .348 batting average against the Royals, did not play in the three-game series because of a sprained right thumb. Mauer hasn't swung a bat since the injury Sunday, but has been able to catch bullpen sessions. ... CF Denard Span, mired in an 0 for 14 skid, was held out of the Twins' lineup. ... SS Alcides Escobar, who committed three errors in the previous four games and is hitless in his past 11 at-bats, was not in the Royals lineup, getting a breather. He had started 53 of the first 54 games. ... Royals 1B Eric Hosmer singled in the fourth, extending his hitting streak to nine games. ... Twins LF Josh Willingham is hitting .361 during his 10-game hitting streak after a first-inning single. ... The Twins, who have the worst record in the AL, won their third straight series. ... Both clubs are off Thursday.