DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Eduardo Nunez was caught straying too far from first base. Sam Fuld was picked off first the next inning. Brian Dozier was thrown out while foolishly trying to score on an errant throw.
Three outs, all made on the base paths by the Minnesota Twins in the span of a couple innings, and all proving costly in a 3-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night.
Asked whether the miscues haunted him, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire replied: “Sure they do.”
No need to elaborate.
Josh Willingham homered in the second inning for Minnesota, and Danny Santana drove in another run in the seventh. But the Twins left runners on second and third later when Kelvin Herrera struck out Dozier and Willingham to preserve the Royals’ one-run lead.
That’s probably haunting Gardenhire, too.
Wade Davis worked a perfect eighth, and All-Star closer Greg Holland survived two wild pitches that sent Eduardo Nunez to third base by striking out Fuld for his 28th save.
“Anytime you lose a battle like that it’s frustrating, especially with game on line,” Fuld said. “Holland made a great pitch. We battled him.”
Phil Hughes (10-8) showed no lingering effects from a comebacker off his right ankle that cut short his last outing. He allowed only three singles before the sixth inning, when the Royals were able to finally string together a series of hits that gave them the lead.
Omar Infante led off the sixth with a single and Salvador Perez added a tying double moments later. Alex Gordon followed with an RBI double to center, and Mike Moustakas pulled another run-scoring double just inside the first-base line to give Kansas City a 3-1 lead.
The Royals’ bullpen and defense made each run seem huge.
Perez made the first of several memorable plays in the third inning, when he picked Nunez off first base with a snap throw. Duffy picked Fuld off first in the fourth — “A great pickoff move. He caught me,” Fuld said — and Dozier was thrown out easily on his base-running blunder.
“We steal second and third, he takes off running home. He doesn’t know where the ball is,” Gardenhire said. “He just took off. I’m going to ask him what he was thinking there. He said he didn’t hear anything. Well, obviously you just don’t run. That’s not a good play.”
Meanwhile, Perez’s best defensive play may have come in the seventh, when the big catcher leaped from the behind the plate to grab a sacrifice bunt and throw the runner out at first. Herrera followed with his strikeouts to leave the go-ahead run standing on second.
“That was a big play right there,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “A great play by Sal.”
WILLINGHAM THE LONER
Willingham has hit 11 homers this season, eight with nobody on base. That includes the last six. And the fact that the bases were empty when he went deep Wednesday night proved costly when Minnesota was unable to coax another run across until the seventh inning.
Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia rejoined the team after missing the series opener because of the birth of his baby boy. Arcia struck out swinging as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, and is 0 for 3 as a pinch hitter this season. Twins’ pinch hitters are 8 for 54 (.148).
WADE IN THE WATERS
Davis continues to dazzle in his setup role, his scoreless eighth inning Wednesday night giving him a 0.99 ERA in 43 games. The former starter is still the only pitcher in the major leagues with more than five appearances who hasn’t allowed an extra-base hit.
Twins: Catcher Joe Mauer (strained right oblique) took batting practice in the cage without any problems. Right-hander Mike Pelfrey began his throwing program after surgery on June 10 to relieve numbness caused by a nerve in his throwing elbow.
Royals: First baseman Eric Hosmer was in the lineup for the second straight night after missing time with a bruised right hand. He finished 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.
Twins: Right-hander Kevin Correia (5-12) attempts to beat the Royals for the first time in 10 career starts. He has a 0-5 record with a 4.91 ERA against them.
Royals: Right-hander Yordano Ventura (7-8) tries to improve his fortunes at Kauffman Stadium, where he is 3-6 this year. His last home win came in relief July 13 against Detroit.
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