Royals sprint past Twins, 7-3

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After rolling through the American League Central through most of two months, the Twins have veered into the ditch.

Rookie shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. hit three doubles and drove in a pair of runs, and Royals starter Brady Singer kept the Twins’ offense in neutral over 5⅔ innings as Kansas City won 7-3 Saturday in front of 22,249 at Target Field.

The loss was the Twins’ third in four games, all against AL Central opponents Detroit and Kansas City. The Twins were 14-3 against their division rivals until they lost to the Tigers, 4-2, in 10 innings on Wednesday.

They’ll try to salvage a split of this four-game series in a 1:10 p.m. first pitch on Sunday before leaving to play eight games in seven days in Detroit and Toronto.

Twins starter Chris Archer, who entered the season with only 19⅓ innings pitched since 2019 because of surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome and a hip injury, was charged with five runs in four innings, but only three were earned because of some uncharacteristically rough defense.

“There were a few things that happened earlier in the game. We could’ve done a better job with some of it,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.

With the Twins trailing 2-1 in the fourth, Hunter Dozier singled and took second when catcher Gary Sanchez blocked Archer’s pitched wide to the left batter’s box but couldn’t contain it. It was called a wild pitch, and after Archer fanned Carlos Santana, Emmanuel Rivera singled Dozier home for a 3-1 lead.

Archer appeared to get out of the inning when he got No. 9 hitter Nicky Lopez to bounce to second, but Jorge Polanco threw low to first and Luis Arraez couldn’t scoop it, keeping the inning alive. Whit Merrifield followed with a two-run double to give the Royals a 5-1 lead in the fourth inning.

“I was hoping to make better pitches all around, especially to Merrifield,” Archer said. “I basically threw a fastball down the middle. I was really focused on picking up my teammate in that spot. So, yeah, it’s frustrating. I wanted to do better.”

It kind of derailed the game for Minnesota, which added two runs on Ryan Jeffers’ two-run single in the sixth inning. The Royals answered with two runs in the seventh on Hunter Dozier’s two-out, two-run single off right-hander Jovani Moran.

“Our expectation level is very high on the defensive side of the ball, and I think it’s one of those things that will lead us to winning ball games,” Baldelli said. “You’re going to have games where the defense is not going to make every single play, and you’ve got to find ways to overcome it.”

Trevor Larnach hit a solo home run off Singer (2-0) to tie the game 1-1 in the second inning, but the right-hander gave up only three hits and struck out eight without walking a batter. The Twins loaded the bases off Josh Stautmont in the ninth but Kyle Garlick, representing the tying run, lined out to deep left-center to end the game. They finished with 11 hits and 11 left on base.

If there was any good news for the Twins it was another issue-free start for Archer, who fell to 0-2 but has thrown 34⅓ innings this season, almost twice as many big league innings as he had thrown in the previous two seasons combined. Although he gave up seven hits and fanned only one, Archer didn’t walk a batter and really should have been out of the fourth with a 2-1 deficit.

“He was right there,” Baldelli said. “We were pretty close to getting through that inning with 60, 65 pitches and he would’ve taken the mound (in the fifth) if that were the case.”

Archer said he feels on pace to become a consistent part of the Twins’ rotation. He averaged 191 innings pitched, with a 3.76 earned-run average, for Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh from 2014-18 but hasn’t started 20 games since starting 23 for the Pirates in 2019.

He has started eight games this season but hasn’t thrown more than four innings so far.

“I really appreciate how the training staff and Rocco have been mindful of (my past workload),” he said. “I’m starting to feel good and requesting to go deeper. I think that’s a good sign. Hopefully the situation allows me to go a little bit deeper next time if my body continues to feel good.”

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