KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Joe Blanton had a bad first inning and that was enough to doom the Kansas City Royals
Blanton gave up two runs on his first four pitches and three overall in the first inning, and the Royals went on to a 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night.
Brian Dozier singled on Blanton's first pitch and Joe Mauer, who had his first four-hit game in nearly two years, homered on a 2-0 pitch.
"Fastball almost down the middle," Blanton said of Mauer's homer. "I missed on a couple and tried to be aggressive on one. I thought maybe he'd give one, but he didn't. He came aggressive on it and hit it out.
"It's unfortunate the first inning went the way it did, four pitches in and you give up two runs."
After Mauer's home run, Blanton gave up three one-out singles and another run, prompting a visit from pitching Dave Eiland before the inning ended.
"That was more to calm everything down, stop momentum a little bit, kind of a good visit," Blanton said. "Things started to snowball a little bit and just slowed it down."
Royals manager Ned Yost said Blanton was mechanically awry in the first inning.
"Which results in a flat fastball and not as much bite on the sinker," Yost said. "About the middle of the second, he stayed back over the rubber more and allowing your arm to get in a more downhill position and threw the ball pretty good from that point on."
But it was too big of a hole for the Royals to climb out of.
Glen Perkins pitched a flawless ninth for his major league-leading 27th save.
Trevor Plouffe's tripled scored Mauer in the fifth to extend the lead to 4-0.
Twins starter Mike Pelfrey was chased after the Royals' first four hitters in the bottom of the fifth reached base. Kansas City loaded the bases singles by Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar, and a four-pitch walk to Mike Moustakas. Lorenzo Cain followed with a two-run single to left, prompting Minnesota manager Paul Molitor to replacing Pelfrey with Brian Duensing.
The Royals got another run that inning when Moustakas scored on Kendrys Morales' ground out to pull to 4-3.
"But the big three-run first inning was a little bit of a hole to climb out of," Yost said. "We did a nice job in the fifth inning answering their three-run inning in the first. The key to the game is they tacked on two more runs and we weren't able to."
Pelfrey, who lasted just two innings in his previous start, was charged with three runs and seven hits with three walks in four-plus innings. In his past five starts, Pelfrey is 0-3 with an 8.51 ERA, leaving three after no more than four innings.
Duensing (3-0), the second of seven Twins pitchers, was credited with the victory.
The Twins increased their lead in the seventh on Torii Hunter's sacrifice fly.
Blanton (2-2) gave up four runs and nine hits with four strikeouts in five innings. After winning his first two starts, Blanton has allowed nine runs, 14 hits and four walks in 7 2/3 innings over his past two starts.
The AL Central-leading Royals have lost five of six, while the second-place Twins have pulled to 3 1/2 games back.
Twins: RHP Ryan Pressly left in the seventh inning with a right shoulder strain after giving up a single to Escobar. "As far as his tests, coming out of the game, it looks like it's going to be like a high lat strain," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. An MRI is scheduled for Sunday.
Royals: RHP Yordano Ventura (ulnar nerve irritation) will make his third rehab start Monday for Triple-A Omaha. Manager Ned Yost said Ventura's bullpen session Thursday went "great."
Twins: RHP Ervin Santana, who was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for a performance enhancing drug, will make his first start Sunday. He went 9-10 with a 3.24 in 2014 with Kansas City.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy will make his third start since coming off the disabled list. He is 4-1 with a 2.37 ERA in 10 games against the Twins.