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Royals unable to support Chris Young, bullpen as Kyle Gibson dazzles in Twins' 2-0 victory

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri — The Royals had just lost their fourth straight, getting shut out for the second time, and manager Ned Yost was hardly thinking about their impotent offense Thursday night.

He was ruminating on the guy who made them so punchless.

Kyle Gibson threw eight innings of four-hit ball, using his sinker to wiggle out of the only trouble he found, and the second-place Minnesota Twins went on to a 2-0 victory in the opener of a four-game series against AL Central-leading Kansas City.

"My thoughts are more on the way Gibson threw the ball than our offensive output. He did a really nice job executing pitches," Yost said. "We had really two run-scoring opportunities, one with the bases loaded and two outs, and in the eighth inning. He just made quality pitches."

Danny Santana and Eduardo Escobar had RBI triples for Minnesota, and Glen Perkins breezed through the ninth for his 26th save. He needs just two more to match bullpen coach Eddie Guardado (116) for the third-most in franchise history.

"He's just on a really good roll," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.

So is Gibson (6-6), at least when it comes to facing the Royals. Except for a rocky start last month, the former University of Missouri standout has been dynamite against Kansas City.

"You want to get your guys to bulldog through outs late in games," said Molitor, who left Gibson in to finish the eighth despite his pitch count reaching 114. "It was touch-and-go there."

The Royals' Chris Young (7-4) dodged trouble for most of 5 1/3 innings, the only run he allowed coming on a triple by Santana in the fifth. The lanky right-hander turned over a 1-0 deficit to the game's best bullpen, but his offense was unable to bail him out.

"You just tip your hat. Gibson was great," Young said. "He was locating all his pitches. It was a pretty impressive performance. Gibson was better than me."

The fact that the Royals were even in the game was surprising. The Twins collected five extra-base hits — including the run-scoring triples — and had runners advance three times when Young threw a pitch that got away from Royals catcher Salvador Perez.

Then again, all Minnesota needed was a run against the slumping Royals.

Two of Kansas City's four hits were bunts against the shift, and the hardest-hit ball — a single by Lorenzo Cain in the fourth — led to the most frustrating frame of the night: Kansas City went on to load the bases before Perez struck out looking to end the inning.

PHOTO: Minnesota Twins' Eduardo Escobar ducks to avoid being hit by a throw to first by Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas for the out on Brian Dozier during the seventh inning of a baseball game Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Minnesota Twins' Eduardo Escobar ducks to avoid being hit by a throw to first by Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas for the out on Brian Dozier during the seventh inning of a baseball game Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Not that it should have been surprising that Gibson shut them down.

He came into the game with 4-2 record and 2.68 ERA in six starts against the Royals. Even in a relatively poor start against them in June, when he took the loss at Target Field, Gibson's sinker still drove the Kansas City hitters to fits.

Just as it did again on Thursday night.

"It was a good night out there," Gibson said. "I wouldn't say we needed to come out and make a statement. It's still July. But anytime you play a team that's higher than you in the standings, it's an important game."

STATS AND STREAKS

The Royals have been shut out seven times this season, twice by Minnesota. ... Royals 3B Mike Moustakas snapped an 0-for-14 skid with a bunt single in the first inning.

SANO'S DEBUT

Miguel Sano, one of baseball's top prospects, made his big league debut for Minnesota. The power hitter from the Dominican Republic was the designated hitter and beat out an infield single for his first career hit in the ninth inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: RHP Ricky Nolasco received another opinion on bone chips in his right ankle, but no decision has been made on a course of treatment. ... CF Byron Buxton (sprained left thumb) is still dealing with swelling, though Molitor said he is improving.

Royals: 1B Eric Hosmer (sprained right ring finger) was back in the starting lineup. ... LHP Jason Vargas (left flexor strain) threw 40 pitches in a simulated game. He'll throw 60 pitches on Tuesday. "It was very encouraging," Yost said.

UP NEXT

Twins: Molitor officially announced that RHP Ervin Santana will return from his suspension to start the series finale Sunday. LHP Tommy Milone takes the mound Friday night and RHP Mike Pelfrey gets the start Saturday.

Royals: RHP Jeremy Guthrie tries to continue his dominance Friday at Kauffman Stadium, where he is 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA over his last four starts.

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