KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Maybe it was the joy in being back on the mound after serving an 80-game suspension. Maybe it was the fact that Ervin Santana was facing his former team. Maybe it was simply that he was making them foolish.
Whatever the reason, Santana couldn't stop laughing between innings Sunday.
He allowed just two runs on three hits over eight innings, only to get stuck with no decision when Eric Hosmer drove in Lorenzo Cain in the ninth. The winning hit gave Kansas City a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins and a split of their four-game series.
Santana tested positive for the performance-enhancer Stanozolo after signing a $55 million, four-year deal with the Twins, forcing him to sit out the beginning of the season.
He had been dominant in three starts at Triple-A Rochester, though, and did a pretty good job of making his old team look like just another bunch of minor leaguers on Sunday.
Santana struck out eight while needing just 93 pitches.
"I was laughing in between innings," he said. "At the same time, I had to get them out. I know we were teammates, but when we get between those lines everything changes."
The game was knotted two-all when Cain drew a leadoff walk against Blaine Boyer (2-4), who had been summoned to relieve Santana. Twins manager Paul Molitor then called upon Aaron Thompson to face Hosmer, who promptly ripped a pitch down the right-field line.
Cain sprinted around third base at full speed, and a throw from Torii Hunter in right field was nowhere close to getting him at the plate.
Greg Holland (2-0) earned the win with a scoreless ninth inning.
"This is a good team and they're playing well," said the Royals' Alex Gordon, who homered along with making two stellar plays in left. "It's good to come out with two games, especially when I don't feel like we're playing our best baseball."
Aaron Hicks homered and Miguel Sano drove in the other run for Minnesota.
The victory allowed the first-place Royals to salvage what had been a rough series against the Twins, who remain in second in the division. Kansas City was shut out in the opener, needed extra innings to win Friday night, then lost 5-3 on Saturday.
"It was a good series, a couple of walk-offs for them, which are tough. You hope your boys take the positive signs out of the games, head-to-head held their own," Molitor said. "We could have won them all. The reality is we split."
Part of the reason is that the Royals' pitchers were just as tough as Santana.
Danny Duffy continued his renaissance by allowing two runs on five hits and three walks in 6 1-3 innings. It was his third straight solid start since returning from the disabled list.
Ryan Madson and Wade Davis got the game to Holland, who wound up with the win.
"Walk-off wins are definitely fun, especially against a team in our division," Hosmer said. "We're not playing our best baseball right now and we know that. We'll take a win against those guys when we're not playing our best."
Royals 3B Mike Moustakas left the game for what Yost called "a family emergency." Dusty Coleman replaced him in the sixth inning and struck out in his first major league at-bat. Coleman also flied out in the eighth inning.
Twins 2B Brian Dozier began the day with 44 extra-base hits, most in the American League. He added to that total with a double in the eighth, though he wound up getting stranded.
Twins: RHP Ryan Pressly had an MRI exam on his right shoulder Sunday that confirmed a strain, and Molitor said a decision will be made on the disabled list Monday.
Royals: RHP Yordano Ventura (elbow nerve) will throw a side session Monday rather than make a rehab start, manager Ned Yost said. Ventura could return Thursday against Tampa Bay.
Twins: RHP Phil Hughes starts in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore.
Royals: RHP Edinson Volquez takes the mound to start a four-game set against Tampa Bay.