Updated: 04/21/2014 2:40 PM KSTP.com
Minnesota Twins first base coach Scott Ullger throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals.
Photo: Photo: AP/Charlie Riedel
Phil Hughes ended a personal losing streak that dated to last July, pitching into the seventh inning Sunday and helping the Twins top the Kansas City Royals 8-3 to avoid a three-game sweep.
Hughes (1-1), who signed a $24 million, three-year deal in December, allowed an RBI single to Omar Infante in the fifth and a two-run homer to Alcides Escobar in the seventh while winning for the first time in 17 appearances. He had lost eight games since that victory on July 2.
Josmil Pinto homered and Trevor Plouffe and Kurt Suzuki each drove in a pair of runs for the Twins, who battered Yordano Ventura (1-1) before piling on against the Royals' bullpen.
The loss ended Kansas City's five-game winning streak.
Hughes' solid showing came after he had allowed 12 earned runs in his first 15 innings with Minnesota. The former All-Star had not survived past the sixth since July 13, when he was still a member of the New York Yankees and was facing his current team.
It helped that the Twins staked him to an early lead.
After they went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position in a 5-4 loss Saturday, Plouffe came through with a double in the Twins' first opportunity Sunday. His drive into the gap in right was enough to score Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer and give Minnesota a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
The Twins added on in the fourth. After Suzuki walked, the Royals were unable to turn a double play on a grounder by Aaron Hicks. Ventura then threw the ball away trying to pick him off first, and a wild pitch put Hicks on third base. Eduardo Escobar's single scored the run.
Ventura was finally pulled from the game in the fifth, when the 22-year-old right-hander gave up a leadoff triple to Plouffe and a single to Chris Colabello. He allowed four runs on six hits and four walks in four-plus innings, a line that looks even uglier after two dominant outings in which he allowed a combined one run on six hits against Tampa Bay and Houston.
The Royals bullpen, which had thrown 14 straight scoreless innings, never gave their offense a chance to get Ventura off the hook. Pinto's homer came off Louis Coleman later in the fifth, and Justin Marks - making his big league debut - allowed three more runs in the seventh.
Escobar's two-run shot later in the seventh knocked Hughes from the game, but relievers Brian Duensing, Casey Fien and Glen Perkins made sure his long losing streak would finally end.
NOTES: The Twins played with 24 players after claiming OF Sam Fuld off waivers from Oakland and designating OF Darin Mastroianni for assignment. Fuld is expected to join the Twins on Tuesday in Tampa Bay. ... The Royals open a four-game series Monday in Cleveland with RHP Jeremy Guthrie on the mound. The Twins are off before their three-game set against the Rays. ... The Twins left 11 on base. The Royals stranded eight.
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