MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Joe Mauer hit his first home run of the season and free-agent acquisition Ricky Nolasco earned his first win for the Minnesota Twins in a 7-1 victory Saturday over the Kansas City Royals.
A day after getting his first RBI of the year, Mauer drove in three more runs against Kansas City starter James Shields. Brian Dozier had a leadoff homer for Minnesota, which has scored the second-most runs in the American League.
Nolasco (1-1) showed why the Twins signed him to a $49 million, four-year contract to steady their rotation. The right-hander gave up five runs in each of his first two outings for his new team, but was on top of his game Saturday in his first home start for Minnesota. Nolasco went eight innings and allowed five hits with four strikeouts.
Shields (0-2) yielded seven runs — one earned — in 5 2-3 innings. He gave up six hits and walked three while striking out five.
With Nolasco in the fold and the Twins adding right-hander Phil Hughes as well, the rotation appears improved. It was Minnesota’s lineup that figured to keep the Twins near the bottom of the AL Central again.
Instead, Dozier has been a power source in the leadoff spot with four home runs, and Minnesota has received big production from a middle of the order that includes Trevor Plouffe, Chris Colabello and Jason Kubel.
Making the transition full-time to first base this season, Mauer was slow to come around with the bat. Kansas City’s first trip to Minnesota was the perfect remedy. In his career, Mauer has hit .338 against the Royals with 11 homers and 95 RBIs. He’s also hit .350 (12 for 37) against Shields.
Shields put Kansas City in an early hole again. The Royals had seven quality starts in their first eight games, but Bruce Chen allowed two first-inning runs Friday night and only went 3 2-3 innings. Shields gave up a home run to Dozier on his fourth pitch and Minnesota added six runs in the second.
Shields was undone by the defense, including his own.
None of the runs in the second were earned because Shields misplayed a sacrifice bunt by Kurt Suzuki, with the ball slipping out of his hand for an error as the pitcher tried to throw to third base. Shields then walked No. 8 hitter Aaron Hicks with the bases loaded. Later, third baseman Mike Moustakas couldn’t handle a hard-hit grounder by Dozier that deflected into left field for an error, allowing two runs to score.
Mauer followed Moustakas’ error with a two-run homer, his first since Aug. 16 last season.
NOTES: Kansas City recalled LHP Danny Duffy from Triple-A Omaha to pitch out of the bullpen. Duffy, who was in the mix for a rotation spot this spring, is the only healthy left-hander in the bullpen. But manager Ned Yost said his future is still as a starter. The Royals optioned 2B Johnny Giavotella to Omaha. … Minnesota put LF Josh Willingham on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised left wrist. Willingham was set to have an MRI later Saturday. The move was made retroactive to Monday, and the team hopes he’ll be ready to return when eligible. The Twins recalled RHP Michael Tonkin from Triple-A Rochester. … Minnesota assistant general manager Rob Antony said SS Jason Bartlett will travel to Fort Myers, Fla., on Sunday to begin rehabilitating a left ankle injury. Bartlett was placed on the disabled list Monday. … Twins RHP Kevin Correia (0-1, 6.17 ERA) pitches Sunday against LHP Jason Vargas (1-0, 1.20).