KANSAS CITY — If the Royals are to crawl into postseason contention, they’ll need more of what they got Friday from two key veterans: designated hitter Jorge Soler and left-hander Danny Duffy.
Soler, who had a dreadful recent road trip (3-for-23), slammed a three-run homer in the first inning against the Twins at Kauffman Stadium and Duffy held Minnesota to one run through five innings as the Royals pulled away for a 7-2 victory.
Whit Merrifield opened the Royals’ first with a double off of righty Jake Odorizzi, went to third on Nicky Lopez’s single and scored on a pop-fly single by Hunter Dozier.
Soler followed by crushing a 1-2 slider into the left-field bullpen for a three-run jack, his sixth of the season. That gave the Royals an early 4-0 cushion.
“He just wristed that ball,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “It’s amazing when he finds the barrel what the ball does.
“That was a slider that he hit. That has been a nemesis for him over a little bit of time, especially last weekend in Minnesota. … He’s a game-changing player. It’s good to see him get into a good routine there.”
Added Dozier, “That [home run] just set the tone for the game.”
Duffy, meanwhile, grinded. He scattered four hits, walked two and struck out six. And when he needed to, he got big pitches in big spots.
Duffy got nicked for a run in the second on a walk, a single through the shift and an RBI groundout from Ehire Adrianza.
Duffy got out of a first-and-third two-out jam in the third by striking out Miguel Sanó on a fastball up. Duffy retired seven of the final eight Twins he faced.
Duffy’s changeup was effective all night and kept the Twins off-balance. He threw 14 of them: six were called strikes or swings and misses.
“He didn’t throw it a lot,” Matheny said, “but when he did, it was effective.”
Duffy’s changeup has been a money pitch for him lately.
“I’m starting to gain a little more confidence with it again,” he said. “I’ve been really able to get on top of it and drive through it. It has been effective the last couple of starts.
“My fastball command glove-side was good, too. Curveball was good, and the slider was the best it has been all year. It’s good to have everything working at once.”
Curiously, Duffy departed after just 81 pitches. His fastball velocity dipped to 89 mph in his final inning, but Matheny and Duffy said Duffy felt fine.
“He was about at that point,” Matheny said. “He had a real long inning break the inning before that we were watching. It was time.”
Duffy agreed with the decision, saying, “I think they made the right call then. Everything is calculated in what we’re doing. I have 100 percent trust in the plan, and our bullpen got it done again.
“I didn’t feel tired at any point. I just think it was the right call at the right moment.”
Dozier homered, a two-run shot in the seventh and another welcome sight for Matheny, especially after the Royals lost catcher Salvador Perez to the injured list with blurry vision earlier in the day.
“We had to have a couple of guys step up,” Matheny said. “When you lose someone, it creates an opportunity for someone to take the bull by the horns.”