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Buxton, Vázquez deliver timely hits as Twins rally for 5-1 victory over Royals

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Byron Buxton drove in the tying run in the eighth inning, Christian Vázquez drove in the go-ahead run to start off a four-run ninth, and the Minnesota Twins rallied for a 5-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

Griffin Jax (1-0), who earned the save on opening day, picked up the win with a scoreless eighth inning for Minnesota. Brock Stewart handled the ninth this time, working around a single by MJ Melendez to put the Twins on the brink of a second straight season-opening sweep of their AL Central rivals.

“I mean, up and down the lineup, fantastic. Almost every guy in this lineup did several things to help us win the game,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Our pitching staff … had a fantastic day. The bullpen came in and just shut things down.”

Will Smith (0-1), whom the Royals signed to a $5 million deal to close out games, had a debut to forget. He hit Ryan Jeffers with one out in the ninth, walked Willi Castro on a full-count pitch, then watched Vázquez drive in the go-ahead run.

Alex Kirilloff added a sacrifice fly and Buxton a two-run double later in the ninth.

“If we continue to pitch like that,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said, “we’re going to be fine.”

The Royals’ bullpen ultimately wasted six brilliant innings from Seth Lugo, whom they signed to a $45 million, three-year deal in the offseason. Lugo allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out four in a dominant first outing for Kansas City.

“My goal is to pitch as deep as possible,” said Lugo, who also hit a batter — before his bullpen proceeded to hit three more. “Weak contact and ground balls, that’s my game plan.”

The Twins didn’t exactly do any favors for Joe Ryan, either.

The right-hander retired the first 10 batters he faced and was still cruising along until Bobby Witt Jr. legged out a double in the sixth. Steven Okert came in and, after getting a groundout and intentionally walking Salvador Perez, Melendez singled through the left side to give Kansas City the 1-0 lead.

It was still that way after the Royals’ John Schreiber escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh. But Edouard Julien led off the eighth with a double off James McArthur, and Buxton followed two batters later with a tying double of his own.

“We didn’t put a bunch of runs on the board but we had some good swings. We just couldn’t get the right swing at the right time,” Baldelli said. “We got some baserunners and we took advantage of it late in the game and separated in a good way.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Twins INF Royce Lewis went on the injured list with a “severe quad strain” and could miss more than a month, said Derek Falvey, their president of baseball operations. Lewis hurt it on opening day Thursday rounding the bases. He had homered and singled in his two at-bats. “He’s going to have some significant time down,” Falvey said.

ROSTER MOVES

UTIL Austin Martin was called up from Triple-A St. Paul and is prepared to make his big league debut. He had about 10 friends and family members fly into Kansas City with the hopes of seeing him play this weekend.

UP NEXT

Twins RHP Bailey Ober will start the series finale on Sunday. RHP Brady Singer will face him for Kansas City.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer

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