KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Royals knew they would need somebody to step up when Salvador Perez went on the injured list earlier in the day with a mysterious eye ailment that had caused the star catcher to have some blurry vision.
Well, Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier certainly left the Twins seeing red.
Soler hit a three-run homer to cap a four-run first inning, Dozier went deep for the third straight game against Minnesota, and the two young sluggers helped Kansas City cruise to a 7-2 victory Friday night to open a third straight weekend series against its AL Central rival.
“We talked about his before game. We have to have a couple guys step up,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “Every time you lose somebody it creates an opportunity.”
It also created an easy night for Danny Duffy (2-2), who pitched a 1-2-3 first inning and then suddenly found himself with a 4-0 lead. Duffy wound up needing 81 pitches to get through five, but he permitted just four hits and a pair of walks while striking out six. The only run he allowed came on Ehire Adrianza’s groundout with a runner on third.
“Fastball command, was able to throw some sinkers in there that moved a lot. Curveball was good. The slider was the best it has been all year,” said Duffy, who also happened to punch out a handful of Twins with his changeup.
Twins starter Jake Odorizzi (0-1) allowed five runs and seven hits before he was literally knocked from the game.
Alex Gordon drilled him with a liner in the ribs in the fourth inning, and the right-hander who began his career in the Kansas City organization went to the ground immediately. It took several minutes before Odorizzi could walk gingerly to the dugout. X-rays taken at the ballpark were negative, and the Twins called his injury a bruised right abdomen.
“That’s a frightening moment. You never want to see anything like that on a field or anywhere else,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Jake’s abdomen took the brunt of it. He’s OK. He’s pretty sore, obviously. He’s got a pretty good mark, visible from across the room. He was able to avoid serious injury, which is really all we’re caring about at this point.”
The Royals, who have struggled to give Duffy much run support, staked him to a big lead right out of the gate.
Whit Merrifield opened the game with a crisp double and, after Nicky Lopez put runners on the corners with a base hit, Dozier followed with an RBI single. That merely set the table for the power-hitting Soler, who boosted a hanging 1-2 pitch over the left-field bullpen for his sixth homer of the season.
The Twins scratched out a run in the second on a walk, single and groundout but kept squandering chances. They left a runner in scoring position when Max Kepler struck out, then left runners stranded on the corners in the third.
The Royals answered with a run in the fourth. They tacked on two more on Dozier’s homer in the seventh.
“Any time you can barrel a ball,” Dozier said, “it feels pretty good.”
Twins: They were playing their first game without either OF Byron Buxton (shoulder), 2B Luis Arraez (knee), 3B Josh Donaldson (calf) and C Mitch Garver (ribs) in the starting lineup. There is a chance Arraez returns during the series. … RHP Zack Littell left after recording one out with right elbow inflammation.
Royals: Perez began having vision problems last weekend and saw an eye specialist Monday. The condition is not considered serious. “We want to take as much time as we can and make a wise decision for him and us,” Matheny said. “He’s trying to push everything as hard as he can to help that eye heal, but it’s just going to take time.”
RHP Brady Singer (1-2, 4.56 ERA) makes his sixth career start for the Royals, with half of them having now come against the Twins. Minnesota counters with Randy Dobnak, who is off to a brilliant 4-1 start with a 1.42 ERA.