KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Royals fans waited almost all afternoon to see some offense in their home opener at Kauffman Stadium.
When the Royals finally built a rally, it came just in time to give Ervin Santana a much-deserved win.
Santana pitched eight strong innings, Alcides Escobar doubled home the go-ahead run and the Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 3-1 on Monday afternoon.
“Better later than never,” Santana said. “I know we are going to score runs.”
Santana (1-1), acquired from the Los Angeles Angels on Oct. 31 for minor league left-hander Brandon Sisk, gave up a run and eight singles. He struck out seven, walked one and hit a batter with a pitch.
Santana allowed only four hits after the first inning, when the Twins scored their lone run.
“He really had his big slider working and he had a good fastball, too,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “After the first inning he really settled down. His slider was phenomenal. He was able to throw it at the back foot of their big sluggers and keep them off balance. Giving us eight strong innings was big.”
Twins right-hander Kevin Correia (0-1) limited the Royals to five singles and no runs over the first seven innings before Lorenzo Cain doubled to right-center to open a three-run eighth. After Chris Getz’s sacrifice bunt moved Cain to third, Alex Gordon singled to tie the score.
Escobar’s double scored Gordon and knocked Correia out of the game. Jared Burton gave up a run-scoring single to Billy Butler, who tied a club record with seven RBIs on Sunday in Philadelphia.
“Correia did a good job getting us to hit on top of the ball and hitting ground balls,” Yost said. “In the eighth he got some pitches up and we were able to get some runs. These guys just keep plugging away. They have the confidence that they’re going to hit.”
Correia took the loss after giving up three runs and eight hits in 7 1-3 innings.
“I made a couple bad pitches,” he said. “I got behind on (Cain) and I didn’t want to walk him. I threw a middlish pitch that he got enough of to get it in the gap. The pitch to Gordon, I tried to throw a fastball and it ran back over the middle.”
The Royals, who had the best spring training record in the majors, won their first home opener since 2008 when they beat the New York Yankees 5-2.
“It means a lot,” Yost said. “Last year there was as much excitement, but we were down seven after three innings. We wanted to show our fans some exciting baseball. We wanted them to see in person what they have been reading about. We’re very happy to win the home opener in front of a sellout crowd.”
Aaron Crow worked the ninth to earn his first save of the season and the third of his career — two against the Twins. His previous save came July 21 against Minnesota.
The Royals, who have come from behind to win three straight games, have three saves from three different pitchers this season.
Crow walked Chris Parmelee with one out, but coaxed Brian Dozier to bounce into a game-ending double play.
“The decision was easy,” Yost said. “(Greg) Holland and (Kelvin) Herrera were unavailable. It’s too early in the season for them to be pitching three days in a row. Aaron’s an All-Star. I don’t like to say it, but he’s one of the big four we’ve got out there, with Holland and Herrera and (Tim) Collins. I’ve got confidence in any one of those four closing the game.”
Joe Mauer scored on Ryan Doumit’s two-out single in the first for the only Minnesota run. It was the first time this season the Twins scored first after being outscored 9-1 in the first two innings during their first six games.
The Twins bunched four singles in the first inning, but managed just the one run after Doumit ended the inning by being thrown out scrambling to get back to second base after Justin Morneau stopped at third on Trevor Plouffe's single.