MINNEAPOLIS – A day after a rainout allowed the Royals to rest their depleted relief corps, Bruce Chen put the bullpen right back to work.
Fortunately for Kansas City, Nate Adcock was up to the task.
Chen (0-3) struggled mightily against the Minnesota Twins, lasting only 2 2-3 innings Sunday in a 7-4 loss that snapped the Royals' three-game winning streak.
Though he is winless, Kansas City's opening-day starter had pitched well in his previous four starts. But he was out of sorts from the get-go Sunday, allowing Minnesota's first four batters to reach base.
"It wasn't Bruce's day," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He didn't have much. He just didn't have his good stuff today. He couldn't command it or have the velocity on his fastball. Just one of those days for Bruce."
That meant Adcock, promoted a day earlier from the minors to be a long reliever, got his first action much sooner than the Royals had hoped. Adcock worked 5 1-3 innings, allowing one run and five hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
"It's been a week since I'd actually pitched in a game so I was kind of rusty there at first, then started to get into a little groove," Adcock said. "But two-out walks don't cut it. They're unacceptable and that really kills your pitch count."
Chen gave up six runs and six hits in his worst outing of the season. It was his shortest start since July 4, 2005, when he lasted just 1 1-3 innings at New York.
"I'm just glad Nate Adcock came in and did a good job and saved the bullpen," Chen said.
Josh Willingham helped the Twins get to Chen early with a two-run triple in the first. Danny Valencia's single made it 4-0.
After a 1-2-3 second, the Twins got to Chen again in the third. Willingham hit a leadoff double and Valencia followed two batters later with an RBI triple. A sacrifice fly by Ryan Doumit put the Twins up 6-1, and Yost yanked Chen after he walked Trevor Plouffe.
In his first game back from the paternity list following the birth of his son last week, Willingham had three hits and was a home run shy of the cycle.
"It's been a crazy, great few days and I came in here today and didn't really know what to expect as far as my timing and stuff like that," Willingham said. "So I just tried to keep it simple and it worked out for us."
Jason Marquis (2-0) threw six strong innings for Minnesota, which also got three hits and a pair of RBIs from Valencia.
"This is what this team's capable of," Marquis said. "Hopefully, we all can get on the same page at the same time instead of offense doing well one game, pitching the next."
Mike Moustakas homered in the second and added an RBI single in the fourth for the Royals. Eric Hosmer also drove in a run on a fielder's choice in the fourth, and Alcides Escobar tried to start a rally with an RBI single off Matt Capps in the ninth.
With runners on second and third, though, pinch-hitter Yuniesky Betancourt lined out to Willingham in left field to end the game and Minnesota's six-game losing streak.
The loss pulled Kansas City back into a tie with the Twins for the worst record in baseball, and last place in the AL Central.
NOTES: Royals LHP Danny Duffy reported no problems after throwing a bullpen session. Duffy was scratched from his scheduled start last Friday with a sore elbow. If all goes well, Duffy will start Friday against the New York Yankees. "He threw the ball well," Yost said. "Now we're just waiting to make sure everything is all right tonight and tomorrow and have a short throw on Tuesday and see where we are." ... The Royals juggled their starting rotation and will send right-hander Luke Hochevar to the mound for their series opener at Detroit on Monday against Tigers lefty Duane Below. Jonathan Sanchez had been scheduled to start Monday but came down with flulike symptoms in Minneapolis. He'll start Tuesday instead.