KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Mike Aviles played his way to the Kansas City bench early in the season by going hitless in 18 consecutive at-bats.
Now it would be difficult to pry Aviles out of the Royals lineup now.
Aviles had three hits, including a homer, and drove in four runs to help the Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 10-3 on Sunday.
"I was never worried," Aviles said of his early skid. "Maybe other people were worried. I wasn't. I know myself. I know I have confidence in myself. I know what I'm capable of doing at this level. I know I can help the team win."
"I don't think I ever was asleep. I just started off slow. Basically if you think about it, you're going to have slumps during the course of the year. Mine was just at the start of the year and that's why everybody noticed. I went through the same thing last year, but nobody noticed because it was later in the year."
Minnesota fell to nine-games below .500 for the first time since finishing the 2000 season 69-93. The Twins fell 10 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, which is the furthest they have out of first since finishing 17-games out in 2007.
Aviles, who matched his career high with four RBIs, hit a three-run homer in the eighth off Twins reliever Dusty Hughes, a former Royal. Aviles' single in the two-run sixth scored Mitch Maier, who had tripled.
"I love Dusty to death." Aviles said. "We're really good friends. We got drafted together (in 2002). We played all the way through the minor leagues. It's like bitter sweet. I feel bad, but it's just part of the game."
Aviles is tied with Jeff Francoeur for the team RBI-lead with 21 and has 11 extra-base hits among his 19 hits.
"Mike is feeling much better at the plate," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He started the year off with a bit of a struggle. He's definitely zoned himself in, seeing the ball good and taking good swings at it."
Luke Hochevar (3-3), who gave up 12 runs in 12 1-3 innings in losing his previous two starts, held the Twins to five hits and three runs in 6 1-3 innings. Justin Morneau did homer off Hochevar in the sixth for his first home run since July 6, 2010 at Toronto. Hochevar is tied for the American League-lead in surrendering 10 home runs in 44 1-3 innings.
"I'd trade it for a win," said Morneau, who shaved his head before the game "We keep believing it's going to turn around. We're going to have to make our own luck. We can't feel sorry for ourselves. The Royals probably don't feel sorry for beating us."
Francoeur, who has hit safely in 19 of the past 20 games, homered into the Royals' bullpen in the second inning. It was his sixth home run, which leads the team. The Royals collected 15 hits, including two each by Maier, Matt Treanor and Billy Butler.
Twins right-hander Carl Pavano (2-3) took the loss, permitting seven runs on a dozen hits in 5 1-3 innings. After being removed, Pavano took a bat to trash can in the dugout.
"That's as frustrated as I can get," Pavano said. "It actually felt pretty good. I just kept whaling away with it. The (bat) wouldn't break. I couldn't break a bat in the dugout and I couldn't break any out there (on the mound). It was embarrassing."
He said his outburst "wasn't pointed towards anyone."
"I told my manager (Ron Gardenhire) that it wasn't pointed at him or anyone else," Pavano said. "It was my frustration. Was it the most mature way to deal with it? No. But it wasn't pointed at anyone. It actually felt amazing. I'd like to go out and do it again."
The Royals led 2-1 going into the bottom of the fifth, but scored five runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Butler had a RBI-double in the three-run fifth and scored on Wilson Betemit's two-out single. Maier's triple scored Treanor, who led off the inning with a double, in the sixth.
Alexi Casilla had two triples, an RBI and scored a run to lead the Twins' offense. The Twins rank last in the American League with 85 runs.
Royals centerfielder Jarrod Dyson suffered a left ankle sprain in the first inning on an as awkward slide into second base when he was out, attempting to stretch a single into a double. Dyson, who has seven steals without being caught, was replaced by Maier in the next inning and is listed as day-to-day.
Notes: DH Jim Thome was held of the Twins lineup with what manager Ron Gardenhire called stiffness. Thome started Saturday after missing the previous four games with a mild oblique strain. ... Victor Ortiz, who grew up in Garden City, Kan. and won the WBC welterweight title on April 16, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Twins pitchers yielded 10 or more runs in a game for the sixth time this season. ... Twins 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who is on the disabled list with a fractured left fibula, will report Monday to the Twins complex in Fort Myers, Fla. to continue his rehab. ... OF Delmon Young, who is on the DL with a left oblique strain, is taking batting practice in Minneapolis and could join the Twins during this 11-day, three-city trip.