MINNEAPOLIS – While Kansas City's young relievers once again gave the Royals a chance to win, it was a veteran who couldn't make a pitch when it was most needed.
Danny Valencia hit a bases-loaded single with one out in the 10th inning to lift the Minnesota Twins to a 4-3 victory over the Royals on Tuesday night.
While the Twins' bullpen pitched four perfect innings, including the 10th by Dusty Hughes (1-0), reliever Robinson Tejeda struggled for the Royals.
"So far this year he's had the ability to make a big pitch when he's needed to and he just couldn't make it tonight," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Tejeda (0-1) gave up a one-out single to Delmon Young and walked Michael Cuddyer. Then came Jason Kubel, who crushed a pitch to right-center where Jeff Francoeur nearly made a nifty running catch with his glove outstretched and his body bent awkwardly at the wall. Francoeur dropped it after crashing into the wall, though, giving Kubel a really long single and loading the bases for Valencia.
Francoeur thought it was a home run off the bat. So did Tejeda.
"For me I don't care how far you have to go. Once it's in my glove it's in my glove," Francoeur said. "That's what was frustrating for me. I have to make that play once it's in my glove."
Royals starter Jeff Francis got his third straight no-decision, allowing three runs in seven innings and retiring 12 of his last 13 batters. Francis has a 2.61 ERA this season.
"I thought Francis threw the ball really well again. We're just not getting the help for him," Yost said. "I thought he pitched great."
Rookie relievers Aaron Crow and Tim Collins were impressive. Crow worked a scoreless eighth and Collins got Joe Mauer to fly out with runners on first and third to end the ninth.
"It's the same game, Double-A, Triple-A or the majors. You just have to make more quality pitches in the bigs," Collins said. "We're not going out there nervous, that's putting the wrong foot forward. We're going out there and making pitches."
The Royals had a chance to take control of the game in the seventh, but missed an opportunity.
Alcides Escobar reached on an infield single when Valencia's on-the-run off-balance throw needed to be perfect for the out, but it was wide left.
Then Twins starter Brian Duensing picked up Chris Getz's sacrifice bunt back to the mound and tossed it two feet over the head of Luke Hughes with the second baseman covering the bag, an error that put two runners in scoring position and set up Melky Cabrera's sharp tying single that glanced off Duensing's right knee.
He got up and shook off the pain, but that was his last batter. Jose Mijares struck out Alex Gordon, and Matt Capps got Billy Butler to pop out to second and retired Francoeur on a called strike three on the inside corner. Francoeur disagreed with home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, and Duensing clapped his hands and cheered for Capps with a clenched jaw from the dugout.
"You're not going to get it done every time," Yost said. "Billy missed a pitch that he could've drove, and it happens."
Capps pitched a perfect eighth inning, Joe Nathan worked a perfect ninth, and the former Royals right-hander Hughes went 1-2-3 in the 10th, including a diving catch of Gordon's leadoff line drive.
NOTES: The Royals were planning to recall Vin Mazzaro from Triple-A to start Saturday's game against Seattle, but he was roughed up in his first outing for Omaha. Sean O'Sullivan will get his first start instead. The Royals haven't needed a fifth starter yet because of days off.
(This version CORRECTS Twins 4, Royals 3, 10 innings. Corrects punctuation in 1st paragraph.)