MINNEAPOLIS — Kansas City's pitching staff owns by far the best earned run average in the league, and Jeremy Guthrie turned in another more-than-serviceable start.
The Royals, again, couldn't muster enough support.
Samuel Deduno pitched seven sharp innings and one of Justin Morneau's two doubles drove in Minnesota's first run, sending the Twins to a 3-1 victory over the Royals on Thursday night.
"We got in a couple situations where we just didn't get the guy in," designated hitter Billy Butler said. "That's what happens in those types of games. Low scoring pitcher's battle, so it's a tough game."
Deduno (4-2) gave up only five hits and, more importantly, one walk. He struck out three and let only eight fair balls leave the infield. Jared Burton pitched a scoreless eighth and Glen Perkins notched his 20th save in 22 tries with a scoreless ninth inning despite allowing a walk and a double.
The Twins even managed to beat Jeremy Guthrie (7-6). The right-hander topped them twice earlier this season and brought a 6-2 record over nine previous career matchups into the game.
Guthrie gave up an RBI single to Oswaldo Arcia right after Morneau's big hit in the fourth, but the other run he allowed was unearned.
"He gave up four hits in the fourth, and none of them were of the crispy variety, if you will," manager Ned Yost said. "They all found holes."
The Royals didn't have those bounces. Salvador Perez's soaring home run, to the second deck in left field, was the only evidence of success by the Royals against the improving Deduno, who last year couldn't find the plate despite showing some potential with his lively right arm.
"His fastball moves a lot. You just don't know what it's going to do. He locates it well and threw it the whole game," said Butler, who had a single and a walk."
After shining for the Dominican Republic during the World Baseball Classic in March, Deduno has finally found the control of his fastball that escaped him before. His career walks-per-nine-innings ratio was 5.2 entering this game, buoyed by the 53 he issued last season in 79 innings.
In seven starts this year since being called up from Triple-A Rochester, Deduno has completed six innings with three runs or fewer allowed four times.
Following consecutive singles to start the seventh, Deduno had runners at the corners with one out. But he struck out David Lough, celebrating the whiff with a slight hop off the mound at the end of his follow through. Then he got Elliot Johnson to ground out.
"We have to find ways to put the ball in play in those situations," Yost said.
For a couple of below-average teams, this was a crisply played game befitting of the clear-and-dry picturesque summer evening. The fielding error by Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas in the seventh that loaded the bags prior to Pedro Florimon's sacrifice fly, which came against reliever Will Smith, was about the only blemish.
Lough, the right fielder, did his best to keep Guthrie in it by tracking down Morneau's two-out double in the corner and start a textbook 9-4-2 relay to keep Josh Willingham from scoring in the sixth.
Guthrie lost his third straight start, but he could hardly be faulted for this one. He retired the first nine batters he faced and allowed six hits over 6 2-3 innings while striking out four and walking two.
"He threw the ball extremely well," Yost said.
Guthrie lasted only 2 1-3 innings in his last start, a loss at home to Chicago.
"For sure, today was much better. I was able to execute. Even the inning where they got the hits, I felt like they were hitting my pitch more so than hitting mistakes," he said.
The Royals, who have won five of six against the Twins in Kansas City this season, fell to 14-10 in June. That was their April record, too, but that ugly 8-20 mark in May is what has kept them from seriously challenging first-place Detroit in the AL Central. That and their majors-worst home run total of 43.
NOTES: The Royals will send RHP James Shields (2-6, 2.92 ERA) to the mound Friday to face Twins RHP P.J. Walters (2-3, 4.88), who didn't finish the first inning in his last start, a loss at Cleveland. Shields has taken 10 straight turns without a win, despite a 2.87 ERA during that span. The Royals have won the last five of his starts, though. ... Perez is 6 for 10 over his last three games. ... Lorenzo Cain hit the double against Perkins to snap an 0-for-18 skid. ... Butler is batting .310 in 400 career at-bats against the Twins.