Samuel Deduno had that ever-important command, of his fastball and his emotions.
The key to keeping calm?
"Oh, just breathe," Deduno said with a smile after he pitched seven sharp innings to send the Minnesota Twins to a 3-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.
One of Justin Morneau's two doubles drove in Minnesota's first run in the fourth, and Deduno took over from there.
"Some guys really look like they think they're going to hit it, and then all of a sudden it just kind of moves late on them," said Morneau, who handled more than his share of groundouts at first base during Deduno's outing. "He did a really nice job tonight. That was what we needed."
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, but the other run he allowed was unearned.
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.
"Everything moves. Just tough," Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said. "He's got a good slider. Hard curve. He's just real efficient."
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.
"He's got a really nice natural cutter that just bores in on our lefties," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We just haven't done anything against him."
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.
"That was a huge sequence of pitches," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, adding: "He's more in control on the mound. His windup, he's not falling all over the place."
Said Deduno: "Tonight, everything was working."
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.
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.
The Twins improved to 11-4 in their last 15 home games.
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. ... Twins DH-RF Ryan Doumit, who's also the backup catcher, handled rookie Kyle Gibson's pregame bullpen session and reported no problems with his sore right ankle. This was his third straight game on the bench. ... Twins CF Aaron Hicks, who began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester this week for his strained left hamstring, was scheduled to increase his playing time to nine innings by Friday. GM Terry Ryan declined to put a timetable on Hicks' return to Minnesota. ... The Twins signed second-rounder Ryan Eades, a RHP from Louisiana State, giving them 23 of their first 25 draft picks under contract. ... Perez is 6 for 10 over his last three games. ... This was Guthrie's first loss in four starts at Minnesota. ... Lorenzo Cain hit the double against Perkins to snap an 0-for-18 skid. ... This was the shortest game of the season for the Twins at 2:29.