KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Yordano Ventura lived up to his nickname of "Ace" in two dazzling starts to begin his season.
He showed Sunday that he's still learning to be a big league pitcher.
The Royals' flame-throwing youngster had all sorts of problems in an 8-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Ventura walked four, threw a wild pitch and committed an error when he tried to pick off a runner at first base.
"There's going to be some days he's going to struggle with his command and there's some days he's going to be great," manager Ned Yost said. "He's day-to-day to duplicate his mechanics. When he repeats his mechanics, he makes it look easy."
When he doesn't, well, he looks a lot like he did against the Twins.
"I tried to correct, to make adjustments," Ventura said through Bruce Chen, his translator. "It's not every day that I can make the pitches, but I wanted to go deep and help the team."
The Royals had won five in a row since getting swept by the Twins last weekend.
"They capitalized on mistakes," designated hitter Billy Butler said. "We won the series and we were going for a sweep, but it didn't happen and now we're getting ready for Cleveland. We're starting to hit the ball and the starting pitching is there. We're going in the right direction."
Josmil Pinto homered and Trevor Plouffe and Kurt Suzuki each drove in a pair of runs to back Phil Hughes (1-1), who won for the first time since last July 2. Hughes allowed three runs on nine hits in six-plus innings while ending a personal eight-game losing streak.
Hughes' solid showing came after he had allowed 12 earned runs in his first 15 innings with Minnesota. The former All-Star had not gotten past the sixth since July 13, when he was still a member of the New York Yankees and was facing his current team.
It helped that the Twins staked him to an early lead.
After they went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position in a 5-4 loss Saturday, Plouffe came through with a double in the Twins' first opportunity Sunday. His drive into the gap in right was enough to score Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer and give Minnesota a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
The Twins added on in the fourth. After Suzuki walked, the Royals were unable to turn a double play on a grounder by Aaron Hicks. Ventura then threw the ball away trying to pick him off first, and a wild pitch put Hicks on third base. Eduardo Escobar's single scored the run.
Ventura was finally pulled from the game in the fifth, when the 22-year-old right-hander gave up a leadoff triple to Plouffe and a single to Chris Colabello. He allowed four runs on six hits and four walks in four-plus innings, a line that looks even uglier after two dominant outings in which he allowed a combined one run on six hits against Tampa Bay and Houston.
"Against a tough kid, we've never seen him before, throws the living fire out of the ball, great fastball, good change-up, we made him work a little bit," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Got a couple early, which was huge, and the Hughes did a really nice job."
The Royals bullpen, which had thrown 14 straight scoreless innings, never gave their offense a chance to get Ventura off the hook. Pinto's homer came off Louis Coleman later in the fifth, and Justin Marks — making his big league debut — allowed three more runs in the seventh.
Escobar's two-run shot later in the seventh knocked Hughes from the game, but relievers Brian Duensing, Casey Fien and Glen Perkins made sure his long losing streak would finally end.
"It's good, a good feeling," Hughes said. "Someone brought up last July or something since my last win. Definitely nice to get that one and hopefully get on a little bit of a run."
NOTES: The Twins played with 24 players after claiming OF Sam Fuld off waivers from Oakland and designating OF Darin Mastroianni for assignment. Fuld is expected to join the Twins on Tuesday in Tampa Bay. ... The Royals open a four-game series Monday in Cleveland with RHP Jeremy Guthrie on the mound. The Twins are off before their three-game set against the Rays.