KANSAS CITY -- After starting the season with a 4-14 record on the road, the Twins have been plagued by questions throughout the first half as to just when they might start winning games away from the Metrodome. But the question now might be: What road woes? The Twins capped off a successful nine-game road trip on Wednesday afternoon with a 5-1 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
The Twins finished the trip with a 6-3 record, and they've won four straight road series, including all three during this stretch away from home (Milwaukee, St. Louis and Kansas City). Since June 8, Minnesota has gone 10-6 on the road. "It's a big improvement from where we were at," Justin Morneau said. "Those are two good teams in the National League, and then to come here -- these guys always play us tough. ... We're starting to play a little better. We could still hit better with runners in scoring position, but we're winning ballgames. We're finding a way to get it done, and a lot of that has to do with the pitching, which has been great on this road trip." Left-hander Glen Perkins was the latest starter to deliver a solid outing, allowing just one run on 10 hits over seven innings on Wednesday. Perkins (4-4) got 13 of his first 15 outs via ground ball, and he didn't give up a run until the sixth, when Jose Guillen hit an RBI single to left. Overall, Perkins got 16 groundouts in the contest. "I had a good sinker today," said Perkins, who went 2-0 in two starts on the trip while allowing just two runs in 14 innings. "Like my last time out, I was just trying to keep the ball on the ground. I was trying to throw it to the bottom of the zone, and they beat it into the ground today." Perkins was aided by three inning-ending double plays, in addition to the offense the Twins provided him. "They made some nice defensive plays, and we didn't get the big hit when we needed it," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "We scattered too many [hits] and didn't bunch enough." While Perkins made the Kansas City hitters work, it was the Twins offense that got to Royals starter Gil Meche. Minnesota made Meche throw a total of 121 pitches over his six innings, tagging him for three runs -- two earned -- on six hits while drawing five walks. The Twins took their first lead when Michael Cuddyer belted the first pitch from Meche in the second inning deep to left field. Cuddyer's 12th home run of the season put Minnesota up 1-0. "I was just looking for a strike," Cuddyer said. "I wasn't looking for a particular pitch. I wasn't looking for a particular location. I was just looking for a strike, and I was able to get one I could handle." After breaking out of an 0-for-9 skid the night before, Joe Mauer went 3-for-3 with two walks, a run scored and an RBI in Wednesday's victory. It raised his batting average to .392 on the season. Mauer scored a run in the third on a fielding error by Royals second baseman Alberto Callaspo. In the sixth, Mauer's single to center scored Carlos Gomez from second base in what was the final inning for Meche (4-8). "I felt like I went in there today knowing Meche had great stuff and tried to keep it simple and go up the middle," Mauer said. "It seemed to work. So I felt a lot better. That's how it is -- you feel pretty good heading into an off-day." The Twins added two runs in the top of the eighth. Denard Span's two-out single started the rally. Span stole his 13th base of the season before scoring on Matt Tolbert's RBI single to right field. The Royals then issued three straight walks, including a bases-loaded one to Cuddyer to score a run and make it a 5-1 ballgame. With a four-run lead heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Twins turned to knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who manager Ron Gardenhire said recently would be used in more late-inning situations. Dickey threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings, but he put the tying run on deck when he walked Mitch Maier in the ninth.
So Joe Nathan came in for the second time on the trip to capture a four-run save. This was his 21st save of the season.And while the starters have gotten a lot of credit for pitching much better during the road trip, the same can be said the bullpen. Minnesota's relievers allowed just two runs in 24 innings, giving them a 0.75 ERA for the trip. Wednesday's victory also moved the Twins two games over the .500 mark (41-39). It's a mark they had yet to reach this season, as they had gone 0-7 when sitting one game over .500. As the Twins prepare to face two divisional rivals (Detroit and Chicago) during the upcoming nine-game homestand, the hope is that the number will only continue to go up over that .500 mark. "On this trip, we went 6-3, and you feel like you should be about eight games over .500," Gardenhire said. "We played some really good baseball teams, and all the games were tight and close. ... We're now a couple of games over .500, and hopefully we can build on that."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.