By BRIAN HALL
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Martín Maldonado found a formal-yet-fun way to honor the dads in his life.
The Royals catcher celebrated Father’s Day by wearing a blue necktie on his chest protector and had three hits to lift Kansas City over the Minnesota Twins 8-6 Sunday.
Maldonado scribbled the names of his dad, brother, family and close friends on the tie, along with “Happy Father’s Day” at the bottom. Pittsburgh Pirates backstop Elias Diaz wore the same tie in a game against Atlanta, which was provided by equipment manufacturer All-Star.
“Just wanted to do something different for the fathers out there, family members, friends,” Maldonado said. “Something to wear for them.”
Maldonado was all business at the plate. He drove in two runs, one with a single during a three-run second inning and another with a double in the eighth.
Jorge López (1-6) pitched 2 1/3 innings in relief, giving up four hits, including a solo homer by Nelson Cruz in the seventh.
Ian Kennedy allowed an RBI double by Max Kepler but struck out Cruz with two runners on to record his seventh save in nine chances. Cruz believed he had checked his swing on the strikeout.
“The check swing calls are, honestly, some of the more difficult calls you’re going to see in the game,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Obviously, we didn’t like the call, but I find them challenging. It was probably close but something we would prefer to go our way based on everything we saw. But it happens.”
Jorge Bonifacio added two hits and two RBIs for the Royals, who had lost three of four. Kansas City was tied or leading in the eighth inning in three of the previous four matchups against the Twins this season but had lost all four games before hanging on Sunday.
“We’ve been right there in every game with them, a hit away really,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Finally, to get over little bit of a hump and get a win with them, especially on getaway day was good.”
Martín Pérez (7-3) surrendered five runs — four earned — in 6 2/3 innings for Minnesota. Kepler had four hits and Miguel Sanó homered, but the Twins left the bases loaded three times and were 4 of 18 with runners in scoring position.
Cruz had a two-run double in the eighth, but Wily Peralta entered and retired three in a row to strand two runners.
“The biggest thing is that we’re in first place,” Sanó said. “We can lose one game if we’re going to win five, seven games. This is the best team I’ve seen in my life, and we don’t have any pressure about anything. We’re really good.”
The Twins committed two errors on Sunday and have 10 during the first six games of their nine-game homestand. They had 32 errors heading into homestand.
“Nothing really came easy today,” Baldelli said. “It was not our sharpest effort. If you look at each one of those plays, they’re plays we want to make and we have to make going forward but they’re not the easiest of plays.”
Minnesota had its third straight sellout, the first time it’s sold out three straight home games since 2011 when it had six in a row.
The weekend included Joe Mauer’s number retirement ceremony on Saturday and drew a total of 117,051 fans. It’s the most for a three-game series in Minnesota since it had 117,156 in 2015 with the Chicago Cubs in town.
Royals: 3B Hunter Dozier (right oblique strain) will start a rehab assignment with Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Monday. Yost said Dozier would start at Double-A and then leave with his wife expecting a baby later this week. He would return to his rehab at Triple-A Omaha next weekend.
Twins: OF Byron Buxton was out of the lineup for the second straight day after being hit in the wrist by a pitch Friday night. Baldelli said Buxton was available and that the team was being cautious. Baldelli said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Buxton would be swinging a bat at all Sunday.
Royals: The road trip continues as LHP Danny Duffy (3-3, 4.38 ERA) starts a three-game series Monday in Seattle. Duffy is coming off his longest outing of the season when he went seven innings with a season-high seven strikeouts in a no-decision against Detroit.
Twins: RHP José Berrios (8-2, 3.01) starts on Monday as Minnesota begins a three-game series against Boston. Berrios has allowed one earned run in three of his past four starts. The Red Sox will start RHP Rick Porcello (4-6, 4.69).