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MIN@KC: Parmelee belts a solo homer to left-center

KANSAS CITY -- Esmerling Vasquez had pitched plenty of times in the big leagues before.

He appeared in 141 games with the D-backs from 2009 through last season. But, in his Twins' debut on Sunday, the 28-year-old made his first Major League start against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium and got mixed results.

Vasquez took the defeat after allowing five runs in a 6-4 loss to the Royals, but he earned the approval of his manager, who called the outing a good one.

"Vasquez was good, for his first outing out there," Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire said. "He was misfiring a little bit early, but he settled in pretty decent. In the last inning out there, it looked like he got the ball up and threw some balls to the backstop. We got a little nervous about that.

"But it was a good performance by him. He gave us an opportunity. He had one bad inning early and then after that, settled in pretty okay. We'll take the performance from him and move on from there and see how he does in his next few."

Vasquez's bad inning came in the second. The Twins had spotted the right-hander a 2-0 lead, but that was short-lived. Vasquez walked two hitters and yielded a single to load the bases with nobody out. Eric Hosmer hit a sacrifice fly to cut the Minnesota lead to 2-1, and following a double steal, Tony Abreu drove in a pair with a single past second baseman Alexi Casilla into right field, putting Kansas City in front, 3-2.

After throwing 39 pitches through the first two innings, it looked like Vasquez had settled down, retiring six straight batters on just 17 pitches over the next two frames.

"I couldn't control my fastball in the second inning," Vasquez said. "My second pitch is my changeup, and it helped a little bit."

But Kansas City scored twice more off Vasquez -- first on a Billy Butler RBI single in the fifth and again on another RBI single by Abreu in the sixth. The right-hander threw 79 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and three walks.

"Early in the game, he misfired a little bit," Gardenhire said. "It was the second inning where they scored three runs. He was just misfiring, put a couple guys on. I think, his first start in the big leagues -- even though he's pitched in the big leagues before, never been a starter -- I think he handled himself pretty decent. He settled in after that, got us into the sixth inning or so with a chance to win a ballgame. That's all you ever ask for a starting pitcher."

And for the entire afternoon, the Twins were within striking distance.

They grabbed an early lead off Royals starter Luis Mendoza, scoring a run in the first on a Justin Morneau groundout and another in the second on Chris Parmelee's fourth home run of the season and second in as many days.

After Vasquez's struggles, the Twins battled back to tie things up in the top of the sixth. With two outs and the bases loaded, Casilla grounded a single up the middle off Royals reliever Tim Collins that scored two runs and tied the game at 4-4.

After a Kansas City insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, Royals closer Greg Holland struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth to snuff out Minnesota's comeback attempt.

Joe Mauer went 3-for-4 with a double to bolster his career average at Kauffman Stadium to .362, but the Twins' brightest spot was the performance of Parmelee, who went 5-for-11 with a walk, a double, two home runs, two runs scored and three RBIs in the weekend series. Since returning from Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday, Parmelee is hitting .350.

"I'm feeling pretty good, seeing the ball all right," Parmelee said. "Just ride the wave as long as I can and see how it goes."

Has Gardenhire been happy with Parmelee's performance of late?

"What's not to like? He's putting some nice swings on it, driving the ball to the opposite field, seems to get the barrel to it. If you make a mistake, he seems to hit it pretty hard right now."

Gardenhire chalked Parmelee's success up to more consistent playing time.

"This isn't the first time he's been up here," Gardenhire said. "Young kids need the consistent at-bats. It's really hard to come up and off the bench, sit for three days, then go play a game. And that's kind of what he's went through."

The Twins will need the continued power from Parmelee as their six-game road trip takes them to Chicago for a three-game series with the White Sox, starting Monday.

"You're going to see great pitching. And we all know how the ball flies there," Gardenhire said of US Cellular Field. "[Kauffman Stadium] is a big ballpark, and you've really got to hit it to get out of here. Some of the balls that were hit right here in this series will be home runs in Chicago, so hopefully they'll go out for us and not for them."

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