MINNEAPOLIS -- David Lough returned to the Royals' lineup for the first time in a week after sitting out with a strained right hamstring. He was in right field and batted in the leadoff spot against Twins right-hander P.J. Walters on Wednesday night.
"It's been fine for three days now," Lough said. "I've been out there doing some running. Obviously, it's wet so you have to be careful tonight. But tonight's the true test."
Rain fell most of the day at Target Field, eliminating batting practice, but stopped as game time approached.
Lorenzo Cain again was in center field, one night after being struck in the helmet by a pitch during the Royals' 9-1 win in the series opener. He finished the game in which he had a triple, a double and a single.
Royals' defensive strengths show all over field
MINNEAPOLIS -- There's a lot to be said for Kansas City's defense. Mostly because less is being said about it.
That can be a good thing. Royals manager Ned Yost cited an example from his coaching days with the Atlanta Braves when Andruw Jones took over center field.
"I learned this with Andruw Jones," Yost said. "When he came to the big leagues, it was like 'Aaahhh, aaahhh.' Then it got to be, 'Oh, that's good.' Then it got to be you didn't even notice it. Great plays were being made left and right and you didn't even notice it. That's what you see with Moose, with Escobar now."
That's third baseman Mike Moustakas and shortstop Alcides Escobar, who make so many terrific defensive plays that they're almost taken for granted. And it's something that applies as a whole to the Royals' defense which, statistically since Aug. 6, has been the best in the Majors. In the 34 games through Tuesday, they had the fewest errors (13) and the best fielding percentage (.989) in the Majors.
"We got [catcher] Sal [Perez] and Lorenzo Cain back who have solidified our defense up the middle with Escobar who's been good all year long," Yost said.
Perez, in addition to blocking balls in the dirt and calling games, had thrown out 13 of 31 would-be basestealers (42 percent) since coming back from injury on June 22. He also has a Major League best four pickoffs.
"He's pretty special," Yost said.
First baseman Eric Hosmer has continued to smoothly scoop up throws and, in Yost's view, "he's only going to get better," Second baseman Johnny Giavotella, whose defense was marginal last year, has made big strides in his range and throwing.
"[Left fielder] Alex Gordon has developed into a Gold Glover and Cain's got great range in center field, and all of our outfielders, for the most part, are accurate throwers," he said.
Right fielder Jeff Francoeur leads the Majors with 18 assists, Gordon has 12 and the outfield total of 41 tops the big leagues by far.
Moustakas' defense has been so good that he's expected to warrant Gold Glove Award consideration.
"As long as Adrian Beltre is in the league, [Moustakas] might not win a Gold Glove, but he's going to be right there in contention for it every year at third base, based on what we've seen all year long," Yost said. "He has been spectacular."
The Royals also have outstanding defensive players now hampered by injuries in second baseman Chris Getz and outfielder Jarrod Dyson. Defense is an area that bodes well for the Royals' future.
"When I first got here, we'd bumble games away, we'd boot balls away, we wouldn't turn double plays, we had bad routes in the outfield. But Dayton [Moore, general manager] and our scouts have done such a good job at getting us athletic athletes that can play defense," Yost said. "It helps when your pitching is not great and it's going to make the difference when your pitching is."
The 2013 season opener on April 1 at Chicago will be the seventh against the White Sox. Two others were in Chicago, 1976 and 2009. The Sox opened in Kansas City in 1972, '87, 2003 and '04.
The Fox Sports Kansas City telecast on Tuesday night set a September record with a 5.2 household rating in KC. TV ratings are up 12 percent this year, according to the club.
Will Smith, in Tuesday night's 9-1 victory, became the first Royals rookie to have at least seven shutout innings with at least seven strikeouts in a start since Kevin Appier shut out the Red Sox with 10 K's on July 20, 1990.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.