KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Tommy Milone pitched so poorly in April that the Minnesota Twins sent him to the minors in May.
Milone is pitching confidently in September, helping keep the Twins in the playoff hunt.
Milone pitched seven effective innings and Eduardo Escobar reached base four times and drove in three runs as the Twins beat the struggling Kansas City Royals 6-2 on Monday night.
"You like the fact he's an experienced guy," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He trusts in what he does. He hasn't been that way the whole year. We talked about it earlier in the year of getting back to being more aggressive. I think he's tried to keep that philosophy."
Milone (8-4) held the Royals to six hits and two runs, while striking out four and walking one. He is 2-0, allowing two runs and nine hits in two September starts.
"A lot of it is pitching games in September that are meaningful ones," Milone said. "It kind of motivates me to go out there and pitch well. It's a lot more fun."
The Twins are 1 ½ games behind Texas for the AL's second wild card.
The Royals have been outscored 31-9 in dropping four straight, matching their longest losing streak of the season.
"We haven't played up to our standard," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I think our starting pitching hasn't been exceptionally sharp through this run, and offensively, we've faced some tough pitching.
"Milone tonight did a great job. He was consistently strike one on everybody, he was commanding the low outside part of the plate and the up and inside part of the plate for strikes, really good changeups, and mixed in good curveballs."
Escobar contributed an RBI-single in a three-run sixth and drove in two runs with a two-out single in the seventh off Joba Chamberlain, who was making his Royals' debut.
Yordano Ventura (10-8), who was 4-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his five previous starts, yielded four runs, eight hits, five walks and two wild pitches in 5 1-3 innings, striking out eight.
"I wasn't getting ahead of hitters, and this is the big leagues; if you don't get ahead of hitters, you're going to struggle," Ventura said with coach Pedro Grifol acting as his interpreter.
Aaron Hicks hit Ventura's third pitch for his second career leadoff homer.
The Twins broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth when Torii Hunter, Kurt Suzuki and Escobar opened with singles and all scored.
Suzuki scored on the first of two wild pitches by Ventura in the inning. Joe Mauer's sacrifice fly brought home Escobar.
Kendrys Morales' ground out in the first scored Lorenzo Cain and hiked his RBI total to 100, becoming the 28th player in Royals' history to reach that milestone.
Salvador Perez's sacrifice fly scored Morales in the seventh for the other run off Milone. Mike Moustakas was out at home to end the inning, attempting to score on Paulo Orlando's double.
Twins: LHP Glenn Perkins (back spasms) was not with the club. ... RHP Phil Hughes (lower back inflammation) will throw his second simulated game Wednesday.
Royals: RF Alex Rios and Herrera were in uniform after being out nine days with the chicken pox.
Twins rookie DH Miguel Sano struck out twice in three at-bats and has struck out in 11 of his past 13 at-bats. He did draw two walks.
Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson, who went to the University of Missouri, starts the middle game of this series.
Royals: RHP Edinson Volquez lasted just three innings, matching the shortest outing of his career, in his previous start, allowing six runs and eight hits to the Tigers.