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KC@MIN: Willingham goes 3-for-5, flirts with cycle

MINNEAPOLIS -- As manager Ron Gardenhire put it, the Twins don't need Superman-like performances from their starting pitchers to turn it around this season.

They just need their starters to pitch up to their capabilities to get away from their Major League-worst 6.87 ERA this season.

Minnesota's 7-4 win over the Royals on Sunday at Target Field was the perfect example, as Jason Marquis turned in a quality start to help the Twins snap a six-game losing streak.

He was solid but unspectacular -- allowing three runs on six hits over six innings -- but it marked just the fourth quality start from the Twins in 21 games.

"We don't want an 'S' on anybody's chest," Gardenhire said. "We just want them to go out there and throw the ball over the plate. I think we're catching the ball a lot better. We think we can score some runs. But they've got to put up some zeros and give us an opportunity to do some damage against the other people. Today was a good day."

Marquis was backed offensively by Josh Willingham, who fell a homer short in his quest for the cycle in his first game since attending the birth of his son on Wednesday.

Willingham tripled in his first at-bat before doubling in the third and singling in the fifth. But he fell just short of his first career cycle, as he grounded out to third in the seventh and flied out to right to end the eighth.

"It's good to get to hit the ball hard and get some hits to help the team win," said Willingham, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. "I mean, I knew I needed to hit a home run for the cycle but wasn't trying to hit one."

The Twins already led by four runs by Willingham's final at-bat, as they roughed up left-hander Bruce Chen in the early going.

Minnesota jumped out to a quick lead, scoring four runs in the opening frame, as Joe Mauer opened the scoring with an RBI single before Willingham brought home two runs with his first triple since June 27, 2010. Danny Valencia plated the final run with a single to left field to score Willingham.

The Twins added two more runs in the third, as Willingham doubled and scored on a triple from Valencia. Ryan Doumit scored Valencia with a sacrifice fly to center field.

Marquis, meanwhile, turned in his best outing of the season, and joined Carl Pavano and Liam Hendriks as the only Twins starters to turn in a quality start.

He served up a solo homer to Mike Moustakas in the second before giving up two runs in the fourth on an RBI groundout from Eric Hosmer and an RBI single from Jeff Francoeur.

"I really focused on the bottom half of the strike zone," said Marquis, who improved to 2-0 with a 6.23 ERA. "My sinker was working so I wanted to let my defense help me. So that was the game plan and I executed it better than I did in the first two games. So I'll keep working to get better."

Minnesota added an insurance run in the seventh on a two-out double from Doumit to score Justin Morneau, who doubled earlier in the frame.

Matt Capps made it interesting in the ninth in a non-save situation, allowing a run on a walk to Francoeur, who advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Alcides Escobar. After Jarrod Dyson singled to put runners on the corners with two outs, Capps induced a flyout from pinch-hitter Yuniesky Betancourt to end the game.

The victory helped the Twins keep from going winless on their five-game homestand after Saturday's game was rained out. It also improved the club's record to 6-15, which ties them for last with the Royals in the American League Central.

"We don't feel like we're 6 and whatever we are," Denard Span said. "We feel like we have a good ballclub. We feel like if we keep coming to the ballpark with a good attitude, we'll turn this thing around. As quick as we've lost some of these games, we can turn it around pretty quick." Comments