MINNEAPOLIS — Ervin Santana heard his name bandied about in trade rumors in recent weeks, with yet another season threatening to swirl down the drain in Kansas City.
Thanks to a post-All-Star break surge, the Royals no longer appear to be in selling mode.
Mike Moustakas hit two home runs and drove in four runs to back another strong start by Santana, and the Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 7-2 Tuesday night for their seventh straight victory.
Santana (7-6) gave up two runs on four hits and struck out eight in seven innings and Eric Hosmer had three hits and an RBI for the Royals, who have won nine of 11 coming out of the All-Star break. At 52-51, they are over .500 for the first time since May 18.
"Everything so far (is going right)," Santana said. "Our defense, offense, pitching very good. Everything is very good for us right now."
Mike Pelfrey (4-9) gave up four runs on eight hits with four strikeouts in four innings for the Twins. Joe Mauer had two hits and an RBI after missing the last week for the birth of his twin girls.
Santana retired the last 10 batters he faced, striking out five of them. Miguel Tejada added two hits and an RBI.
"He's the magic man," Moustakas said of Santana. "It's awesome. Any time he goes out on the mound, you know he's going to deal, you know he's going to hold them under two runs and we just gotta go score a couple for him."
After missing six games on paternity leave, Mauer promptly ripped a single to left field on the first pitch he saw from Santana for a 1-0 lead.
"It felt good to get out there," Mauer said. "I haven't been out there in a while. But I was surprisingly good with the timing at the plate. I'm pleased, I guess, with that."
The Royals were having difficulty squaring the ball up against Pelfrey in the early going, with Tejada picking up two bloop singles, the last a dribbler up the middle that got Kansas City on the board in the third. Moustakas followed with a long, three-run homer to right-center, one of the deepest parts of Target Field.
Moustakas drove a pitch from Brian Duensing over the wall in right field in the eighth for his second career multi-homer game.
"Taking hundreds of swings every day and just trying to get that good feel back," said Moustakas, who is hitting .303 with three homers since the break. "Feeling the barrel and today I found it. Keep working and keep building off of this."
The specter of the non-waiver trade deadline on Wednesday afternoon was hanging over both teams as they opened the series. The Twins are mired in their third straight losing season, a miserable, lifeless year in which they've shown few signs of being competitive in an AL Central division that could be the worst in baseball.
Longtime cornerstone Justin Morneau has heard his name raised in trade rumors, as have several of the team's accomplished relievers, including setup man Jared Burton and left-hander Duensing. General manager Terry Ryan said before the game that it was no secret the team was in sell mode, but he said he couldn't make a prediction of whether a deal would get done before the deadline at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday.
Santana took the mound with his name bandied about as a possible trade candidate as well. That he was allowed to pitch against the Twins could be a strong indication that he's unlikely to change teams. While the White Sox pulled Jake Peavy from his scheduled start against the Indians on Tuesday night amid trade speculation, Santana took the mound and shut down the Twins.
Pitching hasn't been the problem the entire year for the Royals. But now that their offense appears to be coming around, things are looking up.
"We feel like Moose has been coming. (Hosmer) has been coming," manager Ned Yost said. "These kids are really starting to swing the bat really well."