MINNEAPOLIS - For almost three seasons, Josh Willingham's family was there to greet him outside the Minnesota Twins' clubhouse after games at Target Field.
They were waiting for him again on Friday, only this time the slugger came out of a different door.
Willingham hit a three-run double during a five-run fourth inning in his return to Target Field, and the surging Kansas City Royals hung on for a 6-5 victory.
Kansas City’s Jarrod Dyson slides into third base for a triple during the third inning of the Royals’ 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday. Kansas City widened its American League Central lead to 1 1/2 games.
When Willingham popped his head out of the visitors' clubhouse after the game, his three young sons ran excitedly to be with their father.
"I knew it was going to be a little strange playing against your former team," said Willingham, who was traded from the Twins to the Royals four days earlier. "I'm just happy we won the game tonight."
Kansas City won for the 11th time in 12 games and widened its lead over the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central standings to 1 1/2 games.
The Royals' Danny Duffy (8-10) permitted three runs in 5 1/3 innings to win his third straight start.
The Twins' Oswaldo Arcia hit an RBI double in the ninth and pinch hitter Chris Parmelee drove him in with a groundout, but Greg Holland struck out Danny Santana for his 37th save in 39 chances.
"Unfortunately we couldn't make up enough ground. I don't think we did too well with runners in scoring position," said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire - his team was 1-for-11 in those situations.
The Twins' Kurt Suzuki, a Baldwin High School graduate, was 3-for-3 with a double, raising his batting average to .307 - ninth-best in the AL. Joe Mauer hit an eighth-inning double to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, equaling a career high set in 2008.
After Minnesota took a 2-0 lead in the third, the first six Kansas City hitters reached base to start the fourth off Ricky Nolasco (5-8), who was activated before the game - he had been on the disabled list since July 8 with a strained right elbow.
"I made some good pitches. A little unfortunate some balls found a few holes," Nolasco said. "The main one was the one by Willingham. I'd like to have that one back. But I made a bad pitch there, hung it. That's what good hitters do there; they'll make you pay in those type of RBI situations."