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Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer is tagged out on a steal attempt by Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar in the first inning Tuesday in Minneapolis. Andy King | Associated Press

Mauer returns, but Moustakas, Santana lift Royals over Twins, 7-2

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Mike Moustakas homered twice and drove in four runs to back another strong start from Ervin Santana, and the surging Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 7-2 Tuesday night.

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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 seven in a row and nine of 11 coming out of the All-Star break. At 52-51, they are over .500 for the first time since May 18.

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.

Mauer returned to the lineup after missing six games on paternity leave, and he promptly ripped a single to left field on the first pitch he saw from Santana for a 1-0 lead.

The Royals were having difficulty squaring the ball up against Pelfrey in the early going, with Miguel 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 one of the deepest parts of Target Field in right-center.

Moustakas drove a pitch from Brian Duensing over the wall in right field in the eighth for his second career multi-homer game.

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. 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.

NOTES: Moustakas’ first career multi-homer game was on June 24, 2012, against St. Louis. ... Royals 2B Chris Getz (left knee) and CF Lorenzo Cain (groin) were given the day off to rest nagging injuries. Both are day to day. ... Twins 2B Brian Dozier had an MRI on a sore knee, but Ryan said the exam came back clean. He was held out of the game for precautionary reasons. ... The Twins send RHP Kevin Correia (7-7, 4.56) to the mound for Game 2 on Wednesday night to face Royals RHP Jeremy Guthrie (10-7, 4.27).

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