MINNEAPOLIS -- Carl Pavano struggled with his command during the first two innings. Imagine how good he would have been if he were sharp from the first pitch.
"Pavano was fantastic," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He battled through some early stuff, but once the game got going he got into a nice flow, made some really good pitches and had some really good innings out there."
Joe Mauer hit an RBI double and Jason Kubel had two hits to back Pavano (6-6), who lost three of his previous four starts. The right-hander limited Kansas City to two runs and six hits while striking out one. He retired his last nine batters and faced more than four Royals in an inning only twice.
Jon Rauch pitched a scoreless ninth and the Twins won for the fourth time in five games to open a 4½-game lead in the AL Central. The crowd of 40,323 was Minnesota's first of more than 40,000 at Target Field.
Pavano's only real trouble came in the third. Kansas City took advantage of two walks and a pair of singles to take a 2-1 lead. From that point, however, the Royals got only one runner beyond first base against the 34-year-old Pavano.
"In the fourth and fifth, I was more consistent," Pavano said. "I just got more consistent as the game went on. The sinker was all right, the changeup was a pitch I was able to mix in there. Joe and I were able to keep them off balance and I just felt I was able to move the ball around enough to keep them guessing."
Even as Pavano's pitch count reached 100 later in the game, the Royals couldn't get anything going.
"Their pitching staff is tough," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They don't knock your eyes out with blazing stuff, but they pitch. Everybody that steps on the mound is a pitcher. They don't have anybody that's a thrower.
"[Pavano] was getting us again like [Kevin] Slowey did yesterday. He was moving the ball in and out. We got a lot of jam shots and we hit some balls hard, but nothing's really falling for us right now. The balls we did hit hard we hit hard right at them."
While Pavano wants to earn his first complete game with the Twins, he was out of gas after eight innings.
"We had him on the ropes early," Kansas City's Billy Butler said. "We just couldn't execute some situations and we missed some pitches to hit. He kept battling. He struggled early and then got it together."
Royals starter Kyle Davies (4-5) avoided giving up a big inning to the Twins, but Minnesota was able to steadily manufacture runs. The Twins scored single runs in the second, third, fourth, sixth and seventh off Davies.
In the fourth, Minnesota loaded the bases and Michael Cuddyer scored when rookie Danny Valencia grounded into a double play, giving the Twins a 3-2 lead.
Kubel doubled to start the seventh and gave Minnesota a 4-2 lead when Nick Punto beat out a potential inning-ending double play.
Davies, who let a leadoff walk turn into a run in the seventh, tied his season high with five bases on balls in 6 2/3 innings. Over his past three starts, Davies has given up 15 earned runs and 23 hits.
"I put myself in that predicament because of the five walks. There shouldn't have been five walks on the board," Davies said. "I made a lot of good pitches to get out of it and I minimized damage, so you can take that as a positive."
Young hit a home run to left in the second to open the scoring for Minnesota. He has hit safely in 11 of his past 12 games with three home runs and 14 RBI during that stretch.
With Mauer's third-inning double, the Twins have at least one double in 22 consecutive games, their longest such streak since 2007. ... Jose Guillen got his second start in the outfield this season for the Royals. Yost said the move was made to get him comfortable playing in the field heading into interleague play. The Royals will play three of their next four series in National League ballparks. Yost said he will have to juggle his outfielders, and Guillen might play every other day. ... Gardenhire declined to call it a cut off for deciding whether to put SS J.J. Hardy on the disabled list, but Hardy will be re-evaluated before Thursday's game to see how his left wrist responded to a cortisone shot. ... On Wednesday, the Royals selected Nick Graffeo, a RHP from Alabama-Birmingham, in the 38th round of the draft. Graffeo is the stepson of Royals hitting coach and former big leaguer Kevin Seitzer. ... The wife of Twins starter Francisco Liriano gave birth to the couple's second son on Wednesday morning.