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MIN@KC: Albers four-hits Royals over 8 1/3 in debut

KANSAS CITY -- As far as Major League debuts go, it doesn't get much better than Andrew Albers' performance against the Royals on Tuesday night.

Albers spun an absolute gem, throwing 8 1/3 scoreless innings, and the Twins' offense did the rest against Royals ace James Shields in a 7-0 win at Kauffman Stadium.

Albers, who had his contract purchased from Triple-A Rochester on Saturday, gave up just four hits and a walk while striking out two. It was a much-needed shot in the arm for the Twins, who suffered their most lopsided defeat of the year in Monday's series opener -- a 13-0 drubbing.

"It was special -- no question," Albers said. "It's hard to put into words, but it was special. To be able to go out and have that kind of performance in your debut, unfortunately it's not going to get much better from there. So, I'm just going to enjoy this high and really enjoy tonight."

It was even more impressive considering where the North Battleford, Saskatchewan, native came from, as he was pitching in the independent Can-Am League as recently as 2010 before signing as a Minor League free agent with the Twins.

But the left-hander fell just short in his quest to become the first Twins pitcher to throw a shutout in a big league debut, as he gave up a single to Alcides Escobar in the ninth before walking Eric Hosmer with one out. With Albers at 109 pitches, Casey Fien came into the game and walked Billy Butler, but was able to get Alex Gordon to ground into a game-ending double play.

"It would've been nice," said Albers, whose parents and two sisters were in attendance. "I was definitely getting tired. It would've been tough with Hosmer, Butler and Gordon coming up. It was the heart of the lineup and they had already seen me three times. I was pretty fatigued and it was hot out there. But I wanted it and it would've been nice."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire admitted it was a tough decision to pull Albers, but felt it was the right decision given his pitch count. Albers only once threw more than 109 pitches at Triple-A Rochester this year.

"I did not want to go out there and take him out," Gardenhire said. "He was totally out of gas at the end and I didn't want to see him walking off at the end after giving up a hit or something crazy. But, wow, that was fun to watch. To do that in your first big league performance against a team that's red hot like that was pretty special for us. We needed it desperately."

Albers, working exclusively from the stretch with a fastball that reached just 89 mph, gave up a hit to the second batter he faced, but was able to get Butler to ground into an inning-ending double play.

The left-hander didn't surrender another hit until a two-out single by Escobar in the sixth inning, as he retired 15 in a row. He also gave up a leadoff single to Hosmer in the seventh, but was able to set down the next three batters in order to end the inning.

"He threw the ball over the plate, commanded his pitches well and just threw strikes," said Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, who went 0-for-3. "He made us put the ball in play and we didn't do much with it."

Albers outdueled Shields, who entered with a 3.08 ERA, as the right-hander turned in his worst outing of the year. Shields allowed a season-high seven runs on eight hits, including three home runs, while walking two.

The Twins jumped out to an early lead, as leadoff hitter Brian Dozier homered on just the eighth pitch of the night. It was downhill from there for Shields, who also served up a two-run blast to Justin Morneau in the first inning. It gave Morneau his team-leading 11th homer.

"I didn't get off on the right foot today," Shields said. "Sometimes that's going to happen, but I've got to do a better job to finish the game off there."

Minnesota scored again in the second on a sacrifice fly from Dozier before adding another run in the fourth on a solo shot from Chris Colabello.

The Twins tacked on two more runs in the sixth with Colabello and Chris Herrmann singling to open the inning. Shields then balked to allow Colabello to score from third before Dozier brought home his third run of the game with a single to right.

"We're facing one of the better pitchers in this league," Gardenhire said. "It was a big game for us. We needed to find a way to beat this guy. We put some good swings on this guy and blooped a few in there. Morneau hit a big two-run homer and to be able to add on against a guy like that was pretty fun."

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