KANSAS CITY -- Count this one as a double loss for the Royals.
They lost starting pitcher Felipe Paulino in the first inning to an injury and then lost the game, 4-2, to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night before 18,386 at Kauffman Stadium, ending their homestand with a 3-3 record.
There was no immediate indication if Paulino would miss his next start or might have to go on the disabled list with a strained groin.
"Things pop up over the course of a year where you have to make an adjustment and hopefully this won't be one of them," Royals manager Ned Yost said, "But, again, we just have to wait and see what the extent of it is and how bad it really is. Right now, we just don't know."
Paulino, one of the American League's most effective pitchers of late, was drilled above the right knee by Ben Revere's line drive to open the game. Although Paulino remained in the game after that shot, three batters later he suffered a right groin strain.
That occurred as he delivered his last pitch to Justin Morneau, who flied out.
"When I threw the pitch, I felt it pull and when the fly ball went to center field I tried to go back up home plate," Paulino said. "But when I tried to push off, I said, 'No, man!' and I stopped right there. I didn't want to push it. I might miss the next start, but I don't want to miss four or five."
Luis Mendoza relieved Paulino and inherited two runners. Ryan Doumit got an RBI single on a tricky bouncer off first baseman Eric Hosmer before Mendoza got the third out.
The Royals came right back against Twins starter Nick Blackburn in the bottom half. Alex Gordon led off with a single and Yuniesky Betancourt, whose error allowed one of the baserunners in the top of the inning, belted a two-run homer into the left-field bullpen, his second of the season, for a 2-1 lead.
"I made the error, then came back and made good contact and was able to hit the ball out," Betancourt said.
Things went well for Mendoza until two outs in the fifth. Revere singled, Jamey Carroll walked and Josh Willingham was nicked by a pitch to load the bases. Morneau lined a single to left field for two runs that put the Twins ahead, 3-2.
"It was a sinker outside. It was a good pitch but he just found a hole," Mendoza said. "I don't want to face Morneau in that situation, of course, but it was my fault in that inning to walk that guy."
Mendoza went a total of five innings, charged with two runs on five hits. After issuing a two-out walk in the sixth, he was relieved by Kelvin Herrera. The Twins added a fourth run in the seventh against Herrera on Revere's triple and Carroll's single.
During the homestand against Oakland and Minnesota, the Royals scored three or fewer runs in five of the six games. And when they scored seven, they lost the game.
"We had a chance to make it a really nice homestand, a 4-2 homestand, and we just couldn't do that," Yost said. "Even though we're struggling with the sticks a little bit, we're still finding ways to keep in the game and we were in the game tonight -- just not enough to win it."
Blackburn, in his first start after coming off the disabled list after a left quad strain, was pulled after five innings and four Twins' relievers wrapped it up with four shutout innings.
"We couldn't do much," Yost said. "Blackburn threw the ball OK. He threw a couple of different sliders that were pretty effective. One had a hard bite and then he had a slider that would back up on occasion and would catch the jam part of the bat. We could just never center him up."
The Twins, the only team trailing the Royals in the American League Central, now hold a 3-2 lead over the Royals this season after taking two of three in this series.
"A good series as always when we play these guys," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Nip and tuck, battle back and forth, always seems that way, always has been that way. Not a lot of hits, but some big swings in some moments, and then our bullpen did a super job coming in and throwing up some zeros."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.