Garcia's long road back to majors leads to start for Royals vs. Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Round one went to the Kansas City Royals, the underdog to the Minnesota Twins in the fight for awild-card spot in the American League.

Minnesota will come back and try to take the next round as the two teams continue their three-game series Saturday.

Kansas City earned a 7-6 win Friday as Scott Alexander struck out Eddie Rosario with the bases loaded to stop the Twins' comeback bid.

"It was a good fight," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. "We hung in there until the last round and made it interesting. One little knock away and it's good to see that. Almost for the second day in a row to pull something out like that."

The Twins had pulled off a ninth-inning comeback the day before. But the Royals are trying to stage their own comeback in the standings.

Kansas City had lost six of seven contests heading into Minnesota but now trail the Twins by just 3 1/2 games in the wild card standings. Minnesota didn't lose any ground, currently holding the second wild card spot, after the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels lost Friday.

"It's a big win, we needed this game," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Mike Moustakas echoed his manager's sentiment and hoped Kansas City can build off the win.

"We've played a lot better baseball today than we did the last week or so," Moustakas said. "Maybe a little to take some stress off the boys, and me too. Definitely was a good one."

The Royals will turn to left-hander Onelki Garcia on Saturday. The 28-year-old Cuban will be making his first major league start and fifth appearance of his career. Garcia (0-0, 7.94 ERA) is startingin place of the injured Danny Duffy.

Garcia has made one appearance for Kansas City this season, giving up five runs in 5 2/3 innings of relief on Aug. 27 against the Cleveland Indians.

But Garcia never thought he'd make either of the appearances, he told the Kansas City Star. He was released by the Chicago White Sox Triple-A team in March 2016 and hadn't appeared in the majors since 2013 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"I felt like trash when I was released," Garcia told The Star in his native Spanish. "As a ballplayer, that's how you feel when you're fired from your organization. All I could tell myself then was that I had to keep working because I already had a daughter, a wife. No one else was going to take care of me."

Garcia made three major league appearances for the Dodgers in 2013 after being a third-round draft pick by Los Angeles in 2012.

The Royals signed Garcia and he went 7-3 with a 4.75 ERA in 22 games and 12 starts in Double-A and Triple-A this season.

"I never put my head down," Garcia told the Star. "There were times I wanted to give it up and get a job doing something else because I wasn't seeing any progress. But my wife pushed me to keep going. She kept telling me baseball was what I liked to do, what I know how to do."

Garcia has never pitched against Minnesota, which will have an experienced starter on the mound Saturday. Right-hander Kyle Gibson (8-10, 5.59) will try to build on two strong outings in a row.

Gibson, who is 5-4 with a 3.79 ERA in 13 career starts against Kansas City, has given up three runs in 13 2/3 innings over his past two starts against Toronto and the Chicago White Sox. Overall, Gibson is 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA over his last six starts.

Gibson will tryto get Minnesota back on track after having its four-game winning streak snapped Friday.

"It's been a real nice stretch of team-first baseball, trying to do what we have to do, picking each other up," Molitor said. "The fact that we have so many guys heading in the right direction in terms of performance, it gives us a good chance each and every day."