Royals seek series split after Saturday's rally to beat Twins

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor heaps praises on the Kansas City Royals, but he would also like to bury them.

A Twins victory Saturday would have put the Royals 5 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the second American League wild-card slot. Instead, the Royals scored three runs in the eighth inning to pull out a 5-2 victory and inched within 3 1/2 games of the Twins.

"Until someone tells them they don't have a chance, they're not going to stop," Molitor said of the Royals. "That's their mindset. You can tell by how (Royals manager) Ned (Yost) runs his team and the players he runs out there.

"They've got some guys banged up. It's not that hard to see. They're playing through some things, too. It's that time of year. We knew they'd come back and be ready to play tonight and they did. They found a way to come back and steal one in the last few innings."

The Royals, who captured back-to-back ALchampionships in 2014-15, went 15-4 against the Twins last year. Minnesota, however, is 11-7 against Kansas City this season.

It is a step the Twins needed to take to prove they are postseason contenders.

"The Royals, the Indians the last few years are pretty good teams," Molitor said. "We had a good start against Kansas City at the beginning of the year. I still consider them very dangerous. To come in here late in the year and win a couple of games to start a four-game set is good for us because we need to win."

The Royals need to win, too, if they are to make it to the postseason for the third time in four years.

"We need something to get us going," said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who had three hits and drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. "Tonight was big for us. Tomorrow we can even out the series and just try to control what we can control and that's going out and winning games from here on out. But it was definitely big for us tonight."

While Yost called Saturday "a big game," he went a step further.

"It was a game we had to have," Yost said.

The series closes Sunday with the Twins starting right-hander Bartolo Colon, who at age 44 is the oldest starting pitcher in Minnesota history.

Colon allowed two runs on five hits with five strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in his previous start Tuesday, but suffered a 2-1 loss at Tampa Bay.

Colon began the season with Atlanta, going 2-8 with an 8.14 ERA in 13 starts with the Braves. He was released July 4 and the Twins picked him up.

He has pitched much better for Minnesota, going 4-3 with a 3.94 ERA in 10 starts.

This will be Colon's 30th career start against the Royals. He is 15-10 with a 4.78 ERA vs. Kansas City.

Alex Gordon is 3-for-9 against Colon, while Melky Cabrera is 5-for-8. No other Royal has seen the veteran more than six at-bats.

The Royals will start left-hander Jason Vargas, who was an All-Star Game selection with a 12-3 record. Vargas, however, has struggled mightily lately.

Vargas is 2-7 with an 8.13 ERA in his past 11 starts. He has allowed 70 hits and 47 runs over 52 innings in that span. He has also walked 22, hit three batters and surrendered 16 home runs in those 11 starts.

Vargas had a 7.23 ERA in July and a 7.18 ERA in August. In his first September start, he was charged with seven runs on six hits over two innings, his shortest start since July 21, 2015, which he left with an elbow injury and eventually would require Tommy John surgery.

Vargas is 7-4 with a 3.58 ERA in 18 lifetime outings against the Twins. He has faced them once this year, beating them 8-1 on June 30.