“The Twins just won’t go away. They could lose 10-0, but they just won’t quit,” said Casey Stern on Sirius/XM’s Inside Pitch show on Friday afternoon.

It was almost prophetic, as the Minnesota Twins went from winning in the most improbable way on Thursday afternoon to nearly repeating it against the Kansas City Royals on Friday night in a 7-6 loss at Target Field. The Twins scored two runs and had the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth against Royals closer Kelvin Herrera, but could not close the deal for a second walk-off win in a row.

“It was a good fight,” said manager Paul Molitor. “We hung in there until the last round and made it interesting. We were one little knock away. It’s good to see that.”

In fact, Herrera wasn’t even there for the finish. He left with lower forearm tightness, leaving Scott Alexander to get his second save of the season. Alexander walked Jorge Polanco — after inheriting a 3-0 count against the switch hitter — but got Eddie Rosario on a fastball to dance out of danger and get the Royals to within a game of .500 at 66-67.

Here’s the win probability chart, courtesy of Fangraphs.

The win moved the Royals to within 3.5 games of the second Wild Card spot — currently occupied by the Twins — though they still have five teams in front of them or tied with them in what’s bound to be a wild September finish. The Twins managed to hold on to their 1.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels, who fell to the Texas Rangers, 10-9.

Texas is now 67-67, and three games behind the Twins.

Dillon Gee got the ball for the Twins, but did not get out of the third inning as he allowed five earned runs on six hits with a pair of strikeouts and three walks. Former teammate Mike Moustakas dealt the crushing blow, drilling a three-run home run to give the Royals a 5-2 lead.

It’s not unreasonable to expect that Aaron Slegers — who picked up his 15th win for Rochester on Friday night — may get the call to start in this spot in the rotation next time around, as Molitor was noncommittal about whether Gee would make his next start.

The Royals scored five runs in the third to take the lead after Polanco gave the Twins a 2-0 lead on his 10th home run of the season against Royals starter Jason Hammel. Polanco came into the season with just four career home runs in 290 plate appearances, and has now reached double digits in 427 trips to the plate this season. Polanco also became the seventh Twin with at least 10 home runs this season.

Kennys Vargas (nine), Jason Castro (seven) and Joe Mauer (six) each have an outside shot of joining that club before the season ends.

The Royals pushed the lead to 7-2 in the sixth inning when Tyler Duffey allowed a two-run homer to Brandon Moss — his 18th of the season. Duffey, who threw 41 pitches in 2.1 innings in relief of Gee, now has a season ERA of 4.65. Buddy Boshers and John Curtiss followed with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief, with the latter allowing a pair of hits and picking up a strikeout.

Polanco drove in the team’s third run with a sacrifice fly in the third inning, while Vargas singled through the shift to plate Max Kepler in the seventh.

All that set up the Twins for some drama in the ninth.  

Kepler reached first when second baseman Whit Merrifield muffed a routine grounder to his left, and moved to second when Zack Granite walked with two outs. Then, Brian Dozier was grazed by a pitch, with Kepler and Granite scampering home when Mauer split the diamond with a single on a 3-1 fastball from Herrera.

The Royals closer never looked fully comfortable on the mound, and after falling behind 3-0 to Polanco shook his fingers and was tended to by the trainers, who quickly ushered him off the mound to give way to Alexander.

Six pitches later, Rosario swung through a 1-2 fastball, and the rally came up 90 feet short with pinch runner Byron Buxton stranded at third base.

Notes and Quotes

  • The temperature at first pitch was 69 degrees.
  • The loss snapped a four-game winning streak and a seven-game winning streak at Target Field for the Twins.
  • The Twins have dropped four of their last five games against the Royals, but are 8-5 against them overall this season — including 5-2 at Target Field.
  • Mauer extended his hitting streak to 10 games — tying a season-high.
  • Dozier has a team-high 38 multi-hit games, per the game notes.
  • Molitor on Gee: “It seemed like Dillon had a little trouble with his curve, and his ball seemed a little flatter tonight. They were getting some pretty good swings and he had trouble getting it in on righties. We gave up five runs on two swings — Moustakas and Moss have hurt us this year.”
  • Molitor on Polanco: “He did a real good job in that first at-bat laying off some pitches and again getting a favorable count. He got a mistake up, and he murdered it. He just feels really good at the plate from both sides.”

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Brandon Warne covers the Twins for Cold Omaha, and has had his work featured in numerous places across the United States. Locally, Warne’s work has appeared at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 1500 ESPN and Go96.3 for writing and audio, and he’s also had written work appear on Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs and cited in the Los Angeles Times. Warne lives in the outer Twin Cities suburbs with his wife, Amanda. Listen to his Cold Omaha podcast Midwest Swing. Follow Brandon on Twitter @Brandon_Warne.

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