By Rhett Bollinger and Jeffrey Flanagan
KANSAS CITY -- The defending World Series champs went out with everything they had.
The Royals rallied for three runs in the eighth -- fueled by an RBI double from Kendrys Morales and a two-run single from Alex Gordon -- to beat the Twins, 5-2, on Wednesday night, their fourth straight win.
But the Royals officially were eliminated from postseason play when Baltimore beat Toronto. With one more win, though, the Royals can notch their fourth straight winning season, something the franchise hasn't done since it had six straight winning seasons from 1975-80.
"The team hasn't lost the fight at all," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "It just didn't work out for us this year. A lot of ups and downs, a lot of injuries. But I do think there's a lot of positives to take from this year."
Added Gordon, "It was definitely a good two-year run. Even though we're eliminated, we're focused on next year and getting back to where we need to be. I thought we played well this year. We had our ups and downs, but we fought hard."
The Twins, meanwhile, suffered their 102nd loss, which tied Minnesota's record for the most losses in a season, set in 1982.
"It's just frustrating for these guys," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We're seeing some people perform well to some degree, but it's just tough to keep losing games late like that, especially when you have opportunities to score along the way."
Left-hander Jason Vargas made his third start back from rehab for Tommy John surgery. Vargas retired 11 of the first 12 hitters he faced and finished with five scoreless innings. He gave up four hits, walked one and struck out six.
"It's definitely nice to have a reward as far as having some success," Vargas said. "I was able to step up under the lights and get out there for real. Going into the offseason, I was really just hoping to stay healthy and have a normal offseason. To have a nice outing like this going into the offseason is a nice comfortable feeling."
Twins starter Ervin Santana also made his final start of 2016, and also went five innings. He gave up four hits and two runs, while walking one and striking out three.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Land of Hoz: After Jarrod Dyson singled with one out, Hosmer stepped up with two out and smacked a two-run shot just to the right of the fountains in right field to break a scoreless tie. Hosmer added to his career highs in home runs (25) and RBIs (103).
Kennys connects:Kennys Vargas tied the game with a two-run blast to right off reliever Kevin McCarthy in the sixth. Vargas' ninth shot of the year left the bat at 108 mph and went a projected 432 feet, per Statcast™. The homer snapped a streak of 106 innings without scoring more than one run for the Twins dating back to Sept. 15. It was the longest such streak since the 1942 Phillies went 109 innings without scoring more than one run, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
"I know we got over 100 innings, which is somewhat unfathomable in today's game," Molitor said. "It's hard to imagine you could go through a period offensively where you can't put up more than a run in an inning. It's one of those things where he got a pitch he could handle with two strikes, getting a breaking ball over the plate and he was all over it."
More Moylan magic: Royals right-hander Peter Moylan, for the second straight night, got the Royals out of a big jam. The Twins tied the score at 2 with two outs, and had two runners on against McCarthy in the sixth. Moylan came on and got John Ryan Murphy to hit a one-hopper back to the mound, which Moylan snared and then got the out at first.
"I really didn't want to have use Moylan again," Royals manager Ned Yost said, "but he's really done a great job for us lately and did so again tonight."
Santana finishes strong: Santana was undoubtedly Minnesota's best pitcher this season, and ended the year with a 3.38 ERA in 30 starts. It's the second-lowest ERA of Santana's 12-year career, and the lowest by a Twins starter since Johan Santana had a 3.33 ERA in 2007. But with Minnesota's struggles, Santana finished with only seven wins.
"It was good," Santana said. "I was disappointed because I didn't want to leave early, but that's part of the game. But I just have to prepare for the next season."
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Right-hander Kyle Gibson (6-11, 5.04 ERA) is set to make his final start of the season in the series finale against the Royals at 6:15 p.m. CT. Gibson went five innings last time out, allowing two runs to the Mariners on Sunday.
Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (12-3, 3.43 ERA) takes the mound in the series finale with the Twins for his last start of the season. Duffy gave up six runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings last Friday against the Tigers.