Herrera yields HR in 9th to let Twins off hook

Herrera yields HR in 9th to let Twins off hook

MINNEAPOLIS -- Royals closer Kelvin Herrera could only watch as Twins pinch-hitter Kennys Vargas trotted around the bases following a tying two-run blast in the ninth inning on Friday night.

After three scoreless frames by three other Royals relievers, a two-run lead had vanished. And the blame for an eventual 4-3 loss in 10 innings was left firmly on the shoulders of normally reliable Herrera.

"I didn't do my job," Herrera said. "There are no excuses."

But the outing began much better for Herrera than it ended. He opened the ninth by striking out Jorge Polanco, and the Royals appeared on the verge of notching their first victory over the first-place Twins in six meetings.

Instead, Jason Castro smacked a single above Herrera's head to bring up Vargas. Herrera started the at-bat with a two-seam fastball down and away. On the next pitch, Vargas deposited a changeup into the seats in right-center, to even the score at 3.

Vargas' game-tying homer

According to Statcast™, the ball traveled an estimated 438 feet from the plate with an exit velocity of 108.4 mph.

"I didn't finish the pitch," Herrera said. "In my mind, I want him to chase a pitch there. He's got pop. That was just poor execution from me."

Entering Friday, Herrera ranked sixth in the American League with eight saves, but his latest showing highlights some doubts about the hard-throwing righty anchoring the 'pen.

Herrera gave up three hits for the third straight appearance. Prior to this recent stretch, Herrera hadn't given up three hits in a game since last year. In all of 2016, he had four such appearances.

"[The changeup] was up a bit and out a little over the plate," manager Ned Yost said. "He's a big strong guy and got his hands extended. Probably if we get Castro out, they probably don't pinch-hit Vargas. That was the key at-bat."

And the Royals were unable to pick up Herrera. Al Alburquerque walked the first two batters on nine pitches to open the 10th frame. Travis Wood then issued another free pass to load the bases with none out.

Polanco then lined out to left for a walk-off sacrifice fly.

But afterward, Herrera was adamant it was his fault.

"I didn't do my job today," he said.

Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.