Sans Herrera, KC's bullpen delivers in finale

Sans Herrera, KC's bullpen delivers in finale

MINNEAPOLIS -- In a game that Royals manager Ned Yost said the Royals absolutely had to have, they also needed an elite performance by their bullpen, which was without its closer, injured right-hander Kelvin Herrera.

And the bullpen came through with 3 1/3 scoreless innings, which included working out of three major jams, to secure a 5-4 win Sunday over the Twins.

The Royals pulled within 3 1/2 games of the Twins for the second American League Wild Card spot.

First, lefty Scott Alexander, who got the save Friday night, came on with two on and two outs in the sixth with the Royals trailing, 4-3. Alexander got Eduardo Escobar to ground into a forceout.

Two innings later, lefty Mike Minor came on to protect a 5-4 lead. He walked two hitters with two outs, but got Mitch Garver to line out to Lorenzo Cain in center.

Cain snags liner to escape jam

"Minor getting out of his jam was big," Yost said. "He got helped out by a tremendous play by Cain."

The Royals still had that lead in the ninth when right-hander Brandon Maurer came in for his first save opportunity since July 20, when he was with the Padres.

The first hitter Maurer faced, Escobar, flied deep to left-center, where four-time Gold Glove Award winner Alex Gordon dropped the ball for a two-base error.

"Gordy makes that play every time," Yost said. "Maybe the sun was an issue."

Maurer said he was undaunted by the new challenge.

"You got to make pitches there," Maurer said. "You want to make pitches and make sure they don't bloop one in or get a double down the line."

Maurer struck out Chris Gimenez, but then came the dangerous blooper that worried Maurer. Pinch-hitter Ehire Adrianza sent a soft flare toward left. But Gordon made an impressive sliding catch to protect the lead.

"I was [concerned]," Maurer. "Then I [remembered] who was out there. He's pretty good."

Maurer finished off the win by getting Brian Dozier to pop out.

Maurer's first save opportunity with the Royals didn't seem to fluster him.

"It's just like pitching the eighth inning," Maurer said, shrugging his shoulders. "Doesn't matter to me what inning."

But there certainly was a sense of relief throughout the Royals' clubhouse afterward.

"We had to get this one here today," Yost said. "We didn't want to leave here 5 1/2 games out of the Wild Card. We absolutely had to have it. Kind of shows the character of the team to flush out that game [a 17-0 loss] yesterday."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.