KANSAS CITY -- The Royals, with a depleted bullpen, desperately needed a starter to give them some length on Saturday night against the Twins.
And rookie Jakob Junis stepped up and did just that, tossing 6 1/3 innings while giving up eight hits and two runs in a 5-2 victory that moved Kansas City 3 1/2 games back of Minnesota for the second American League Wild Card spot.
A relieved Royals manager Ned Yost was thoroughly impressed with the effort. Junis walked just one and struck out seven.
"He just had it all going for him tonight," Yost said. "He works that slider both sides of the plate and spots his fastball. He gave us just what we needed. We were thin in the back end of the 'pen. He gave us depth."
Junis had one major jam in the fourth inning when the Twins loaded the bases with two out. But Junis got Jason Castro to fly out, ending the threat.
"That jam there, the thing that went unnoticed is that he did a phenomenal job pitching around [Eduardo Escobar] [who walked, loading the bases]," Yost said. "He was not going to give in to him, especially after Escobar hit a home run earlier. That's veteran, big-league pitcher stuff there."
The other key to that inning was a safe call at second base that was overturned, meaning the Twins actually had three singles and a walk that inning, but they didn't score.
"Huge overturn," Junis said. "That guy would have scored for sure."
Junis' only big mistakes came on the Escobar home run in the third and Byron Buxton's homer in the sixth.
"First one was a hanger," Junis said. "Buxton was just a good at-bat. I threw eight or nine pitches to him, and he just got a fastball and hit it. Hats off to him."
Junis now is 4-0 with a 2.68 ERA in his last six starts and quite simply has been the team's best starter.
"Just throwing strikes and getting ahead, and letting the defense play," Junis said. "I'm just trying to do the same thing I've been doing. Just trying to keep us in it."
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.