KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The premonition came Sunday morning, in the hours before the Royals’ 11-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Manager Ned Yost had little reason to feel positive about his starter, left-hander Jason Vargas, who had lost four straight decisions, posted a 10.19 ERA and survived just six outs in his last outing.
But Yost is a manager who traffics in instinct and feel, far from a numbers-driven quant. So as he drove to the ballpark in the morning, he felt positive about the day.
“I gotta good feeling about Vargy today, I really do,” Yost said. “I woke up with a good feeling.”
The good vibes would last all afternoon. Vargas permitted just one run in five innings, earning his first win since Aug. 13. Eric Hosmer finished 4 for 4 — and 11 for 14 in the series. And the offense pulverized Minnesota starter Bartolo Colon for six runs in 1.2 innings before pouring it on late, securing a necessary split in the four-game series.
The Royals (71-71) pulled within 2.5 games of the Twins in the race for the second American League wild-card spot with 20 games remaining. In two days, they brushed off losses on Thursday and Friday and salvaged something from the weekend. Yet the performances Saturday and Sunday only served to shine a light on Thursday’s heart-breaking defeat, a ninth-inning collapse that would have tilted the series in their favor and left them just a half-game out of a playoff spot.
Instead they must make up another 2.5 games over the season’s final three weeks.
The Royals finished the season 8-11 against the Twins, losing the yearly series for the first time since 2012. The record includes an 0-6 start against Minnesota in April and May — and a season-opening sweep at Target Field. The head-to-head games could determine the fate of both teams. Flip the records and the Royals are 74-68, positioned for their third postseason appearance in three years.
Kansas City will open a series against the Chicago White Sox on Monday at Kauffman Stadium before embarking on an 11-game road trip through Cleveland, Toronto, Chicago and New York.