With the start Eddie Rosario gave Minnesota, manager Paul Molitor was hoping to for an easier win. This time of year, of course, he'll take it.
Rosario homered and drove in four runs over the first four innings, helping the Twins beat the Kansas City Royals 8-5 on Friday night.
Rosario had a sacrifice fly in the first inning, hit his 21st home run in the third inning off Ian Kennedy (4-11) and knocked a two-out, bases-loaded single in the fourth to score Robbie Grossman and Joe Mauer. Rosario has 10 home runs and 28 RBIs in his past 30 games.
Ervin Santana (15-7) gave up four runs and five hits over five innings for the victory. He is 4-0 in nine starts since a July 21 loss, and he's tied for the AL lead in victories.
Eduardo Escobar had three hits and homered for the Twins in the fifth. Still, reliever Trevor Hildenberger had to clean up a mess left by Taylor Rogers in the seventh before Matt Belisle finished for his seventh save.
"There were a lot of momentum changes," Molitor said. "When you score the first five innings of a game and you have your best pitcher out there, you would like to think the game would be a little less stressful. But credit to the Royals and their fight, they kept finding ways to inch closer."
Kennedy was pulled after giving up three runs, four hits and three walks over three innings. He is winless in a club-record 18 straight home starts. He is 0-9 since his last home victory on Aug. 20, 2016.
"His shoulder started tightening up in the second inning," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's got (rotator) cuff fatigue. He's been dealing with it for about a month."
The Twins jumped to a 5-1 lead, but the Royals trimmed it with Eric Hosmer's solo home run in the third and Whit Merrifield's two-run double.
Ramon Torres' seventh-inning single scored Alcides Escobar, cutting the Minnesota lead to 6-5. Hildenberger replaced Rogers with two runners on base and none out and induced Merrifield into a groundball double play.
"Once I saw he wasn't bunting, I was pitching for a ground ball," Hildenberger said. "I enjoy ground balls right at people."
The Twins added two in the eighth with Grossman tripling in one run and Mauer doubling in another.
"The guys just kept battling," Yost said. "We just couldn't overcome it."
Yost has removed RHP Kelvin Herrera, who blew a save Thursday, from the closer's role. He gave up two runs on two hits in the eighth inning Friday.
"He's not sharp," Yost said. "He's pitching about once over five days. We need to get him more in a pitching rhythm. It's not enough to keep him sharp. We can pitch him in the seventh and eighth innings and get him in more games instead of holding him back for save situations and try to get him sharp again and then reinsert him."
Yost said he would use a closer by committee, mentioning LHPs Scott Alexander and Mike Minor and RHPs Brandon Maurer and Peter Moylan.
Molitor said RHPs Kyle Gibson and Santana would start Tuesday and Wednesday against the Padres on their normal four days of rest, while others would be pushed back with the team off Monday. Gibson is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his past four starts.
Twins: LHP Adalberto Mejia (left arm strain) will make a rehab start Saturday for Double-A Chattanooga. If he has no setback, he could rejoin the Minnesota rotation next week. ... 3B Miguel Sano (left shin) ran and hit in the Target Field cages and might hit on the field Saturday. ... Molitor said LHP Hector Santiago (upper back pain) likely will not pitch again season. He went on the disabled list July 5.
Royals: CF Lorenzo Cain (tightness in quads) was the DH. Paulo Orlando started in center. ... 3B Mike Moustakas (sore right knee) was not in the lineup and likely will be held out again Saturday. ... RHP Joakim Soria (left oblique strain) threw a bullpen session with no problems.
Twins: RHP Jose Berrios is 0-1 with an 8.20 ERA in four career starts against Kansas City.
Royals: RHP Jake Junis has won five straight decisions.