MINNEAPOLIS — With Kansas City’s closer on the mound and a three-run lead, odds were pretty good that Scott Alexander could watch the final inning from the bullpen.
Instead, he got his second save of the year.
Alexander replaced an injured Kelvin Herrera and struck out Eddie Rosario with the bases loaded in the ninth inning as the Royals held off the Minnesota Twins 7-6 Friday night.
Mike Moustakas homered for the first time since mid-August, Brandon Moss also went deep for the Royals, who won for just the second time in eight games. Melky Cabrera tied a season-high with four hits.
Up 7-4, and with two outs, Herrera walked No. 9 hitter Zack Granite and hit Brian Dozier.
“That’s when I started thinking, ‘All right we better keep an eye on this,’” said manger Ned Yost. “The velocity wasn’t dropping, but I got Scotty up just in case and it just started getting more and more and more wild.”
Herrera gave up a two-run single to Joe Mauer and fell behind 3-0 to Jorge Polanco — who ultimately walked — before being removed with low forearm tightness. Yost is unsure when Herrera will be available.
Alexander had a simple plan against Rosario.
“When you get the bases loaded and there’s no room to pitch around anybody you’ve just got to go after him,” Alexander said. “I knew what I wanted do to with him, just try to execute.”
He’s done it before.
Alexander got the final out Aug. 22 with the bases loaded after Herrera left with a similar injury.
“You never expect someone to get hurt in the middle of the inning like that or have to come out, so it happens real quick and you just try to gather yourself as much as you can and try to focus in on what you got to do,” he said.
Minnesota scored two runs in the ninth Thursday, the last on a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded, to beat Chicago 5-4.
“We hung in there until the last round and made it interesting,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor. “Almost for the second day in a row to pull something out like that.”
The Twins remain one game behind New York - which lost 4-1 to Boston - for the top AL wild card spot. Minnesota entered the night leading Los Angeles, which played at Texas, by 1 1/2 games for the second spot. Kansas City is now 3 1/2 games behind.
Royals’ starter Jason Hammel (7-10) allowed Polanco’s two-run home run in the first and a run in the third, before retiring 12 straight. He allowed four earned runs on seven hits in 6 1-3 innings.
Moustakas hit a three-run, line-drive homer to right for a 5-2 lead in the third. It was his 36th of the year and first in 13 games since Aug. 15. He tied Steve Balboni for the most by a Kansas City player in a season. Moustakas is one of four players trailing New York’s Aaron Judge by one for the AL lead.
“Once it got to 35 it kind of started creeping in my head a little bit, but that’s when I tried to do a little too much,” he said. “Today, I was kind of relaxed.”
Making his fourth start of the season, Minnesota’s Dillon Gee (1-2) allowed five earned runs in 2 2-3 innings.
Moss hit a two-run home run of Tyler Duffey in the sixth to make it 7-3.
CLOSING A CAREER
Former closer Joe Nathan signed a one-day contract with Minnesota Friday to retire as a Twin.
Nathan, 42, saved 260 games for the Twins during seven seasons - including a career-high 47 in 2009. He also pitched for the Giants, Rangers, Tigers and Cubs during a 16-year career. The six-time all-star, drafted by San Francisco as a shortstop, ranks eighth on the all-time saves list with 377.
“(This was) a ride that I could not have imagined I could have gone down,” he said during an emotional new conference.
Royals: LHP Brian Flynn (left groin strain) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list … RHP Trevor Cahill (right shoulder impingement syndrome) was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list.
Twins: CF Byron Buxton, who missed Thursday’s game with a bone contusion on his left hand, pinch ran in the ninth. . LHP Hector Santiago was moved to the 60-day disabled list. Out since July 3 with an upper back strain, he is scheduled to make his second rehab start Sunday at Triple-A Rochester.
Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson (8-10, 5.59) is scheduled to face Kansas City’s Onelki Garcia (0-0, 7.94) Saturday in game two of the weekend series.