MINNEAPOLIS -- Pinch-hitter Kennys Vargas hit a tying homer in the ninth and Jorge Polanco came through with a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th to lead the Twins to a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Royals on Friday night at Target Field.
The Royals were two outs away from their first victory over the Twins in six tries this season, but Vargas connected for a two-run blast off closer Kelvin Herrera. After Twins closer Brandon Kintzler got out of a jam in the 10th thanks to a lineout double play back to the mound, Minnesota rallied in the 10th with the help of three straight walks to open the inning. It set the stage for Polanco's sacrifice fly to left field to score Joe Mauer.
"You welcome those comebacks when they happen," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "In today's game with the way bullpens are, it seems like it's less and less frequent around the game. We stayed with it and gave ourselves a chance. Vargy, what can you say? Not sure if he was looking for that changeup, but he was all over it."
It spoiled a strong effort from Royals right fielder Jorge Bonifacio, who had a strong all-around game with a two-run homer in the third, a strong relay to get Miguel Sano at the plate in the second and a jumping catch at the wall to rob Brian Dozier of extra bases in the third.
Royals right-hander Nathan Karns gave up one run on five hits over five innings to lower his ERA to 4.17, but he was saddled with a no-decision after Herrera couldn't hold the lead. The lone run Karns allowed came on a homer by Robbie Grossman in the fourth. Karns left the game early due to stiffness near the top of his forearm that he felt from the second inning on, but he doesn't think it is anything alarming.
"I felt fine, nothing spectacular today," Karns said. "I had great defense today. To be able to get the ball in and get Sano at the plate, that was huge. That killed the momentum for them. It was one of those games where they battled."
Twins left-hander Hector Santiago also went five frames, surrendering three runs on eight hits and a walk. He allowed a run in the second on a two-out RBI single by Cheslor Cuthbert after Alex Gordon's single tipped off Mauer's glove at first.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Gordon's terrific snare: The Twins threatened in the eighth against Joakim Soria with two on and two out. Max Kepler laced a sinking liner to left field, but Gordon showed why he's won four Gold Glove Awards, as he made a sliding catch to end the inning. Gordon had to cover 31 feet in three seconds, giving it a catch percentage of 71 percent, which makes it a three-star play, according to Statcast™.
"We saw some great defense tonight," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I've seen it a thousand times, but it's still every bit as impressive every time to see him make a play like that. Especially those diving plays, because he gets a phenomenal jump on those balls."
Sano nabbed at home: Sano opened the second with a single and tried to score from first on a double to right by Kepler. But Bonifacio helped execute a strong relay play with second baseman Whit Merrifield, who fired home to get Sano. Kepler went to third on the throw, but he was stranded after Polanco grounded out with the infield in and Jason Castro flied out to deep center.
"We got aggressive on Kep's double early," Molitor said. "They made a really nice relay to cut down that run. And then we couldn't get Kep in, so that was a missed chance."
"He's definitely a force in that lineup. When he's in there, he can impact the game with one swing of the bat like he did today. I think if he's in there a lot more and sees more pitches, he could be a great factor for this lineup." -- Santiago, on Vargas
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Bonifacio's blast left his bat at 112.7 mph with a launch angle of 22 degrees and traveled a projected 381 feet, according to Statcast™. It was Bonifacio's third homer, and was the second-hardest hit homer from a Royals player by Exit Velocity this season.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Ian Kennedy is expected to be activated from the 10-day disabled list (right hamstring) to start against the Twins on Saturday at 1:10 p.m. CT. Kennedy is 4-2 with a 3.74 ERA in nine career starts vs. the Twins -- holding them to two runs on a pair of hits on April 28 in Kansas City.
Twins: Left-hander Adalberto Mejia will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to start against the Royals on Saturday at Target Field. Mejia posted a 3.48 ERA in four starts with Rochester.