MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Twins’ surprising run for a playoff spot came down to the final innings on the next to last day of season.
Minnesota was eliminated from the AL wild-card race Saturday, getting stifled by Yordano Ventura for seven innings in a 5-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
Blaine Boyer (3-6) allowed two runs, one earned, while getting two outs for the Twins (83-78), who weren’t expected to contend this season with a young squad led by rookie manager Paul Molitor. But Minnesota began play Saturday two games back of Houston for the second wild-card spot.
“I think you’d have to say that overall, the curtain came down so to speak, but it was a pretty good show,” Molitor said. “Some of the acts were a little sketchy at times and we tried to move on to the next scene. But the body of work was good.”
The Twins tried to keep their performance going but committed two errors in a costly four-run seventh inning. Minnesota loaded the bases in the ninth before Wade Davis struck out Kennys Vargas and Eduardo Escobar for his 17th save in 18 chances.
“All the critics, all the analysts, all the sabermetrics, everything you can name said the Twins were going to be in last place,” outfielder Torii Hunter said. “You’re wrong. We did a great job. I give it a B-plus.”
Ventura (13-8) carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and struck out 11 to win his third straight decision for the Royals (94-67), who are one game ahead of Toronto (93-68), which lost 4-3 to Tampa Bay, for home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The Blue Jays hold the tiebreaker.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a meaningful game,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “We have to do everything we can to try to win tomorrow.”
Ventura, who could be in line to start Game 1 of the division series, lost just once in his final 14 starts of the regular season. He was 9-1 with a 3.03 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 89 innings since a loss on July 20.
“We’ve got him right where we want him, right where he needs to be going into next week,” Yost said. “And I feel like we as a team are right where need to be going into next week too.
TOMORROW FOR TORII
Hunter acknowledged he could be playing his final game on Sunday. The 19-year veteran who started his career with Minnesota in 1997, snapped Ventura’s no-hitter in the fifth and was cheered loudly by the hometown fans in his final at-bats.
Hunter isn’t sure what his future holds. He will be a free agent at the end of the season. Hunter has hit .277 with 353 home runs and 1,391 RBIs in his career.
“I don’t know if it’s it,” Hunter said. “I can’t say that. I can’t do the farewell tour and all that stuff. I definitely think that there’s a chance for me to come back. Right now, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll make an announcement tomorrow, I don’t know if I’ll make one in January. So, we’ll just have to see. I don’t know.”
Royals: Kendrys Morales was available as a pinch hitter but was held out again after he left Thursday’s game with tightness in his left quadriceps.
Royals: Johnny Cueto (9-13, 4.95) will make the final start of the regular season for Kansas City. Cueto has allowed eight earned runs in his last 20 innings over his last three starts after giving up 28 earned runs in 26 1-3 innings between Aug. 21 and Sept. 13.
Twins: After Minnesota was eliminated, Molitor said RHP Ricky Nolasco (5-1, 5.97) will start Sunday. Kyle Gibson was slated to start if the Twins were still in contention. Nolasco will be making his first start after returning from almost four months on the disabled list. He allowed three runs in two innings of relief on Sept. 30.
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