KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Royals manager Ned Yost treats just about every game the same, especially in July, because the reality is that they all count the same at the end of the season.
So when he singles one out, it must have been important.
Eric Hosmer drove in Lorenzo Cain with nobody out in the ninth inning Sunday, helping Kansas City beat the Minnesota Twins 3-2 and earn a four-game split between AL Central contenders.
''It's huge. It's as big a game as you're going to play in early July,'' Yost said, his own head drenched in sweat. ''Very seldom do you have a chance to make it a two-game swing.''
The game was knotted two-all when Cain drew a leadoff walk against Blaine Boyer (2-4), who had been summoned to relieve Ervin Santana after a masterful return from his drug suspension.
Twins manager Paul Molitor then called upon Aaron Thompson to face Hosmer, who promptly ripped a pitch down the right-field line. Cain sprinted around third base at full speed, and a throw from Torii Hunter in right field was nowhere close to getting him at the plate.
Greg Holland (2-0) earned the win with a scoreless ninth inning.
''This is a good team and they're playing well,'' said Alex Gordon, who homered along with making several stellar plays in left field. ''It's good to come out with two games, especially when I don't feel like we're playing our best baseball.''
Aaron Hicks homered and Miguel Sano drove in the other run for Minnesota.
The victory allowed the first-place Royals to salvage what had been a rough series against the Twins, who remain in second in the division. Kansas City was shut out in the opener, needed extra innings to win Friday night, then lost 5-3 on Saturday.
Santana certainly didn't look like he had missed 80 games for testing positive for Stanozolo, a performance-enhancing substance. After winning each of three rehab starts at Triple-A Rochester, he made his former team look like just another minor league club.
Santana retired the first six batters he faced before issuing a walk, and then got a double play after Butera drove in Kansas City's first run in the third inning.
Santana only allowed one more hit before Alcides Escobar's two-out knock in the eighth, though it happened to be a big one: Gordon's high fly ball that just cleared the right-field wall.
''I was laughing in between innings,'' Santana said of facing his old team, where his career experienced a resurgence. ''At the same time, I had to get them out. I know we were teammates, but when we get between those lines everything changes.''
Besides, the Royals' pitching staff was just as tough.
Danny Duffy continued his renaissance by allowing two runs on five hits and three walks in 6 1-3 innings. It was his third straight solid start since returning from the disabled list.
Ryan Madson and Wade Davis got the game to Holland, who wound up with the win.
''Walk-off wins are definitely fun, especially against a team in our division,'' Hosmer said. ''We're not playing our best baseball right now and we know that. We'll take a win against those guys when we're not playing our best.''
Royals 3B Mike Moustakas left the game for what Yost called ''a family emergency.'' Dusty Coleman replaced him in the sixth inning and struck out in his first major league at-bat. Coleman also flied out in the eighth inning.
Twins 2B Brian Dozier began the day with 44 extra-base hits, most in the American League. He added to that total with a double in the eighth, though he wound up getting stranded.
Twins: RHP Ryan Pressly had an MRI exam on his right shoulder Sunday, though results were not available. Pressly strained the shoulder during Saturday's game.
Royals: RHP Yordano Ventura (elbow nerve) will throw a side session Monday rather than make a rehab start, manager Ned Yost said. Ventura could return Thursday against Tampa Bay.
Twins: RHP Phil Hughes starts in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore.
Royals: RHP Edinson Volquez takes the mound to start a four-game set against Tampa Bay.