MINNEAPOLIS -- Eric Hosmer saved the best for last -- the last inning.
Hosmer's two-run homer to dead center field in the ninth inning stunned the Minnesota Twins, 2-1, and silenced a sellout crowd of 39,177 on a delightful 73-degree Friday night at Target Field.
The Royals were behind, 1-0, when Melky Cabrera opened the ninth against closer Matt Capps with a walk, then stole second base as Alex Gordon swung and missed on a hit-and-run attempt.
Gordon grounded out and Billy Butler blasted a drive into the right-field corner, but it was caught.
Hosmer swung hard and missed Capps' first pitch, almost jumping out of his shoes.
"Any time you're facing a good closer like Capps, especially with a good fastball like his, you've got to try to jump on it early," Hosmer said. "The first one didn't work out as planned, so I told myself, 'Just step out and relax.'"
Hosmer, a rookie who was 0-for-3 in the game, took a deep breath. Capps threw another high fastball.
"Just ran back over the plate, and he was able to get it," Capps said. "I don't know. Maybe he was looking up there after swinging through it, too, but whatever happened it wasn't good for us. For me, us."
Hosmer sent the ball hurtling toward center fielder Ben Revere.
"We're playing in a big park with Revere out there who covers a lot of ground and I was just hoping it got over his head," Hosmer said.
Oh my, it went way over his head and against the black hitter's eye that rises behind the blue wall, an estimated 421 feet from the launch site.
Hosmer's ninth homer ended the Royals' five-game losing streak against the Twins.
"It was big for us to get those two runs and knowing you've got Jack warming up to come in and shut the door," Hosmer said.
Jack, of course, is closer Joakim Soria and he closed the door, all right, but not without a huge dose of drama.
"That was very interesting," Soria said with a smile.
Jim Thome led off the Twins' ninth with a single and Matt Tolbert ran for him. Danny Valencia sent a Hosmer-like shot rocketing toward center field.
"As soon as he hit that ball, I thought it was out," Soria said. "He hit that ball really well -- I could hear it from the mound."
However, Cabrera hauled it down in deep center.
Delmon Young singled, sending Tolbert to third with the potential tying run. Pinch-hitter Luke Hughes came up and hit a tap in front of the plate. Soria grabbed the ball and flipped to catcher Matt Treanor, who easily tagged out Tolbert.
"I saw him coming and Treanor gave me a call, too," Soria said. "So that was a PFP [pitchers' fielding practice] play."
With two outs and runners at first and second, the Twins' Tsuyoshi Nishioka battled Soria to a full count before finally grounding out to end the game.
All this late-inning excitement was made possible by a tight pitching duel between the Royals' Luke Hochevar and the Twins' Nick Blackburn. Each pitcher went seven innings and it was Blackburn who left with a 1-0 lead.
The Twins scored that run in the fourth as the fleet Revere singled to shortstop, stole second, took third on a groundout and dashed home on Hochevar's wild pitch, a fastball that he buried in the dirt.
In the midst of all that, fan favorite Joe Mauer was intentionally walked to loud boos. That scene was repeated in the Twins' sixth when, after Revere tripled (tripping and somersaulting spectacularly on his way), Mauer came up with two outs. After Mauer was passed, the strategy paid off as Hochevar struck out Michael Cuddyer.
Easy decision, as Royals manager Ned Yost explained, because Mauer was 9-for-18 in his career against Hochevar compared to Cuddyer's 5-for-25.
Hochevar was coming off two starts in which the Royals won easily, scoring 16 and 13 runs, but he didn't last the necessary five innings to secure the victory. The Royals urged Hochevar to vary his speeds more and make his pitch selection more unpredictable. It seemed to work.
"That's what I expect from him right there," Yost said. "He did a great job of changing speeds, moving the ball in and out, and pitched really well. He had an opportunity to be out of that game 0-0 without the wild pitch."
Hochevar gave up just three hits. Blackburn shut out the Royals on four hits. The victory went to left-hander Tim Collins who pitched a scoreless eighth for the Royals.
It's been a rather bleak period for the Royals. This was just their eighth win in their last 26 games.
"It was an exciting a game as you're going to see, in the regular season anyway," Yost said. "At least for us. We haven't had much excitement lately so that gets high on the excitement meter for us."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.