KANSAS CITY -- The Twins got back to business on Wednesday. Strong pitching, timely hitting and a nifty double play to end the game -- it was just the right formula to make sure that Minnesota didn't go 0-for-the-road.
The Twins saved the best for last on their six-game road trip, using Delmon Young's seventh-inning homer as the catalyst for a 4-2 victory over the Royals. After dropping the first five games of the road trip and surrendering 46 runs in the process, Minnesota was anxious to get back some positive vibes to propel it into the postseason.
"We needed to turn things around," Young said.
Minnesota did so when Young turned around a Gil Meche pitch and snapped a 2-2 tie with a line-drive homer off the left-field foul pole. Young then provided some insurance with a run-scoring single in the ninth.
The 2-for-4 night for Young brought his numbers to a .300 batting average, 20 homers and 110 RBIs.
"I never thought I'd get to 20 [homers] playing at Target Field," Young said. "Personal goals? You look at those at the end of the season. But right now, we've still got four games to go to get ready for the Wild Card team."
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire was just happy to see his club start to look more like the Twins who ran away with the American League Central title before hitting the five-game slide. The victory pulled the Twins to within one game of the Rays for the best record in the AL and home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs.
Gardenhire's biggest concern lately has been starting pitching, and he was happy to see Scott Baker limit the Royals to two runs over five innings before the bullpen came on with some sharp work.
"Baker gave us a good performance," Gardenhire said. "A lot of pitches , but a good performance. That's what it took. All you ask for is to have a chance late in the ballgame. The bullpen came in and did a super job of getting the outs they were supposed to get. It's the way to go home. You can't worry about the rest of the road trip."
Baker isn't in the Twins' starting rotation for the playoffs, but he vows to be ready if and when he's called on.
"I just do as I'm told," Baker said. "Obviously, I want to help the team in any way that I can. But that decision is up to them. So we'll just see where we are the next few days."
Baker feels he could be effective out of the bullpen, even though he has battled a balky elbow.
"I don't think getting loose rapidly is the issue," Baker said. "The issue is recovery. If I'm able to recover quickly between outings, that's the main concern."
Matt Guerrier followed Baker to the mound and was extremely effective, retiring all five hitters he faced and fanning four. Brian Fuentes and Matt Capps finished the job as the Twins wound up 41-40 in road games this year.
Kansas City had two on and one out in the ninth, when Billy Butler hit a slow grounder to the right of shortstop Alexi Casilla. The Twins turned the 6-4-3 double play against the slow-footed Butler, and Capps had his 16th save.
"I thought the guy might be safe at first, but I was trying to make sure of one out [at second]," Casilla said. "Orlando [Hudson] made a good turn at second, and we got it done."
The Royals took a quick 2-0 lead on Kila Ka'aihue's solo homer and a run-scoring single by Lucas May in the second inning. Kansas City starter Luke Hochever took a shutout into the sixth, but the Twins finally got it going when four consecutive batters reached. Drew Butera had an RBI single to make it 2-1, and Casilla tied it with an RBI fielder's choice.
Then Young put the Twins ahead to stay in the seventh with his homer off Meche.
"I let up on it a little bit, just to make sure it was a strike," Meche said. "It didn't quite have the action that I would have wanted."
When Young's drive caromed off the foul pole, the Twins finally had the impetus for a sweet ending to an overall sour trip.
"We had been having some pretty good at-bats the whole night," Gardenhire said. "We missed some opportunities. Hochever threw really well against us, so it gets back to our starting pitcher. Tonight, he didn't let the game get away from us. We stayed within striking distance and came up with some big hits late."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.