MINNEAPOLIS -- David Lough and Johnny Giavotella, two Royals with new impetus to do well in their baseball lives, did all the right things on Sunday.
Lough scored four runs and had three doubles, the go-ahead home run, and three RBIs in a 4-for-4 day. Giavotella was 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs, one run and a terrific defensive play.
Add in a ninth-inning home run by Eric Hosmer and Kansas City outlasted the Minnesota Twins, 9-8, as 34,232 fans basked in a gorgeous Land of 10,000 Lakes afternoon at Target Field.
"It was a great game, man," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It's one of those games that keeps your heart pounding right from the get-go."
Giavotella was getting another chance to become the Royals' regular second baseman, and to make room for him right fielder Jeff Francoeur was dropped and cleared the way for Lough to get more playing time at that position. They certainly made the most of it.
"I don't think I've ever had a day like that, even in the Minor Leagues," Lough said.
Probably not, even though there were seven years and 677 games to look back on.
Lough and Giavotella were at the bottom of the Royals' lineup, in the 8-9 spots, but Giavotella noted they were accustomed to being in that order. Except with Triple-A Omaha, they'd be batting in the 1-2 positions.
"It's nothing new for me to see him have great games like that," Giavotella said.
On Sunday, they were in the middle of virtually everything offensively as the duo combined for seven hits, 14 total bases, five RBIs and five runs scored.
Lough hustled to a double and Giavotella had an infield RBI single in the two-run third inning. Lough belted a two-run double off the wall and Giavotella drilled a run-scoring single in the three-run fourth. Both of them doubled and scored on Alcides Escobar's single for two runs in the sixth for a 7-4 lead.
However, the Twins scrambled to a 7-7 tie in the seventh with a three-run assault that included Justin Morneau's two-run blast off left-hander Tim Collins. Then, Collins issued two walks and right-hander Aaron Crow was brought in to face pinch-hitter Josh Willingham. He pounded a double that, to the Royals' relief, bounced into the stands for a ground-rule variety. That meant only one run scored; a second run would have put the Twins ahead.
"I was really hustling around second base," said Chris Parmelee, running from first base. "I was looking to score, I was planning to score."
But, with the ball bounding over the fence, he was obliged to stop at third base and there he stayed as Crow got two outs to end the inning.
Then, Lough came up against reliever Jared Burton in the eighth. Bam -- he ripped a 1-0 pitch over the right-field wall to snap the tie.
"It was a fastball in. He started me off with a changeup away and it seemed like they came in on me pretty much all day, and all my hits were to right field," Lough said. "It was right in my wheelhouse. I couldn't ask for a better pitch than that to hit and I was able to put it out."
Then, in the ninth, Hosmer made it 9-7 with a blast to center off reliever Josh Roenicke. It gave closer Greg Holland a two-run cushion.
That was a terrific idea because Trevor Plouffe opened the Twins' half of the ninth by pounding a 2-1 pitch from Holland out of the park. Not that Holland really minded all that much. With a two-run lead, he was just determined not to walk Plouffe.
"When you go from up-one to up-two, then you make them beat you with the bat. Don't put anybody on," Holland said. "And I fell behind but, since we had a two-run lead, I could take my chances and he hit it out of the park and we're still winning."
Then, Holland got busy and struck out the next three batters for his 17th save.
The victory went to Crow. Starter Ervin Santana had command difficulties, but got through six innings. The Twins' long three-run fifth against him benefited from the errors of third baseman Mike Moustakas and shortstop Escobar.
"I didn't have my best stuff today," Santana said. "I did not have good command, but I made good pitches and gave my team a chance to win."
Lough did the most to increase that chance, enhancing a bid for the right field job held so long by Francoeur.
"Frenchy's a great guy, a class act guy that really taught me a lot," Lough said. "Just being in the outfield in batting practice, that's one of the first guys I talked to because we play the same position. It's unfortunate that he went and that spot is open and I'm just trying to help my team win and put together good at-bats."
For a team looking to beef up its offense, Giavotella served notice he could contribute to that cause as well as defend at second base. Aside from three hits, his great grab, twist and throw to nail Eduardo Escobar in the sixth inning belied his defensive rep.
"I hope to contribute any way I can to help this team to win and hope to make a playoff push," Giavotella said.
Playoff push? Well, the four-game split did send the Royals home just 4 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit and Cleveland in the American League Central standings.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.