MINNEAPOLIS — Eight in a row.
Aaron Crow bailed out Kelvin Herrera from a mess in the eighth inning Wednesday night and enabled the Royals to stretch their winning streak to eight games when they held on for a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
No, it wasn’t easy.
The Royals built a 2-0 lead for Jeremy Guthrie with single runs in the second and third innings before breaking a 2-2 by scoring two unearned runs in the seventh inning.
Then it was a matter of holding on.
Greg Holland weathered a threat in the ninth inning when Joe Mauer reached second on a one-out infield single and a throwing error by shortstop Alcides Escobar that went into the Minnesota dugout.
Escobar made a diving stop and probably should have just held the ball.
Holland struck out Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit for his 21st straight successful save and his 28th overall in 30 opportunities.
All of that came after a a high-stress eighth inning when Herrera struggled after inheriting a two-run lead.
Guthrie (11-7) got the victory after yielding two runs in six innings. Caleb Thielbar (1-1) was the loser after yielding those two unearned runs in the seventh.
The eight straight victories boosted the Royals to 53-51 and marked their longest winning streak since opening the 2003 season by winning nine in a row.
Herrera replaced Tim Collins to start the eighth and immediately gave up successive doubles to Doumit and Trevor Plouffe. Both were line-drive rockets into the left-center gap.
Herrera struck out Chris Herrmann before Aaron Hicks’ squibber up the first-base line stayed fair and resulted in a sing;e that moved Plouffe to third.
Chris Colabello batted for Pedro Florimon, which prompted a countermove by the Royals to replace Herrera with Crow.
Colabello struck out on a check swing but Hicks stole second on the full-count pitch. Crow then preserved the lead by striking out Clete Thomas.
Guthrie carried a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning but found trouble when the Twins loaded the bases with no outs on singles by Mauer, Morneau and Doumit.
Plouffe soft hopper to third resulted in a force at home, but Herrmann drew a four-pitch walk that forced in the tying run.
But Guthrie stopped it there. Hicks popped to second, and Florimon, who had homered in the fifth, struck out.
That run enabled Minnesota starter Kevin Correia to exit with a no-decision. He gave up 10 hits, but just two runs, in six innings.
Thielbar started the seventh and yielded a two-out triple to Alex Gordon, which turned into the go-ahead run when Florimon couldn’t handle Eric Hosmer’s soft grounder up the middle.
Casey Fien replaced Thielbar and, after Hosmer stole second, lost a 10-pitch battle to Billy Butler, who drove an RBI single up the middle for a 4-2 lead.
That proved to be enough. Barely.
The Twins mounted a one-out threat against Guthrie in the first inning without putting the ball in play. Jamey Carroll was hit by a pitch and stole second before Mauer walked.
Guthrie escaped when Morneau popped to short, and Doumit struck out.
The Royals then opened the scoring in the second when David Lough sprinted his way to a one-out double to center -- and then got a great read on a Miguel Tejada liner just over a leaping Carroll at second for a 1-0 lead.
Mike Moustakas flicked a single into left that moved Tejada to third, but the Royals settled for one run when Escobar’s hopper back to the mound resulted in an out at home.
Guthrie worked around a one-out single in the second but closed the inning at 47 pitches.
The Royals stretched their lead to 2-0 in the third but, again, had a chance for more. Gordon led off with single and went to third on Hosmer’s double over Thomas’ head in left.
Butler sent a drive to right that scored Gordon, but Herrmann threw a laser to third that nailed Hosmer for a double play. Herrmann’s throw was reminiscent of Jeff Francoeur at his best.
Thomas opened the Twins third with a double to right that Lough appeared to misread -- although it’s not clear whether he could have made the catch anyway. Didn’t matter. Guthrie retired the next three hitters.
The Royals put runners at first and second with one out in the fifth on singles by Jarrod Dyson and Hosmer, but Butler grounded into a double play.
Catcher Salvy Perez opened the Twins fifth by making a spectacular play on what appeared to be a perfect bunt by Hicks. That play looked even bigger when Florimon followed with a homer to right.