Chris Young was the starter for Kansas City on Friday night at Target Field. Speculation is he will be the guy left out when the Royals choose four starters for the division series scheduled to open Thursday.

Manager Ned Yost also fielded a lineup without center fielder Lorenzo Cain, catcher Salvador Perez and designated hitter Kendrys Morales.

The Royals had a desire to win in order to keep pace with Toronto in the contest to gain the No. 1 seed in the American League playoffs. The Twins had an urgency to win in order to maintain a reasonable chance to gain the second wild-card position (and No. 5 seed) in those playoffs.

Desire disposed of urgency — 3-1, Royals — and now the odds of reaching the postseason are fully stacked against the Twins. Houston was rolling to a 21-5 victory behind ace Dallas Keuchel in Arizona, and that put the Twins two games behind the Astros with two to play.

The Twins used their best pitching weapon for the weekend on Friday in Ervin Santana, and he pitched in the same fine style as in his six previous starts dating to Aug. 30.

No matter.

The Twins were inept swinging the bats for the previous two games in Cleveland, and they were inept again Friday.

They had managed a 4-2 victory on Thursday night in Cleveland when the Indians helped them to a couple of runs in the ninth inning. This kept the Twins' improbable postseason pursuit alive, and they were greeted Friday with a walk-up of fans that pushed the announced attendance to a solid 31,534.

It was a hopeful audience that was willing to get rowdy at any hint that the Twins were ready to put together a rally.

There was only one. Eddie Rosario singled to open the second, Aaron Hicks singled him home and Kurt Suzuki followed with a third single.

That was it. Young retired Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dozier, and the Twins didn't get their next hit until the eighth inning.

Santana gave up one run through seven innings and all that gave him was a 1-1 tie. He went back out for the eighth and Alcides Escobar, with his rear end headed in the wrong direction in the batter's box, blooped a single to right-center field.

That was Santana's 110th pitch and manager Paul Molitor came to get him. The crowd gave Santana an ovation, including numerous standees, as he went to the dugout.

This was a show of gratitude for the seven strong starts — all seven innings or more — that Santana made to close the season. The fact he missed the first half of the schedule for a failed steroid test will be a consideration when the epitaph for 2015 is written, but it wasn't one for this crowd.

At that moment, the fans were still optimistic that the Twins could scratch out a run and get a victory. And then Glen Perkins threw his first pitch, and Ben Zobrist banged it off the fence in front of the bullpen for an RBI double, and the mood changed.

The ovation for Santana turned to audible boos for Perkins, who has gone from perfection in save situations going into his third All-Star Game, to a poor imitation of that pitcher in a twice-injured, troubled 2½ months to finish the season.

Santana was charged with the first run, and Perkins with another in that inning, and then the Royals allowed three relievers — Lewis Coleman, Ryan Madson and the magnificent Wade Davis — to get the last seven outs.

Young is a 6-10, 38-year-old soft tosser, and pitched 12⅔ innings in two starts at Target Field this season and gave up four singles (on Friday) and a triple (on June 9).

While the Twins were flailing against Young, the Astros were seizing their opportunity in Arizona. Talk about relieving pressure: The Astros sent nine men to the plate in the first, with Keuchel batting before he ever took the mound.

"We were aware of what was happening elsewhere,'' said Molitor, in reference to Houston's early explosion that was posted with the Twins and Royals still tied at 1-1.

They were aware, but with the swings being taken vs. Young and his relievers, the Twins couldn't do anything to counter it.

Backs against the wall? Two behind with two to go is worse than that.

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. preusse@startribune.com