Start with this: The Royals should have been on cruise control Tuesday night entering the ninth inning. They were, instead, clinging to a two-run lead after wasting a bushel of scoring opportunities.

And then things got tense before Greg Holland, in All-Star closer form, closed out a 3-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles by stranding the tying run at third base with no outs.

“Our closer is special, man,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “You get a guy on third with no outs and one of the best hitters on the planet up. He didn’t back down.”

That best hitter would be Chris Davis, who leads the majors with 37 homers. He came to the plate after Nick Markakis opened the inning with a single and came around on Adam Jones’ triple into the left-center gap.

“They had a runner on third base with nobody out,” manager Ned Yost said, “and I was completely comfortable. I felt that Holly was gonna get the job done...I knew that he had the stuff to get it done for us.”

Was Holland that confident?

“Probably not,” he admitted, “but in that situation, you’ve just got to make pitches. Hopefully (you) get a few ground balls, and I was fortunate enough to get a few.”

Two grounders, in fact, after he struck out Davis with a nasty slider in the dirt that Salvy Perez blocked and threw to first for the first out.

“At that point,” Holland said, “I’m going to pitch (J.J.) Hardy tough. If I fall behind, I’m going to put him on and take my chances with a double play.”