Brad Radke has to hope his last outing marked the beginning of something better.
Struggling through a six-game losing streak spanning 10 starts since May 16, Radke held things together enough to get a win his last time out. The 30-year-old right-hander survived 6 2-3 shaky innings in a 9-4 win over Oakland on Saturday.
Radke spotted Oakland a quick three-run lead before bearing down and his teammates responded in the middle innings with all the offense he would need.
Opponents are hitting .294 with 22 home runs against Radke, who could end up challenging his 1996 career high of 40 homers allowed. Even more alarming is the fact that Radke has allowed at least four earned runs in 10 of his 20 starts this season.
The Twins, who have lost 10 1/2 games in the standings to the Royals since June 15, certainly need Radke to once again resemble the pitcher who has recorded at least 11 wins seven times and thrown more than 200 innings six times during his nine-year career.
After giving up five home runs in an 8-3 loss on Wednesday, the Twins are 6 1/2 games behind heading into a meeting with Darrell May, the Royals’ hottest pitcher.
“It’s very big. We’ve got to get them tomorrow,” Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said. “It’s a must.”
May has won five straight starts, establishing a career high for wins in a season as well as providing the Royals’ rotation with an unexpected boost.
May shut down the AL West-leading Seattle Mariners on Saturday, allowing just one run and three hits over eight innings in a 5-1 win. The 31-year-old left-hander has allowed only six earned runs during his winning streak, spanning 36 innings.
Kansas City is 13-6 in July.
STANDINGS: Royals - 1st place, AL Central. Twins - 3rd place, 6 1/2 GB, AL Central.
ROYALS PROBABLE STARTER: May (5-4, 3.38 ERA). Though May has been sharp during his winning streak, he also has been susceptible to the long ball, allowing five solo homers over his last five starts. The left-hander is 0-1 with a 5.93 ERA in five career appearances, including one start, against Minnesota.
TWINS PROBABLE STARTER: Radke (6-9, 5.49 ERA). The right-hander is 8-8 with a 4.49 ERA in 23 career starts against Kansas City. He has allowed just eight homers in 142 1-3 innings against the Royals.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Royals - Mike Sweeney, .321 avg.; Carlos Beltran, 14 HRs and 28 SBs; Beltran and Raul Ibanez, 58 RBIs; Ibanez, 58 runs. Twins - Shannon Stewart, .308 avg. and 53 runs; Torii Hunter, 17 HRs and 63 RBIs; Cristian Guzman, 10 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Royals, 8-3.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Royals - Kansas City is 30-9 against the AL Central, the best division record in the major leagues, and has won nine of its last 11 road games. … CF Beltran is hitting .257 (9-for-35) lifetime against RHP Radke with six strikeouts and eight RBIs. . … Thursday is the 20th anniversary of the infamous George Brett pine tar game, in which Brett’s go-ahead homer off Rich Gossage in New York was overturned by plate umpire Tim McClelland because Brett’s bat had too much pine tar. … Twins - 3B Corey Koskie, who is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list next Tuesday, will visit a back specialist because his slightly bulging disc isn’t healing as quickly as hoped. … C A.J. Pierzynski is 4-for-8 lifetime against LHP May. … 2B Luis Rivas is 2-for-6 in his career against May with two home runs.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Royals - 26-21 on the road; Twins - 27-25 at home.
INJURIES: Royals - INF Mendy Lopez (calf), 15-day DL; 1B Sweeney (back), 15-day DL; RHP Miguel Asencio (elbow), 60-day DL. Twins - 3B Koskie (back), 15-day DL; OF Lew Ford (forearm), 15-day DL; RHP Mike Fetters (hamstring), 60-day DL; LHP Eric Milton (knee), 60-day DL.