Heading into this series, all signs were pointing to the Minnesota Twins losing ground in the tight three-team AL Central.
However, after consecutive routs, the Twins can pull within a game of the first-place Kansas City Royals as the teams close out their three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
The Twins had little to be confident about before this series. Besides coming off three straight home losses to the Cleveland Indians, the Twins were up against a Kansas City team that just took two of three from the New York Yankees.
The Twins also struggled earlier this season in Kansas City, dropping five of six games.
Minnesota, though, has scored 23 runs in the last two games against the Royals, going down in order just four times.
After topping Friday’s 9-2 win, Torii Hunter drove in three runs for the second straight game to lead the Twins to a 14-5 win on Saturday.
“We know the Royals are in first place and we’re trying to get back into first place,” Hunter said. “That’s why we’ve been playing with intensity.”
Carlos Beltran, who had missed five starts with a sore elbow, homered twice and drove in the Royals’ first three runs. Beltran also had a single and is hitting .356 with three doubles, three triples, nine homers and 28 RBIs in his last 28 games.
The loss was the Royals third in their last four games, leaving them just two games ahead of the White Sox.
“I don’t think we let down,” Royals second baseman Desi Relaford said. “I just don’t think we came to play prepared like we should have the first two games. These guys are motivated by the fact they’re only out by a few games with a chance to make up some ground. Basically, they wanted it more than us.”
STANDINGS: Twins - 3rd place, 2 GB, AL Central. Royals - 1st place, AL Central.
TWINS PROBABLE STARTER: Rick Reed (5-11, 4.86 ERA). Reed, who missed his last two scheduled starts due to back spasms, pitched in relief in an 8-3 loss to Cleveland on Thursday, as he allowed no hits in 2-3 of an inning. Reed has his best outing of the season against the Royals, a 7-0 win on May 14 when he pitched a three-hitter. He also had one of his shortest outings of the season against the Royals, allowing six earned runs and nine hits over 3 2-3 innings in an 8-6 loss on June 14. In five career starts against the Royals, Reed is 3-1 with a 4.03 ERA.
ROYALS PROBABLE STARTER: Darrell May (5-6, 3.76 ERA). The left-hander is 0-2 in his last five starts, and is looking for his first win since July 18. In his last start, a 6-0 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday, May lasted 7 1-3 innings, allowing five runs and 12 hits. In six appearances against the Twins— including two starts—May is 0-1 with a 4.79 ERA.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Twins - Jacque Jones, .309 avg.; Hunter, 22 HRs and 82 RBIs; Shannon Stewart, 66 runs; Christian Guzman, 13 SBs. Royals - Mike Sweeney, .320 avg.; Beltran, 20 HRs, 74 RBIs and 30 SBs.; Beltran and Raul Ibanez, 72 runs.
SEASON SERIES: Royals, 8-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Twins - 2B Luis Rivas has two homers in nine at-bats against LHP May. … Minnesota’s last sweep at Kauffman Stadium was a three-game set from Aug. 24-26, 2001. … SS Guzman has a six-game hitting streak, going 8-for-26 (.307) during that stretch. Royals - OF Ibanez is 5-for-11 (.455) against RHP Reed with one home run. … SS Angel Berroa has just three extra-base hits in his last 20 games, all doubles. … Kansas City has dropped its last three games against the Twins, getting outscored 29-9.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Twins - 30-30 on the road; Royals - 33-30 at home.
INJURIES: Twins - OF Lew Ford (arm), 15-day DL; RHP Mike Fetters (hamstring), 60-day DL; LHP Eric Milton (elbow), 60-day DL. Royals - OF Michael Tucker (leg), 15-day DL; RHP Jose Lima (groin) 15-day DL; RHP Kyle Snyder (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Miguel Asencio (elbow), 60-day DL.