MORTON GROVE, Ill. (AP)—The Minnesota Twins are coming off a big series win over the defending World Series champions, but manager Ron Gardenhire is still concerned about facing the owners of the worst record in baseball.
Having claimed the AL wild-card lead over the weekend, the Twins hope to avoid a letdown as they open a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday at the Metrodome.
Minnesota (76-53) is 8-4 against Kansas City (47-85) this season, but the Royals have been knocking off playoff contenders all month. They have forced four-game splits with the White Sox and the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics, as well as sweeping a three-game series from the Boston Red Sox.
“The Royals have been playing well, so things don’t get any easier for us,” Gardenhire said. “The way the American League is anymore, you don’t get any gimmies.”
The Twins won two of three against the Chicago White Sox this weekend, losing Sunday’s finale 6-1.
Despite not completing the sweep, Minnesota finished the series a half-game ahead of Chicago for the wild card while moving within five games of the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers. The Twins trailed the Tigers by 10 1/2 games earlier this month.
“There is no better way to learn about playoff baseball and a pennant race down the stretch than to be in it—and we’re going to be involved in one over the next month,” said Gardenhire, whose team is 51-20 since June 8 after opening the season 25-33.
The Twins have one more series apiece against the White Sox and Tigers this year, including a three-game set against Chicago to close the season.
“Hopefully those games at the end of the season mean something,” said third baseman Nick Punto. “I don’t see anybody running away with it, I really don’t.”
Minnesota will hand the ball to highly touted rookie Matt Garza (1-2, 6.59 ERA) on Tuesday. The 22-year-old right-hander notched his first major league win on Wednesday, allowing one unearned run and five hits through six innings in a 4-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
“Garza was very good. He threw the ball fantastic for us,” Gardenhire said. “I think you saw a more relaxed young man out there. He made pitches, located his fastball a lot better and didn’t overthrow it.”
Garza had lost his first two major league starts—at home to Toronto and Cleveland—as he gave up 10 runs and 13 hits in 7 2-3 innings.
The Royals will counter with Mark Redman (7-8, 5.85), who is 0-3 with an 8.89 ERA over his last six starts. The left-hander allowed four runs and 10 hits in five innings against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, but did not get the decision in team’s 8-4 loss.
Redman is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in eight starts against the Twins. He is 0-1 with a 10.29 ERA in two starts against them this season.
Kansas City lost two of three to the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend, including Sunday’s 10-6 loss.
The Royals have lost six of eight.