The Minnesota Twins are in danger of missing the postseason for just the second time in six years, in part because of their lack of success against teams in their own division.
Off to a bad start in a stretch of 19 consecutive games against AL Central foes, the Twins hope to give a boost to their fading playoff hopes Friday when they play a day-night doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals.
In its last series, Minnesota (67-66) suffered a three-game sweep to division-leading Cleveland, falling to 21-29 against the Central. It was the first of six straight series against division foes for the Twins, who have lost eight of their last 11 games versus Central teams.
The good news for the Twins is that the Royals (59-73) are the only Central club with a worse division record at 20-29.
The Twins took a season high-tying five-game win streak into their series in Cleveland, but gave up an average of 6.0 runs per game to suffer their fifth three-game sweep of the year - third against a division rival.
“We obviously have put ourselves in a deep hole here, playing the leaders, and they swept us,” manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins’ official Web site. “But until we don’t have a chance, we owe it to our fans and ourselves to keep playing. And that’s what we are going to do.”
Despite having staff ace Johan Santana on the mound for Wednesday’s finale, Minnesota lost 4-3 to fall 8 1/2 games back of the Indians. The Twins are 7 1/2 games behind the wild card lead.
Wednesday’s defeat was the Twins’ second consecutive one-run loss.
“The only way you are going to get to the playoffs, and the only way you’re going to win in the playoffs, is by doing the small things,” center fielder Torii Hunter said. “If you make little mistakes and mental errors, you’re not going to win.”
“All we can do is keep battling. I don’t think there is a team out there that gives up.”
While Minnesota struggled against the division leader in its last series, Kansas City fared better against second-place Detroit. The Royals won the first two games against the Tigers, but couldn’t complete the sweep on Thursday and managed only six hits in a 6-1 loss.
Kyle Davies (5-11, 6.10 ERA) will try to avoid his second four-start losing streak of the season when he takes the mound for the Royals in the day game. The right-hander lasted only two innings Saturday, giving up seven runs in a 9-4 loss to Cleveland.
Davies had never faced the Twins before splitting two games against them this year. He failed to get through four innings in a 7-3 loss on June 12 at the Metrodome, but held the Twins to three hits in 6 2-3 innings of Kansas City’s 1-0 victory Aug. 9.
Matt Garza (3-4, 3.16) was the loser in that game, and he’ll get another shot at Davies on Friday. The right-hander has lost both of his career starts against the Royals despite a 1.88 ERA against them.
Garza won his most recent outing, allowing one run in five innings of an 8-1 victory at Baltimore on Saturday. However, he’s 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA in four home starts this season.
The Royals are winless in Meche’s last seven outings as he’s gone 0-5 with a 4.57 ERA. It’s his second five-game losing streak of the season, but the right-hander has never lost six in a row.
Meche has held each of his last four opponents to two earned runs, but hasn’t won a decision since beating Detroit on July 20. He left with a 3-2 lead after six innings on Saturday, but the Royals fell to the Indians 5-3 in 11 innings. Meche is last in the AL with a 4.00 run support average.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” he told the Royals’ official Web site. “Some guys have great years and do not get good run support. It’s just something that happens. There’s one guy on the staff that doesn’t get it, and I guess I’m the guy this year.”
Meche is 5-2 with a 4.22 ERA in 10 career starts against the Twins, but he is winless in four starts against them since 2004.
Baker has delivered three straight quality starts for the Twins, going 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA. His lone win in that span came at Baltimore on Sunday, when he held the Orioles to two earned runs in six innings of an 11-3 victory.
He is 1-2 with a 3.33 ERA in four career starts versus the Royals, and the lone victory came in a brilliant performance in his only outing against them this year. He gave up one run and two hits in eight innings, walking none and striking out seven in a 3-1 win on July 30.