Teams at the bottom of the AL Central are helping the Minnesota Twins inch their way toward the top.
The Twins, enjoying what has been a successful road trip against a couple of struggling division opponents, look to saddle the Kansas City Royals with their 10th straight loss when the teams meet in the middle game of their series Wednesday night.
After winning two of three at Detroit over the weekend, Minnesota (26-25) beat Kansas City 4-3 in 12 innings on Tuesday night.
Matchups with the Tigers and Royals, who are tied for last in the AL Central, are helping the Twins draw closer to the first-place Chicago White Sox. Minnesota gained a game on Chicago on Tuesday, and is now two behind the White Sox.
The Twins have an excellent opportunity to at least keep pace in the division with two more matchups against the lowly Royals, who have lost nine straight for the first time since a 13-game skid from May 12-25, 2006.
“It’s all disheartening and disappointing,” Kansas City first-year manager Trey Hillman said. “I’m not going to sit here and sugarcoat it. It’s frustrating. People like playing us right now, and they should. It’s more of the same. We need to get some big hits, see more pitches. It sounds like a broken record. We’re in desperate times, no doubt about it, to get a win.”
The Royals, who have been outscored 53-19 during their skid, have had only six losing streaks that have been longer. They rank last in the majors with 184 runs.
“You just pitch, that’s all you’ve got to do,” said Nathan, who blew his first save opportunity in 14 chances before the Twins won it with Michael Cuddyer’s RBI single in the 12th. “I’ve always said there are times you are going to go out there and make good pitches and the results won’t be in your favor.”
Kansas City will face Livan Hernandez (6-2, 4.22 ERA) for the third time this season. Hernandez has posted a 2.57 ERA en route to earning wins in both of his starts versus the Royals, who he never pitched against before this season.
But Hernandez struggled in his last start, giving up six runs and 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings as Minnesota lost 8-7 in 10 innings to Texas on Thursday.
The right-hander went 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his previous four outings.
Kansas City will counter with Zack Greinke (5-2, 2.82 ERA), who is coming off his worst start of the season. He labored through five innings, giving up six runs and nine hits in Kansas City’s 7-1 loss to Toronto on Friday night. The right-hander allowed more than three runs in a start for the first time this season.
It was his second straight start on the road. Now, Greinke will return home, where he is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four starts. He has also pitched well in seven starts and four relief appearances versus the Twins, going 2-3 with a 3.65 ERA.