After sweeping their biggest series of the season, the first-place Minnesota Twins can’t afford a letdown in the final weekend of the regular season.
The surging Twins try for a fifth consecutive victory as they open their final series against the pesky Kansas City Royals on Friday night at the Metrodome.
Alexi Casilla singled home the winner as Minnesota rallied from a five-run deficit to beat rival Chicago 7-6 in 10 innings Thursday to sweep the three-game set from the White Sox and take a one-half game lead over them in the AL Central.
“We’re going to give you nine tough innings no matter what. You can never count a team out that has heart like we do,” said first baseman Justin Morneau of the Twins, who lead the division for the first time since Aug. 23
While Minnesota finishes up with three against Kansas City (73-86), which has won 11 of 13, but is 4-11 against the Twins this season, Chicago hosts Cleveland in a three-game set. If the Twins and White Sox are within a half-game of each other after Sunday, Chicago must make up a rainout against Detroit at home Monday. Then, if both are tied, the Twins travel to Chicago for a one-game playoff Tuesday to determine the division champion.
Minnesota hopes it doesn’t come to that as it tries to build off the emotional series with Chicago.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence. If we keep playing like that, we make the World Series,” said center fielder Carlos Gomez, who went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored Thursday.
Gomez is hitting .412 (14-for-34) with eight RBIs in his last nine games and .300 (18-for-60) against the Royals in 2008.
Francisco Liriano (6-3, 3.39 ERA) takes the ball for the Twins trying to win his seventh straight decision since rejoining the team from Triple-A Rochester last month.
The left-hander allowed one run and five hits while striking out seven in seven innings of a 4-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday to bounce back after yielding eight runs—four earned—in 2 2-3 innings of an extra-inning loss to Cleveland on Sept. 16.
“From my last start, I tried not to rush and just picked my spots,” said Liriano, who is 1-1 with a 4.42 ERA in three career starts this season against Kansas City.
The Royals counter with Kyle Davies (8-7, 4.21), who tries for a third consecutive victory after allowing two runs and three hits in seven innings of a 5-2 win over Chicago on Saturday. Despite owning a 2-4 record with a 5.08 ERA in six career starts versus the Twins and going 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA in two this season, the right-hander is looking forward to pitching in a big-game atmosphere.
“Every time you pitch up here, it’s an adrenaline rush and you get butterflies, but when you go out there and you know that team has to win to survive, it gives you a little more,” Davies told the Royals’ official Web site.
In its most recent contest, Alex Gordon went 2-for-4 with an RBI in Kansas City’s 10-4 win over Detroit to sweep the Tigers and move into fourth place in the Central.
Gordon is batting .343 (12-for-35) with two homers and seven RBIs during his 10-game hitting streak and .326 (15-for-46) with six doubles against Minnesota in 2008.