The Minnesota Twins know they won’t have an easy time trying to potentially wrap up the AL Central title this weekend.
The first-place Twins look to bounce back from a disappointing loss, and maintain their lead atop the division when they continue their final regular-season set with the surging Kansas City Royals on Saturday.
One night after concluding an emotionally intense three-game sweep of the rival Chicago White Sox and move into first place in the Central, Minnesota (87-73) fell 8-1 to Kansas City on Friday.
“We just came off of three emotional wins,” Twins right fielder Denard Span said. “From the beginning, we knew (the Royals) weren’t going to lay down for us.”
Despite the loss, Minnesota still owns a one-half game lead over the White Sox, who lost to Cleveland on Friday. The Twins’ magic number to clinch the division is three, but if the teams are within one-half game after Sunday, the White Sox will be forced to make up a rained out contest against Detroit on Monday in Chicago.
A possible one-game playoff between the Twins and White Sox would be played on Tuesday in Chicago if the teams are tied after Monday’s contest.
Before Minnesota can start thinking about those scenarios, though, it has to focus on the Royals (74-86), who, despite going just 5-11 against the Twins in 2008, have won four in a row and 12 of their last 14 games.
“You try not to take any opponent lightly,” Span said. “They came in and played us well and we just have to come back ready tomorrow. That’s the only thing I can think of.”
On Friday, Billy Butler went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer, while Alberto Callaspo singled to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. Butler is hitting .321 (17-for-53) against Minnesota in 2008, and Callaspo is batting .356 (21-for-59) during his streak.
“We know what’s on the line for them,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “We came here with the attitude that we’re going to win as many games as we can. Certainly no time to lay down.”
Minnesota’s Joe Mauer had two hits to raise his AL-leading average to .331.
The Twins face Gil Meche (13-11, 4.05 ERA), whose second season with Royals has gone better than his first when he went 9-13 with a 3.67 ERA in 2007.
Meche tries to close the season with his third straight victory after allowing two runs and four hits in six innings of a 6-2 win on Monday at Detroit.
“I felt like I had decent command, and I was able to keep them off-balance,” said the right-hander, who is 6-5 with a 4.73 ERA in 15 career starts against the Twins and 0-2 with a 7.50 ERA in three this season.
Minnesota counters with Glen Perkins (12-4, 4.50), who had his spot in the rotation skipped after he allowed five runs - two earned - and five hits in two-thirds of an inning of the Twins’ 11-8 win on Sept. 18 at Tampa Bay.
The left-hander, who is 0-1 with a 9.42 ERA over his last four starts since recording five straight winning decisions, will make his first career start against Kansas City. He posted a 2.79 ERA in three relief appearances versus the Royals last year.