Before the Minnesota Twins can worry about their series with the leaders in the AL Central, they’ll try to continue their strong play while facing one of the division’s hottest teams.
The surging Twins look for a fourth straight victory when they open a weekend road series against the pesky Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
Minnesota (79-73) got off to a strong start on its final road trip with an 8-6 victory over Chicago on Wednesday to conclude a sweep of the three-game set and continue to put pressure on first-place Detroit.
Winners in nine of their last 10, the second-place Twins are three games behind the Tigers with 10 remaining. Minnesota opens a four-game series at Detroit on Monday, and hopes that set will still mean something after this weekend’s action.
“Our goal now is to go to Kansas City and win a series there and go to Detroit and see what happens,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team scored 23 runs in the series against the White Sox. “It’s as close to a must-win situation as you can be in.”
Minnesota is 7-5 versus the Royals (63-90) this season and 5-1 at Kauffman Stadium where it swept a three-game set Aug. 21-23. Despite losing its last two contests, however, Kansas City has won 12 of its last 17.
“They seem to take off late every year,” Gardenhire told the Twins’ official Web site of the Royals, who won 13 of their final 16 a year ago. “They’ve been doing that the last few years. I don’t know why that is, but once again they’re playing really good at the end of the year.”
Michael Cuddyer(notes) is 5 for 9 with three homers and five RBIs in his last two games against Kansas City. The Twins outfielder is batting .381 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in his last 10 contests overall.
Carl Pavano(notes) (12-11, 4.82 ERA) looks for a second straight victory over the Royals after allowing two runs in seven innings of a 10-3 win on Aug. 23 to improve to 2-3 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts against them this season.
The right-hander, who’s 2-4 with a 7.00 ERA six career starts versus Kansas City, gave up two runs in seven innings and didn’t receive a decision in a 6-2 win over Detroit on Saturday.
Billy Butler(notes), who’s 6 for 15 with three doubles against Pavano, hit a two-run homer in Kansas City’s 10-3 loss to Boston on Thursday. The Royals were outscored 19-5 in the final two games of that set after winning the first two against the wild card-leading Red Sox.
Butler, who has a career-high 19 home runs, is batting .389 with a homer in his last four games against the Twins.
The right-hander, who’s 3-0 with a 0.81 ERA in four starts this season after coming out of the bullpen, allowed one run and three hits in six innings of a 2-1 win over the White Sox on Sunday.
“He’s good,” White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski(notes) said of Tejeda, who made 29 relief appearances this season. “It’s pretty amazing seeing the transformation a guy can make from going from the bullpen to being a starter and having the success that he’s had.”
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