Minnesota (81-73) at Kansas City (63-92)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Kansas City, MO, US
Temp: 76° F
  • Game info: 2:10 pm EDT Sun Sep 27, 2009
  • TV: WFTC
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The surging Minnesota Twins will be happy to play half of their remaining games against the Kansas City Royals while chasing an AL Central title.

They probably won’t be as excited to see Zack Greinke(notes) on the mound twice.

The first matchup will be Sunday in Kansas City, as the Twins try to complete a three-game sweep while finally facing Greinke for the first time in 2009.

Minnesota will also have to avoid looking forward to Monday, when it opens a vital four-game set at Detroit. The Tigers currently lead the Twins (81-73) by two games in the division race.

Manager Ron Gardenhire’s club has won 11 of its last 12 games, and the Twins have scored at least seven runs while winning each of the first five games on this road trip. The offensive surge has come without injured former MVP Justin Morneau(notes) (back), but leadoff man Denard Span(notes) provided a career-high six RBIs in Saturday’s 11-6 win.

The Twins still failed to pick up a game on the Tigers, who fell behind Chicago 5-0 before coming back to win 12-5.

“Everybody in the dugout was looking at that,” Span said. “It’s kind of unfortunate. At the same time, we know we’ve got to take care of business. As long as we win, beat the Royals, we’ll see Detroit next week.”

Runs likely won’t be as easy to come by against Greinke, who is having a historic statistical season. The right-hander is in position to become just the seventh pitcher in major league history to finish a season with an ERA under 2.10 and more than one strikeout per inning, with at least 200 innings pitched.

Two of those hurlers - Sandy Koufax and Pedro Martinez(notes) - did it multiple times.

“I am biased,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “Part of that bias is I’ve seen all his starts. I have a very difficult time believing there is anybody better in the major leagues, that’s as good a pitcher as Zack Greinke is in the year 2009.”

Greinke (15-8, 2.08 ERA) has bolstered his AL Cy Young Award credentials by going 3-0 with a 0.26 ERA in his last five starts. He gave up two hits in six shutout innings during a 5-1 win over Boston on Tuesday, the fourth time in that span that he did not allow an earned run.

“Greinke has everything,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “He has velocity. You look up and you see a fastball that’s 91 and then you see one that’s 97. Then you see a slider, maybe the best slider in the game. I was impressed with his stuff.”

The Twins haven’t been in awe of Greinke in the past, though. The Royals have lost the last six times Greinke has started against Minnesota, with the right-hander going 0-3 with a 4.66 ERA.

The Twins have also won their last seven games at Kauffman Stadium to improve to 9-5 against Kansas City this year. After visiting Detroit they close the regular season with three home games against the Royals, who’ve lost four straight.

That could bode well for Francisco Liriano(notes), who will likely face Kansas City (63-92) twice. The left-hander dominated the Royals last month, allowing one run and three hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings of a 7-1 win on Aug. 12.

Liriano (5-12, 5.75) will start for the first time since getting roughed up by Texas on Aug. 17 and going on the disabled list with arm fatigue. He has made three relief appearances since being activated, allowing three runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings.

“More than anything else, we have to see how he’s feeling and how he’s doing physically,” Gardenhire told the Twins’ official Web site.

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Starting Pitchers

F. Liriano PIT vs. Z. Greinke ARI
5-13 Record 16-8
5.80 ERA 2.16
122 K 242
65 BB 51
1.55 WHIP 1.07

Scoreboard

Sunday, Sep 27