Royals-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

The Kansas City Royals picked up a rare win over the Minnesota Twins to open their three-game series.

Not facing Joe Mauer probably helped.

Mauer won't be in the lineup for the second straight game Wednesday night as the Royals try to clinch their first series win against the Twins this season.

Kansas City was 5-10 against Minnesota before a 9-1 win Tuesday. Will Smith struck out seven in seven scoreless innings, Lorenzo Cain hit a two-run triple during a three-run second inning and the Royals broke open a close game with four runs in the eighth.

Salvador Perez, who had two hits, extended his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games while throwing out two runners. He's batting .365 with nine RBIs during the streak.

"That guy's awesome," Smith said about Perez. "He's so good. You love having him back there. You feel confident that the running game, he's just going to completely shut it down."

The Twins came in averaging 5.3 runs and hitting .280 against the Royals this year, including 6.3 runs per game in six meetings at home. With Mauer's back spasms preventing him from playing a second straight game, Minnesota could be hard-pressed to replace its star who is hitting .425 with nine RBIs in 11 games versus the Royals this year and .319 overall.

Luke Hochevar (7-13, 5.36 ERA), who will start for Kansas City, is probably happy he won't have to face Mauer. He's hitting .519 (14 for 27) against the right-hander, including 5 for 7 with two homers this year.

The Twins are hopeful Denard Span will be back in the lineup. He's been on the disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 28, with a clavicle injury. Span is hitting .286 this season, but just .176 (6 for 34) against the Royals.

Hochevar will try to help Kansas City (64-77) secure its first series win against Minnesota (59-83) of more than two games since a three-game sweep April 29-May 1, 2011.

Hochevar, however, is trying to end a seven-start winless streak and avoid a fifth consecutive defeat. The right-hander surrendered four runs and gave up two homers over 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4 loss in 10 innings to Texas last Thursday.

Hochevar is 0-2 with an 8.59 ERA in three starts against the Twins this year. He was pounded for eight runs while issuing four walks over 1 2-3 innings of an 8-7 loss Sept. 1.

P.J. Walters (2-3, 6.05) counters for the Twins, trying to avoid a three-start losing streak.

Walters, who made seven starts in May and June before being placed on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, gave up six runs and two homers in five innings of a 6-2 defeat to Chicago last Wednesday.

"I wasn't missing by a whole lot but enough to be balls and that, to me, that's the big part of the game - not so much the homers, but the three walks," Walters said. "I don't walk those three guys ... maybe it plays out a little different."

The right-hander is making his first start against the Royals.