Royals-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

Feeling confident, the Kansas City Royals have a great opportunity this weekend to move even closer to their goal of reaching .500 by the All-Star break.

Riding a four-game winning streak, the Royals look to continue their recent success Saturday during a split doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

Luis Mendoza allowed one run over eight innings and four players recorded two hits each as Kansas City (35-39) won for the 11th time in 16 games, 4-3 at Minnesota on Friday. With 10 games remaining before the Royals host the annual All-Star Game, they certainly have a strong chance to achieve or even exceed that goal.

"We just need to keep pushing,'' third baseman Mike Moustakas said. "It's a big series here and we need to stay consistent.''

Winners of three straight on the road, Kansas City has batted .335 with 11 homers while scoring 33 runs in the last five games overall. Shortstop Alcidis Escobar is batting .424 (28 for 66) in his last 18 contests.

Following Mendoza's strong outing in the opener, the Royals hope scheduled Game 1 starter Jonathan Sanchez (1-3, 6.21 ERA) can bounce back after he allowed six runs and six walks in 5 2-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 11-8 loss to St. Louis on Sunday. Sanchez, who has not won since beating the Los Angeles Angels in his Kansas City debut April 8, is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts since coming off the disabled list from biceps tendinitis.

He'll be opposed by fellow left-hander Scott Diamond (6-3, 2.67), who has never pitched against Kansas City. After giving up four runs in each of his previous two starts - both losses - the rookie yielded three and struck out seven in a season-high eight innings of a 4-3 win at Cincinnati on Sunday.

"We were trying to keep the pace going and keep things simple," Diamond told the Twins' official website. "That was the mentality, to get back on the mound and keep going."

Minnesota (30-45) likely faces a difficult challenge in the nightcap against scheduled Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar (5-7, 5.07), who has thrown 16 2-3 scoreless innings while winning his last two starts. The right-hander struck out eight Monday while tossing a seven-hitter in an 8-0 win over Tampa Bay for his first shutout since Sept. 18, 2009.

"The results have been dramatically improved since he got back to his three core pitches," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's starting to show exactly what he can do.''

Hochevar is 4-3 with a 4.75 ERA in 11 starts at Minnesota.

The Twins plan to recall suburban Minneapolis native Cole De Vries (1-1, 4.20) from Triple-A Rochester to start the second game. The right-hander went 2-1 with a 4.63 ERA in four starts at Rochester after making his first three major league starts with Minnesota from May 24-June 4.

"I feel a little more comfortable with the situation because last time there were a lot of firsts going on and it's kind of a roller coaster of emotions," De Vries said. "(The) second and third situations are a little easier to manage."

In his most recent major league outing earlier this month, De Vries allowed five runs in five innings but earned his first career win in a 10-7 win at Kansas City.

Minnesota's Ryan Doumit went 1 for 3 hours after he signed a $7 million, two-year contract Friday. He's hit .353 (12 for 34) during his last nine games but is 1 for 8 with three strikeouts against Sanchez.

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