Royals-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

While they've been under .500 since early April, the Kansas City Royals are hoping to get back to the break-even mark by the All-Star game.

If their recent efforts are any indication, they may actually be able to do just that.

The visiting Royals try for a season best-tying fourth consecutive win in the opener of a four-game set with the AL-worst Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

Kansas City (34-39) has gone 31-25 in its last 56 games, but a 12-game skid in the opening month has been difficult to overcome as the club tries to get back to .500. The Royals haven't been closer than within five games of that mark.

That could change Friday as they surge into the weekend having won 10 of 15 after completing a three-game sweep of Tampa Bay. The Royals hit .340 overall and .455 with runners in scoring position versus the Rays, scoring 21 runs and hitting six homers.

Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar went deep before Billy Butler hit a tiebreaking solo shot in the eighth inning of a 5-4 victory Wednesday.

"We've got the bats going - swinging and hitting the long ball. Big for us," manager Ned Yost told MLB's official website.

The Royals, who've had five winning and losing streaks of three games or more, are seeking more consistency going forward.

"It would be nice if we made things easier for ourselves once in a while," outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "This is the third time now we've fought back to get to five games under .500, but then we just take a few steps back. Our goal was to get back to .500 by the All-Star break."

Kansas City has dropped 17 of 23 at Minnesota, but the Twins (30-44)are in the midst of a 2-6 slump at Target Field. Minnesota starters have compiled a 5.88 ERA during that stretch, including Nick Blackburn's five-inning, six-run effort in a 12-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.

Brian Duensing (1-3, 3.82 ERA) wasn't much better Saturday in a 6-0 defeat at Cincinnati, giving up four runs over three-plus innings in his first start of the year. He was moved to the rotation after making 30 relief appearances and is expected to be on a strict pitch count again.

"I was throwing with a lot of conviction and a lot of confidence," Duensing said. " ... I felt like I was hoping, or trying to will the ball where I wanted it to go.

"I know it was only three innings, but I felt good. It's something I can take to the next start."

The left-hander could post better results versus the Royals - something he's done over the course of his career. Duensing's six wins over Kansas City are his most against any opponent, and he's gone 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA in seven starts in the series.

Francoeur is 5 for 14 with a homer against Duensing.

Luis Mendoza (2-4, 4.95) will take the ball for Kansas City. The right-hander has gone 1-3 with a 5.18 ERA in his last eight starts after an 8-2 loss to St. Louis on Saturday. He labored through 4 1-3 innings, allowing four runs.

Mendoza has been much more effective on the road, going 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in three starts, though he didn't last more than six innings in any of them.

What to Read Next