Twins-Royals Preview

The Associated Press

As well as the Kansas City Royals have played over the last month, particularly against their own division, they can't seem to figure out the Minnesota Twins.

The Royals will try to avoid a three-game sweep and an eighth loss in nine games to the Twins on Sunday.

An 18-11 stretch between July 31 and Aug. 30 helped Kansas City climb out of the American League cellar and it was an 11-1 record against Central Division rivals Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit that played the biggest part in that success.

However, the Royals continue to struggle against the Twins (55-78), getting swept in Saturday's doubleheader after Friday's game was rained out.

Poor play against the league's worst teams has been a big problem for Kansas City, which is 7-23 this season against last-place teams Minnesota, Seattle and Toronto.

Following Minnesota's 3-1 victory in the opener, Joe Mauer hit a grand slam and Chris Parmelee added a three-run homer in an 8-7 victory in the nightcap.

With the sweep, the Twins improved to 10-4 against the Royals (59-73) this year, winning three straight and seven of eight.

Mauer has been a big factor in that success. He's hitting .389 in 10 meetings this season, with two homers, nine RBIs and nine runs scored.

''Joe's the heart and soul of this offense," Parmelee said. "He's the heart; he makes it beat. We need him in there. I feel like someone like him is someone you can't replace - as a player and as a person."

On Sunday, Minnesota will look to complete its first road sweep of at least three games since a four-game sweep over the Royals in June 2011.

The Twins will start Esmerling Vasquez in his debut with the club after being acquired off waivers last November.

Vasquez, who is making his first career start, appeared in 141 games over three seasons as a reliever with Arizona from 2009-11. In 31 appearances with Triple-A Rochester this year, including eight starts, he went 9-6 with a 2.87 ERA.

"We're excited to see him," manger Ron Gardenhire told the Twins' official website. "I'm anxious to see how his breaking ball is. I've only watched him on TV, and TV throws a little deception at you as far as how they're breaking and what kind of snap it has on it. I'm anxious to see him get out on the mound. It'll be kind of fun."

The Royals will hand the ball to Luis Mendoza (7-9, 4.51 ERA), who is coming off one of his worst starts of the season.

Mendoza gave up six runs over five innings of a 9-8 win against Detroit on Tuesday, but left without a decision.

The right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA in three appearances - two starts - against the Twins this year.

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