Twins-Royals Preview

The Associated Press

Scott Diamond began the season in the minors, but now has the most wins of any Minnesota pitcher.

The left-hander looks to win a fourth consecutive decision and help the visiting Twins to a fifth straight victory over the struggling Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.

After going 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA in seven starts last year, Diamond opened 2012 with Triple-A Rochester, where he went 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA before he was called up May 7.

Since the promotion, Diamond (8-3, 2.96 ERA) has been Minnesota's most consistent starter, leading the rotation in wins and ERA. Though he gave up five runs and nine hits in six innings Monday against Baltimore, the Twins cruised to a 19-7 rout as Diamond improved to 3-0 in four starts since losing at Pittsburgh on June 19.

His most recent start was his first in 11 days.

"Get him back on his regular rest here and see if he can go a little bit better than that," manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins' official website.

Diamond allowed two runs in eight innings of a 7-2 win over the Royals on June 30.

He'll try to help the Twins (39-54) climb out of the AL Central cellar and continue their success against Kansas City (39-53) after winning 2-1 in 11 innings Friday. Joe Mauer had three hits and scored on Josh Willingham's single in the 11th to help Minnesota improve to 7-3 against the Royals in 2012.

"It starts off with Joe and Willie knocks him in," said Gardenhire, whose club has also won seven of its last 10 at Kansas City. "It's a couple of huge hits."

A career .359 hitter at Kauffman Stadium, Mauer is 12 for 28 (.429) in seven games against the Royals this season. Willingham, meanwhile, is 13 for 29 (.448) with eight RBIs in eight games since the All-Star break.

Trevor Plouffe could miss this contest after leaving Friday due to a bruised thumb. Plouffe, who ranks second on the Twins with 19 homers, had his 17-game hitting streak snapped by an 0-for-3 performance in the series opener.

"We'll give him a day or two with a little ice and treatment, and he should be back in there," Gardenhire said.

Justin Morneau definitely will be out, having been put on the paternity list Saturday with his wife expecting their second child. First baseman Chris Parmelee was recalled from Triple-A Rochester to take his roster spot.

Alcides Escobar had three hits Friday but was thrown out trying to score in the 11th for Kansas City, which has lost 14 of 18. Despite his team's struggles, the shortstop is batting .364 in his last 10 games.

Scheduled Kansas City starter Luis Mendoza (3-6, 4.32) improved to 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA against the Twins this year after he allowed a run and five hits in eight innings of a 4-3 road win June 29.

That began an active stretch of three straight quality starts for Mendoza, who has nonetheless lost his last two outings due to minimal run support. The most recent was a 2-1 defeat to the White Sox on Sunday, when the right-hander allowed a run in each of the first two innings but none after that while pitching into the eighth.

"(After) the first two innings I tried to settle down good there," Mendoza said. "It gave me a lot of confidence to keep making my pitches."

Mendoza is 0-4 with a 5.36 ERA in eight appearances - six starts - at home this year.

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