Minnesota Twins vs Kansas City Royals Weekend Preview

Apr 5, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) connects for a triple in the first inning against the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) connects for a triple in the first inning against the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins Look to Right Ship in Series vs Royals

After getting swept out of Baltimore, with rain delays and missed opportunities everywhere, the Twins look to right their ship against the odds-on favorite to not only win the AL Central, but once again, the AL pennant for the third year in a row.

The opening series featured many stops and starts, and not just because of the rain. The Twins will be hard-pressed to win many series with All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier going 0-11 at the top of the order.

This series will also feature a rarity, one that I’m sure dates back a few decades. Ervin Santana will start the opening game of consecutive 3 games series not interrupted by an All-Star break. His first outing was cut short after just two innings in the season opener, and now Santana will take the mound once again here in game 1 against Royals’ fireballer, Yordana Ventura.

Twins enter this weekend 0-3, while the Royals split their two games in a rematch from last year’s World Series against the New York Mets.

Friday Night Game

Ervin Santana (7-5 in 2015) vs Yordana Ventura (13-8)

7:15 Kauffman Stadium

TV: Fox Sports North

Saturday Night Game

Tommy Milone (9-5) vs Ian Kennedy (9-15 w/SD)

6:15 Kauffman Stadium

Fox Sports North

Sunday Afternoon Game

Ricky Nolasco (5-2) vs Edison Volquez (13-9)

1:15 Kauffman Stadium

TV: Fox Sports North Plus

Kansas City: Coming off back to back appearances in the World Series, the Royals are a confident squad, loaded with the best bullpen in the majors and speed throughout their lineup. Their only weakness is their starting rotation. Manager Ned Yost preaches his starters to give him everything they’ve got for as long as they can, and then turn it over to the bullpen.

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Royals lost big game pitcher, Johnny Cueto, and have replaced him with Padres righty Ian Kennedy. Ventura and Volquez led KC in wins last year with 13. Royals won the season series against Minnesota last year 12-7, including the disastrous 3 game sweep that ended the 2015 regular season, and the playoff hopes for the Twins.

Offense: The story from last summer was the Royals having 8 players leading the All-Star balloting with two weeks to go. In the end, only 4 players (Outfielders Alex Gordon & Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar, and catcher Salvador Perez) ending up starting, but all were deserving. Mike Moustakas was also voted in by fans in the Final Vote. All four are two-way players, giving the Royals speed and power in the batting lineup, and up the middle on defense.

Player(s) to Watch: Former Twin, Kendrys Morales, led the Royals last year in doubles (41), homers (22), and RBI (106). He will be the primary DH again this year. Lorenzo Cain gets the offense running, the only Royal to hit over .300 (.307), he scored 101 times and swiped 28 bases.

Pitching: The Royals staff is led not by their starters, but by their bevy of hard-throwing relievers. Closer Greg Holland (32 SVs) went down last September with a torn UCL, but All-Star Wade Davis picked up the slack (17 SVs) admirably, tossing in an 8-1 record and a miniscule 0.94 ERA in 69 appearances. Fellow All-Star Kelvin Herrera now sets up Davis.

The starters are led by Edison Volquez, who started off 2016 with a win Sunday night against the Mets. He threw six shutout innings to out-duel Mets’ star, Matt Harvey. Royals’ top starting threat, Ventura, often tops 100 mph, and seems to have found his groove late in 2015. After first half struggles forced the KC to demote Ventura to AAA, after the All-Star game, he was 9-2 with a 3.56 ERA.

Player to Watch: Yordana Ventura. He can get a little too “up” for games (7 game suspension last year after instigating a brawl), but his talent is undeniable. If he can rein it in just a notch, he’ll be starting Opening Days for years to come for KC.

Minnesota Twins: After getting swept in Baltimore, and now facing the World Champs, the Twins need a great start by Ervin Santana and some hits at the top of the order. The former Royal, Santana, made two good starts (2.40 ERA) against KC in the second half, though the Twins went 0-1. He’s 5-7 lifetime with an unimpressive 4.63 ERA in 16 starts.

Minnesota is changing things up in Game 1, with Danny Santana hitting second and starting in left field, giving Eddie Rosario the night off. Joe Mauer slides into the 3rd spot once again.

Next: Twins Game Grades After Getting Swept in Baltimore

Notes: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Twins & Orioles combined on 19 K’s and zero walks in last nights 4-2 loss. Last year, that only happened 22 times (twice this year already), and Phil Hughes, not surprisingly, was involved in one of those as well. His 2-0 win over Felix Hernandez last April 24th was the first of 2015 for such a feat between two teams. Familiar face, Jarrod Dyson, starts the year on the disabled list for Kansas City, with Paulo Orlando taking over right field.