Minnesota Twins Try to Spoil K.C.’s Postseason Hopes

Aug 14, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Christian Colon (24) gets hit by a pitch in the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 14, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Christian Colon (24) gets hit by a pitch in the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Twins Head to K.C. for Four Game Series, Looking to End Royals’ Run

The Minnesota Twins are back on an upswing after a two game sweep in Atlanta, they now set their sights on recent AL Central bully, the Kansas City Royals.

After consecutive trips to the Fall Classic, Minnesota will look to dash any remaining hopes the Royals have of returning.

Donning the role of spoiler, the Twins can put a huge crimp in any plans K.C. might have for this October. After struggling through July, the Royals have gone 11-5 in August, including winning nine of 11, and four in a row to climb back to .500 at 60-60.

While winning the division may be impossible, the Royals are just 6.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot.

If the Minnesota Twins can at least split this four game series, they would be dealing the Royals’ chances at going to three consecutive World Series a serious blow.

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Beating the Royals will be a tall task for Minnesota, however.

They are 2-7 against them this season, with Tyler Duffey winning the only two games versus them, and Dillon Gee serving as the losing pitcher in both contests.

As luck would have it, Duffey vs Gee III will go down tonight in the opener at Kauffman Stadium.

Gee will try to avoid being the first pitcher to allow three home runs in a game to Twins’ batters three times in one season.

He allowed three May 25th, and again August 13th. Only Catfish Hunter had allowed it to happen twice before – in the 1969 season.

Thursday Night Game

Tyler Duffey (8-8, 5.71 ERA) vs Dillon Gee (4-6, 4.78 ERA)

7:15 PM CDT Kauffman Stadium

TV: Fox Sports North

Friday Night Game

Jose Berrios (2-3, 9.32 ERA) vs Edinson Volquez (9-10, 4.95 ERA)

7:15 PM CDT Kauffman Stadium

TV: Fox Sports North

Saturday Night Game

Hector Santiago (10-7, 4.80 ERA) vs Ian Kennedy (7-9, 3.78 ERA)

7:15 PM CDT Kauffman Stadium

TV: Fox Sports North

Sunday Day Game

Ervin Santana (6-9, 3.43 ERA) vs Danny Duffy (10-1, 2.73 ERA)

1:15 PM CDT Kauffman Stadium

TV: Fox Sports North

Kansas City: The Royals have won their last four series, three versus division teams in White Sox, Twins, and Tigers.

They finished off sweep over the Tigers last night, cutting deficit in standings in half to just three games. They won last night’s game, despite being no-hit into the 7th inning by Anibal Sanchez.

Plagued by middle of the lineup struggles all year, the Royals’ lineup may be getting hot at the right time.

Kendrys Morales, one of the heroes from last year’s title-winning team, had a June similar to the Twins’ Brian Dozier with a slash (.402 AVG / .655 SLG / 1.108 OPS / 5 HR / 18 RBI) for the month.

His average has taken a dip since, but he’s been keeping his power numbers up.

Eric Hosmer has finally started to produce in the clean-up spot, including home runs in each of the last two games.

They need to get Lorenzo Cain going. Since being activated from the DL on July 29th, he’s only had three extra base hits, including zero home runs.

Most notably, Cain has only nine stolen bases, after notching 28 in each of the past two pennant-winning seasons. He’s only scored 47 times in 2016, after crossing the plate 101 times for the Royals last season.

Pitching: Kansas City has always built from the ninth inning back, with the best relief corps in the majors. This year’s group has been beset by injuries from Day 1. But healthy bodies will start arriving soon.

All-Star closer Wade Davis (21 saves, 1.60 ERA) recently threw a bullpen session and looks to be ready by the end of the month. Kris Medlen began a rehab assignment this past Tuesday, and looks to be ready in September.

Their return would help shore up the bullpen that’s being held down by Kelvin Herrera (six saves, 23 holds, 11.40 K/9) and one-time closer Joakim Soria. It would also help offset the loss of Luke Hochevar, who underwent season-ending thoracic outlet surgery two weeks ago.

Player to Watch: Danny Duffy. Second in the American League ERA race, Duffy is having a career year, though it shouldn’t be a surprise. While he has set a new career-high for wins (10), two years ago he posted a 2.53 ERA in 25 starts, despite a 9-12 record.

This year, Duffy has been nearly untouchable. The Royals have won his last 10 starts, Duffy recording wins in eight of those.

In his last 15 starts, he allowed more than three earned runs once. He set the Royals franchise record for strikeouts in a game (16) in a win over Tampa Bay August 1st.

Hitting: The Royals rank last in the AL in runs scored, home runs, and slugging. It was their Achilles heel even when they were going to the World Series, and this year got worse after losing “Moose” Mike Moustakas to a torn ACL early in the season.

With Cain and Morales also struggling, the Royals looked to become sellers at the trade deadline.

But the bats woke up in time for maybe on last stretch drive. With such good pitching, the Royals only need to score three or four runs a night to give themselves a legitimate chance.

Player to Watch: Speaking of slumps, Alex Gordon has been mired in one since Opening Day. For a batter who has averaged 18 home runs and 72 RBI the last five years coming into 2016, Gordon’s fall has been surprising.

Flirting with the Mendoza Line all year, hitting 10 home runs and driving in just 20 (and ten RBI was himself on home runs), has Gordon hitting in the sixth-seventh spots in the batting order.

But over the past 10 days, Gordon has propped up his average 20 points, scoring 22% of his runs and hitting 20% of his home runs during that time.

His strikeout rate (29%) is the worst of his career, but he didn’t strike out in two straight games against the Tigers, something he has only done a few other times all season.

One plus for the Minnesota Twins, is that he’s done well in his career against Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes, two starters who won’t be available for this series. He has never faced Jose Berrios, and has had poor success against Hector Santiago (.176) and Ervin Santana (.235).

Minnesota: With the sweep in Atlanta, the Twins are now working on another winning month (9-7), and have gone 4-0-1 in their five road series since the All-Star break. Joe Mauer (quad soreness) and Miguel Sano (elbow) both had some time off during the Atlanta series but should be ready for the Royals.

Sano should get some at-bats as the DH, as the Twins ease him back into the lineup with a sore throwing arm.

Sano is the only current Twin on the roster hitting below .300 against Royals starter Dillon Gee. He does have one of the six home runs this year against him, however.

Mauer is 5-for-10 against Gee, while Brian Dozier is 4-for-11 with two home runs.

Mauer also loves to face Friday starter Edinson Volquez, going 11-for-24 (.458) lifetime against the right-hander.

No wonder that manager Paul Molitor wanted to make sure Mauer was healed and rested for the Kansas City series.

Next: Minnesota Twins Flip Script Against Braves

Notes: Minnesota Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki was placed on trade waivers last week, and went unclaimed.

That means the Minnesota Twins can now trade him to any team willing to deal before the end of August.

But it begs the question, if a team wanted him, why not put a claim in to ensure your right to deal with the Twins exclusively? Don’t expect a large haul in return for what amounts to a rental situation.