Preview: Royals hope to build on big night at plate, win series

The first order of business

for the Kansas City Royals is getting back to .500. A few more games for

Billy Butler against the Minnesota Twins should help in that pursuit.

Butler looks to continue his hot

hitting against Minnesota pitching Saturday when the Twins send Kyle

Gibson to the mound for his major league debut.

This hasn’t been the best offensive

season for Butler, and he seems unlikely to come close to the

career-high 29 home runs he hit in 2012. Still, none of that seems to

matter when he faces the Twins (35-41).

Butler got the Royals started quickly

with a three-run homer – his sixth of the season and first in 136

at-bats – in the opening inning Friday and added a pair of singles in a

9-3 win. He is batting .468 with three home runs and 16 RBIs during a

16-game hitting streak against Minnesota.

Butler has hit .519 (14 for 27) versus the Twins this year, and .252 against the rest of baseball.

Eric Hosmer had his second career

multihomer effort and Mike Moustakas also went deep for the first time

since May 10, giving the Royals a season-best four home runs. They

entered the game last in the majors with 43.

“This is what our offense is capable

of doing, and we feel confident that we can put up a lot of runs and

then put up days like this,” Hosmer said.

The win was only the third in nine

games overall for Kansas City, but its ninth in 12 meetings with

Minnesota. The Royals (37-40) briefly reached .500 last week but haven’t

been above that mark since mid-May.

With starter P.J. Walters lifted after

three innings Friday, the Twins hope Gibson can provide some innings in

his first major league appearance.

The 25-year-old right-hander was

recalled from Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday after going 7-5 with a 3.01

ERA in 15 starts. Gibson, the second-ranked pitcher and No. 4 overall

prospect in Minnesota’s system, is 5-0 with a 2.39 ERA in his last seven

starts.

“I think it’s always a constant

battle,” Gibson told the team’s official website of finding consistency.

“Maybe in the last 10 games I can say that I’ve found that, but I think

being consistent and constant consistency on the major league level is

going to be a different thing.”

He allowed one unearned run over

seven innings and struck out six in a 5-2 win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre

on June 20 in his most recent outing.

Joe Mauer went 0 for 4 on Friday and

is hitless in back-to-back games for only the second time since an

0-for-19 skid in late April. He’s 7 for 36 (.194) this year versus the

Royals, but 5 for 10 against scheduled starter Wade Davis.

After going 1-3 with a 7.76 ERA in

five May starts, Davis (4-5, 4.96 ERA) is 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA in four

outings this month. The right-hander limited the White Sox to two runs

over seven innings last Saturday before leaving without a decision in a

3-2 loss.

Davis has not allowed an earned run

in two starts this season against the Twins, but hasn’t been very

economical. He beat them April 10 but needed 96 pitches to complete five

innings in a 3-0 win, and Davis didn’t get a decision as he threw 107

over five frames in Kansas City’s 7-3 victory June 6.

His 3-0 record versus Minnesota – in eight career games – is his best against any opponent.