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.