Twins-Royals Preview

If they can continue their recent success against the team above
them in the AL Central, the Minnesota Twins may avoid their first
last-place finish in more than a decade.

The Twins play the first of five remaining games with the Kansas
City Royals on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Minnesota (59-87) hasn’t finished last in the AL Central since
doing so in back-to-back seasons in 1999 and 2000. However, after
being swept by division-leading Detroit over the weekend, the Twins
are two games behind fourth-place Kansas City – the Central’s
last-place team seven of the past eight years.

Minnesota, though, has won seven of the last eight meetings with
the Royals, including four straight at Kauffman Stadium.

The teams will close the 2011 season with three games at Target
Field. One more loss in the final five meetings will prevent the
Royals from winning this season series for the first time since
2003.

The Twins continue to limp to the finish as they have lost eight
of nine, averaging 2.2 runs and hitting .180. Their 8-28 record
since Aug. 3 is easily the worst in the majors.

They were held to four hits Sunday in a 2-1 loss to the
Tigers.

Danny Valencia, who has started a team-high 141 games this
season, was a late scratch with right shoulder soreness, and center
fielder Ben Revere was sidelined by the flu.

Veterans Jason Kubel (sore foot) and Michael Cuddyer (sore
wrist) also were out, leaving manager Ron Gardenhire to go with a
fairly inexperienced lineup.

“Some young kids are learning on the job,” Gardenhire told the
Twins’ official website. “They have to figure out a way to get
these things done themselves along with some of the veterans we
have in there.”

Cuddyer, who has missed the last five games, hopes to return
Tuesday while Gardenhire believed Kubel would return Tuesday or
Wednesday.

Carl Pavano (8-11, 4.52 ERA) opens the series for Minnesota
going for his third straight win.

He gave up three runs – one earned – and matched a season high
with 10 hits allowed over 5 1-3 innings of a 5-4 win over Chicago
on Wednesday.

The right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.81 ERA in two starts versus the
Royals since losing to them May 1.

Pavano has had trouble with Billy Butler, who is hitting .452
(19 for 42) against him, although Butler has only one hit in his
last 20 at-bats overall.

The Royals (62-86) are trying to win three in a row for the
first time since a four-game run July 19-23. They’re coming off a
four-game split against Seattle, winning 2-1 on Sunday.

Alex Gordon had two doubles and drove in two runs, giving him 10
RBIs in his last 10 games.

Left-hander Bruce Chen (10-7, 4.30) goes to the mound trying to
avoid a third consecutive loss.

He gave up five earned runs for a second straight game
Wednesday, lasting 5 1-3 innings in a 7-0 loss at Oakland.

Chen is 1-4 with a 6.59 ERA against the Twins, including 0-1 in
two starts this season. He failed to make it through the sixth in
either outing.