Twins-Royals Preview

Back-to-back victories helped Kansas City win its first series
in three weeks. There’s a good chance the Royals can remain
successful with the reeling Minnesota Twins in town.

The Royals try to beat the major league-worst Twins for a fifth
consecutive time in the opener of a four-game set Thursday night at
Kauffman Stadium.

Kansas City (25-30) had lost three straight and eight of nine
before taking the final two of a three-game home set against the
Los Angeles Angels. Billy Butler’s two-run, ninth-inning homer
needed to be reviewed but eventually gave the Royals a 2-0 victory
Wednesday and their first winning series since taking two of three
at Yankee Stadium from May 10-12.

The Royals are 5-13 since leaving the Bronx, but a visit from
Minnesota (17-37) might help them string together some much-needed
wins. Kansas City has outscored the Twins 35-13 in four victories
since losing the season-series opener, including 21-5 in the final
two of a three-game home sweep April 29-May 1.

Owners of the worst record in baseball, the Twins have lost four
in a row and 10 of 12.

“Guys are playing,” manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins’
official website. “It’s just finding a way to win now.”

Butler, who is batting .366 in his last 10 games overall, is 4
for 8 with a homer in his last two versus Minnesota. Alex Gordon is
batting .385 in his last seven home games, and 381 with seven RBIs
in the season series against the Twins.

After Felipe Paulino and four relievers combined on a
seven-hitter Wednesday, Sean O’Sullivan (2-4, 6.75 ERA) tries to
avoid a third consecutive rough outing for the Royals.

O’Sullivan went 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his first five starts of
2011, but is 0-2 with a 13.80 ERA in his last three. He allowed 10
runs – six coming off five homers – and 15 hits in 5 2-3 innings of
a 10-1 loss at Texas on Saturday.

He also pitched through some lingering tendinitis.

“I get it once or twice every year,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s
nothing that sticks with me. I pitch through it one or two times
and it goes away.”

O’Sullivan has had control troubles in his last two starts
against Minnesota – walking 13 batters over 12 innings – of his
last two starts – but has posted a 1-0 record in those outings
while limiting the Twins to two earned runs and seven hits. The
right-hander walked seven, but held Minnesota to two runs and two
hits in six innings April 30, not getting a decision as the Royals
won 11-2.

Jim Thome is 3 for 6 with two homers against O’Sullivan, but
could miss the series opener after suffering a mild quadriceps
strain in Minnesota’s 4-2 loss at Detroit on Wednesday.

It appears to be yet another blow for the Twins, who have been
without injured star Joe Mauer (leg and shoulder) since April 12
and slugger Jason Kubel (foot) the last two games. Either Kubel or
Thome could soon join Mauer on the disabled list.

“We’ll have to make a decision between Kubel and Thome,”
Gardenhire said. “We can’t play two down, and we can’t just go
day-to-day with everyone.”

Minnesota’s Anthony Swarzak (0-2, 3.60) makes his second
straight start in place of the injured Francisco Liriano (shoulder
inflammation).

The right-hander certainly earned another shot after limiting
the Angels to one hit – an eighth-inning double – and two walks
over eight innings Saturday. The Twins went on to win 1-0 in 10
innings. They haven’t won since.