Twins-Royals Preview

While their pitching staff has started to build some confidence, the Kansas City Royals have put together their longest winning streak of the young season.

They’ll try to extend that run while exacting some revenge on a Minnesota Twins team that swept them last weekend.

Kansas City goes for its fourth straight victory Friday night when it opens a three-game home set against the Twins, who seek their sixth win in seven games after a rough start.

The Royals (7-7) have posted a 1.80 ERA over their last five games, limiting Houston to seven runs in their three-game sweep at Minute Maid Park.

On Thursday, James Shields allowed one run while striking out 12 over eight innings in a 5-1 victory. He fanned seven straight during one stretch – one shy of the franchise record of eight in a row set by Blake Stein in 2001.

Jason Vargas (1-0, 1.64 ERA) now hopes to continue that effort after going at least seven innings in each of his first three starts with the Royals. With Bruce Chen experiencing back stiffness earlier in the week, he’ll be pushed up a day but will still be going on normal rest.

"It doesn’t bother me at all," Vargas told the league’s official website. "I really didn’t put too much thought into it. It’s just how it works out. Bruce needed (an extra) day."

The left-hander held the Twins (8-7) to two runs and five hits in his seven frames Sunday before the bullpen blew his one-run lead in a 4-3 road loss. Dating to his time with Seattle, he’s gone 0-2 with a 7.80 ERA in his last three starts versus Minnesota.

The Royals won 15 of 19 meetings with the Twins in 2013, but things have gotten off to a much different start this season after Minnesota outscored them 21-5 en route to a three-game sweep at Target Field last weekend. Mauer led the way by going 5 for 13, while Josmil Pinto hit two home runs – including one off Vargas.

The Twins will go for their sixth win in seven games after totaling 16 runs and 18 hits in a doubleheader sweep of Toronto on Thursday. Chris Colabello had five hits on the day, leaving him 8 for 12 with four doubles and five RBIs in his last three.

Though they’ve batted just .245 on the season, their .353 on-base percentage – aided by their eight-walk eighth-inning in Thursday’s second game – leads the majors.

Minnesota starter Ricky Nolasco (1-1, 5.50) allowed 10 runs and 17 hits over 10 innings in his first two outings, but he got on track by holding the Royals to one run and five hits over eight frames in Saturday’s 7-1 win.

"I wish I could say I’m going to go eight every time, but it’s something at this level that’s very difficult," Nolasco said. "I had two bad starts, but at the same time, my mentality is I can still do something right."

Lorenzo Cain drove in Kansas City’s only run with an RBI double Saturday, but he was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a left groin strain. He’s hitting .333 in 12 games this season.

Alex Gordon and Nori Aoki had two hits apiece in Thursday’s win as the Royals totaled 15 runs in the series. Alcides Escobar, who had two RBIs Thursday, has gone 6 for 11 in his last three home games versus Minnesota.