Twins try to remain on roll vs. Royals

MINNEAPOLIS — After snapping out of a lengthy funk with a four-game sweep of the woeful Baltimore Orioles, the Minnesota Twins will try to take advantage of another struggling AL opponent when the Kansas City Royals come to Target Field Monday night for the opener of a three-game series.

Minnesota had lost six in a row, eight of its last 10 and 11 of its last 13 before outscoring Baltimore 25-9 in the four-game sweep, which was just the Twins’ second sweep of the season and their first four-game sweep of an opponent since Sept. 21-24, 2017.

Jose Berrios gets the start in the series opener. The right-hander turned in a strong performance in his last outing, holding the Brewers to three runs on five hits over seven innings but took the loss for a second consecutive outing.

“I didn’t have all my best stuff,” Berrios said after that outing, which was plagued by solo home runs to Milwaukee’s Travis Shaw, Brad Miller and Nate Orf. “You could see that with the strikeouts. But now, I know how to pitch and get the hitter out. Fastballs down, and believe in my curveball and changeup.”

“He’s been able to respond (after losses) and come back the next outing and get back on track,” manager Paul Molitor said.

Berrios is 0-1 with a 6.66 ERA in five career starts against the Royals, who are 0-7 so far this month and have dropped nine straight overall after falling to the Red Sox, 7-4, Sunday afternoon.

Slumping shortstop Alcides Escobar was held out of that contest, marking the first time he’s missed a game since Sept. 25, 2015 when manager Ned Yost rested several starters against Cleveland a day after the Royals clinched the Al Central title. His streak of 421 consecutive games played was the longest active streak in the majors.

Escobar has yet to get it going at the plate this season. He was batting just .194 with three home runs and 19 RBIs heading into Sunday’s game, so he understood why Yost held him out of the lineup.

“I was proud about this streak, 421 straight games, that’s not easy,” Escobar said. “I feel so happy I made that. I understand the situation right now. The team is looking for something different. Ned told me yesterday you have an off-day (Sunday). I said I don’t have any problems, do whatever you want.”

Yost said there was no particular reason that Sunday was the day for the streak to end.

“I just decided today was it,” Yost said. “I don’t have a ‘scientifical’ equation where I went out and looked at 19 different factors and looked at how the stars lined up with the moon.

“We talked about the streak coming to an end about a month ago. It’s taken me this long to get him an off-day. But I wanted to see Adalberto Mondesi back to back at shortstop, and see Hunter Dozier at third and Abraham Almonte, who hasn’t played in a while.”

Yost didn’t say whether or not Escobar will be back in the lineup Monday behind left-hander Danny Duffy (4-8, 5.19 ERA) who is 5-1 with a 2.43 ERA in 18 career outings (14 starts) against the Twins, including a 4-0 record and 2.06 ERA in eight appearances, including six starts, at Target Field.