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.