Twins-Royals Preview

The Minnesota Twins will make their second consecutive

postseason appearance next week. If their starting pitching doesn’t

improve, it could be another short-lived experience for the AL

Central champs.

Minnesota looks to snap a season-high five-game losing streak

and avoid its first three-game sweep at Kauffman Stadium in 16

years when it faces the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night.

Since clinching their sixth division title since 2002 on Sept.

21, the Twins (92-65) have dropped five of six. Minnesota’s

starters are 0-3 with a 12.81 ERA during the five-game skid.

“It’s kind of a return to the same story from last night (a 10-8

defeat),” manager Ron Gardenhire said following Tuesday’s 10-1

loss. “We didn’t pitch well. These guys are swinging the bats well.

We’re getting beaten around. They’re having fun at our expense.

It’s not much fun for us. We have to weather the storm.”

The Twins’ last six-game slide was May 15-20, 2009.

Scott Baker (12-9, 4.52) will try to help Minnesota avoid

getting swept at Kansas City for the first time since July 1994,

but more importantly, keep pace with Tampa Bay (94-63) and New York

(94-64) in the race for home-field advantage throughout the AL


Without home-field advantage, Minnesota was swept by the Yankees

in the 2009 division series. If the Twins drop this game, they will

finish with a losing road record for the fourth consecutive


Baker, who will not be in the Twins’ four-man playoff rotation,

makes his second start since missing nearly three weeks with elbow

tendinitis. The right-hander struck out seven and allowed two runs

over five innings in a 6-4 victory over Cleveland on Sept. 21. The

Twins clinched the Central later that night when Chicago lost in


Baker is 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA in two starts against Kansas City

this season.

Looking for their first sweep at home since Sept. 8-10, 2009,

the Royals (65-92) will give the ball to Luke Hochevar (6-6, 4.92),

who makes his fourth start since coming off the disabled list with

a right elbow strain.

Hochevar allowed four runs and eight hits over five innings in a

7-3 loss at Cleveland on Friday.

“He did a good job of minimizing damage, he sure did,” manager

Ned Yost told the Royals’ official website. “And his stuff was

good, but his command was off again.”

Hochevar, 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in two starts against Minnesota

this season, is trying to match a career high in wins set in


He will not have to face Jim Thome (sore lower back) and J.J.

Hardy (knee), who are in Minnesota getting treatment. Joe Mauer,

though, could return to the lineup as the designated hitter after

missing the last eight games with an injured knee.

Royals third baseman Josh Fields, 4 for 8 with two homers and

four RBIs in the series, is 1 for 9 with six strikeouts against


Kansas City first baseman Kila Ka’aihue had career highs with

two homers and four RBIs on Tuesday. He is 7 for 14 in his last

four games.