Twins-Royals Preview

The Minnesota Twins got off to a rocky start on their 10-game

road trip, but they’ve recovered with two straight victories

against the Kansas City Royals.

Nick Blackburn has bounced back from his own rough stretch, and

he looks to continue his unbeaten run Saturday night and help the

Twins match a season high with their third straight win.

The Twins (19-37) are the only team in the majors with less than

23 victories and suffered a three-game sweep in Detroit to begin

their trek. However, Minnesota took its second straight game from

the Royals (25-32) on Friday, winning 5-2 and helping Carl Pavano

earn his 100th victory.

Michael Cuddyer hit his 18th career home run against Kansas

City, his most against any team. He’s hitting .361 in his last nine

games versus Minnesota’s division rival.

Blackburn (4-4, 3.57 ERA) lost four straight outings April 9-28

but has been solid since, going 3-0 with a 2.53 ERA over his last

six outings. He didn’t earn a decision Monday after allowing five

runs over six innings in Minnesota’s 6-5 loss to Detroit.

However, the right-hander hasn’t fared very well against the

Royals, going winless in his last seven starts against them with

three losses and a 7.39 ERA. He last beat Kansas City on Sept. 9,

2008.

Minnesota has outscored the Royals 13-4 in the first two games

of this series, and Denard Span helped lead the charge Friday. He

went 2 for 5 with a two-run double for his third multi-hit game in

his last four. Span is 7 for 20 (.350) during that stretch.

He’ll likely need to build on his performance if he’s to have

success against Royals starter Luke Hochevar (3-5, 4.96 ERA), whom

he’s struggled against throughout his career.

Span is hitting .136 (3 for 22) against Hochevar, but the

Royals’ former No. 1 overall pick hasn’t pitched all that well of

late.

The right-hander is winless in his last five starts, losing

twice with a 4.28 ERA. He didn’t factor into the decision Monday

against the Los Angeles Angels, allowing four runs through five

innings in Kansas City’s 10-8 defeat.

However, Hochevar’s last win came against the Twins on May 1,

when he allowed three runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 10-3 victory. He’s

3-2 with a 4.94 ERA, 23 walks and 26 strikeouts in eight career

starts against Minnesota.

Kansas City has scored two runs in each of its last three games

as it continues fading after a surprising start, losing 15 of

20.

”We couldn’t find the holes,” manager Ned Yost said. ”We hit

balls right at guys all night long. Pavano had great location, and

he did it with two pitches. He did it with a fastball and a

change-up. He threw three or four sliders and he changed speeds

real effectively. He got us out front, a lot.”

One of the few bright spots in the Royals’ rough stretch has

been rookie Eric Hosmer. The first baseman, called up May 5 and

regarded as one of Kansas City’s top prospects, has at least two

hits in four of his last five games while hitting .378 with 10 RBIs

since May 27.

The teams have split the last six meetings in Kansas City,

including the Royals sweeping a three-game series April 29-May

1.