Twins-Royals Preview

Back-to-back victories helped Kansas City win its first series

in three weeks. There’s a good chance the Royals can remain

successful with the reeling Minnesota Twins in town.

The Royals try to beat the major league-worst Twins for a fifth

consecutive time in the opener of a four-game set Thursday night at

Kauffman Stadium.

Kansas City (25-30) had lost three straight and eight of nine

before taking the final two of a three-game home set against the

Los Angeles Angels. Billy Butler’s two-run, ninth-inning homer

needed to be reviewed but eventually gave the Royals a 2-0 victory

Wednesday and their first winning series since taking two of three

at Yankee Stadium from May 10-12.

The Royals are 5-13 since leaving the Bronx, but a visit from

Minnesota (17-37) might help them string together some much-needed

wins. Kansas City has outscored the Twins 35-13 in four victories

since losing the season-series opener, including 21-5 in the final

two of a three-game home sweep April 29-May 1.

Owners of the worst record in baseball, the Twins have lost four

in a row and 10 of 12.

“Guys are playing,” manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins’

official website. “It’s just finding a way to win now.”

Butler, who is batting .366 in his last 10 games overall, is 4

for 8 with a homer in his last two versus Minnesota. Alex Gordon is

batting .385 in his last seven home games, and 381 with seven RBIs

in the season series against the Twins.

After Felipe Paulino and four relievers combined on a

seven-hitter Wednesday, Sean O’Sullivan (2-4, 6.75 ERA) tries to

avoid a third consecutive rough outing for the Royals.

O’Sullivan went 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his first five starts of

2011, but is 0-2 with a 13.80 ERA in his last three. He allowed 10

runs – six coming off five homers – and 15 hits in 5 2-3 innings of

a 10-1 loss at Texas on Saturday.

He also pitched through some lingering tendinitis.

“I get it once or twice every year,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s

nothing that sticks with me. I pitch through it one or two times

and it goes away.”

O’Sullivan has had control troubles in his last two starts

against Minnesota – walking 13 batters over 12 innings – of his

last two starts – but has posted a 1-0 record in those outings

while limiting the Twins to two earned runs and seven hits. The

right-hander walked seven, but held Minnesota to two runs and two

hits in six innings April 30, not getting a decision as the Royals

won 11-2.

Jim Thome is 3 for 6 with two homers against O’Sullivan, but

could miss the series opener after suffering a mild quadriceps

strain in Minnesota’s 4-2 loss at Detroit on Wednesday.

It appears to be yet another blow for the Twins, who have been

without injured star Joe Mauer (leg and shoulder) since April 12

and slugger Jason Kubel (foot) the last two games. Either Kubel or

Thome could soon join Mauer on the disabled list.

“We’ll have to make a decision between Kubel and Thome,”

Gardenhire said. “We can’t play two down, and we can’t just go

day-to-day with everyone.”

Minnesota’s Anthony Swarzak (0-2, 3.60) makes his second

straight start in place of the injured Francisco Liriano (shoulder

inflammation).

The right-hander certainly earned another shot after limiting

the Angels to one hit – an eighth-inning double – and two walks

over eight innings Saturday. The Twins went on to win 1-0 in 10

innings. They haven’t won since.