Preview: Twins vs. Royals

MINNEAPOLIS — Were it not for the Kansas City Royals, the Minnesota Twins might not have been one of the more active sellers ahead of this week’s trade deadline.

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The Twins had won nine of their last 11 games heading into the All-Star break and though they were still six games below .500 and were within 7 1/2 games of the American League Central-leading Cleveland Indians when they opened the second half at Kansas City on July 20.

Any hope of catching the Indians disappeared quickly, though, as the last-place Royals swept the Twins in convincing fashion. Though the Twins won five of their next eight, the damage was done and Minnesota started planning for the future.

“I don’t think anybody in here is going to give up,” right-hander Kyle Gibson said. “We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to the guys who got traded away. That was the one thing (Brian) Dozier told me was, ‘Hey, don’t let these guys quit.'”

The Twins will get a chance for revenge Friday when they open a three-game weekend series against the Royals at Target Field.

Right-hander Jake Odorizzi gets the start after having survived the Twins’ purge. He’s looking to bounce back after posting a 4.44 ERA in five July starts and is 2-4 with a 4.29 ERA in seven career starts against the Royals.

Kansas City turns to rookie right-hander Heath Fillmyer for the series opener. He allowed three runs in five innings against the New York Yankees his last time out and is 0-1 with a 3.94 in three big league starts.

Fillmyer will benefit from having newly-acquried Brett Phillis in center field. Acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers a week ago in the deal that sent Mike Moustakas to Milwaukee, Phillips has gotten off to a good start with his new squad and has opened eyes with his defensive ability.

“I like what I see from that kid,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.

He came up big for the Royals on Thursday at Chicago, making a diving grab to rob Yolmer Sanchez of a bloop single and then made a spot-on throw to the plate later in the game that caught Leury Garcia trying to score.

“That’s what gets me the most pumped is when I throw a guy out,” Phillips said. “It’s not a home run. It’s that. Because seeing the look on a pitcher’s face, you saved him a run. That’s what it’s all about, just helping those guys out on a daily basis.”

The throw clocked it at 100.1 mph — the hardest-thrown ball by a Royals outfielder since MLB started tracking such numbers in 2015.

“(The numbers) show up on my phone,” Phillips admitted. “But it’s not something I base my practices on. I just focus on good accurate throws. If it’s got velocity on it, it’s fine. But if you throw 105 and if it flies into the stands, it doesn’t matter.”

The Royals are 8-6 since the All-Star break, including the three-game sweep of the Twins, and are 9-3 against Minnesota but just 1-2 at Target Field.