Preview: Twins vs. Royals
As the Kansas City Royals continue their quest for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, they can end the Minnesota Twins’ postseason hopes in the process.
With a fifth consecutive victory at Target Field on Saturday, the Royals would eliminate the Twins from playoff contention.
Ben Zobrist delivered a tiebreaking double to highlight a two-run eighth inning that led to Kansas City’s 3-1 victory Friday. Minnesota (83-77) has dropped two of three and is one loss or a Houston victory away from missing the playoffs.
"You can feel it," said Twins manager Paul Molitor, whose team has totaled four runs during its four-game home skid to Kansas City. "It’s deflating for sure.
"We still have to try to win (Saturday) and hopefully have to cause the other teams to win as well."
Minnesota is two games behind the Astros, who own the AL’s second-wild card spot, and one back of the Los Angeles Angels.
"I don’t like it, but all we can do is keep battling and see what happens," Torii Hunter told MLB’s official website.
With a third straight win, the Royals (93-67) kept pace with Toronto in the race for the best record in the AL. The Blue Jays, however, hold the tiebreaker between the teams.
"It’s a fun time of the year and fun to be a part of it," Royals pitcher Chris Young said.
Kansas City looks to keep the good times coming Saturday when it faces Tommy Milone (9-5, 4.04 ERA), who has been dealing with a shoulder issue but will pitch on regular rest for the first time since Sept. 17. The left-hander allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings of a 4-2 victory at Cleveland on Monday.
That solid outing came after he yielded five runs and walked three in 1 1/3 innings of an 11-8 home defeat to the Angels in his previous start.
"I think it shows how much trust they have, especially after my last start here," Milone said. "I felt pretty good. It’s a good sign, obviously."
He’s looked good while going 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA in four starts against the Royals this season. Milone allowed two runs in seven innings of a 6-2 win at Kansas City on Sept. 7.
Yordano Ventura (12-8, 4.20) was the loser in that contest, giving up four runs, eight hits and five walks in 5 1/3 innings. That began a four-start stretch where the right-hander went 2-1 with a 5.32 ERA before yielding two hits over seven innings in a 1-0, 11-inning defeat to the Chicago Cubs on Monday.
"I have felt good all year," Ventura said. "I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had some bad breaks, but I’ve learned from them."
Eduardo Escobar had one of Minnesota’s six hits in the series opener, and is 5 for 7 with a double against Ventura.
Lorenzo Cain, 4 for 9 with a home run against Milone this season, could be back in the lineup after sitting Friday with a bruised knee suffered a night earlier.
Teammates Salvador Perez (thumb) and Kendrys Morales (quad) also could be available Saturday.
"They are all very trivial (injuries) and day to day," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "Just overly cautious."