Feeling confident, the Kansas City Royals have a great opportunity this weekend to move even closer to their goal of reaching .500 by the All-Star break.
Riding a four-game winning streak, the Royals look to continue their recent success Saturday during a split doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
Luis Mendoza allowed one run over eight innings and four players recorded two hits each as Kansas City (35-39) won for the 11th time in 16 games, 4-3 at Minnesota on Friday. With 10 games remaining before the Royals host the annual All-Star Game, they certainly have a strong chance to achieve or even exceed that goal."We just need to keep pushing," third baseman Mike Moustakas said. "It's a big series here and we need to stay consistent."
Winners of three straight on the road, Kansas City has batted .335 with 11 homers while scoring 33 runs in the last five games overall. Shortstop Alcidis Escobar is batting .424 (28 for 66) in his last 18 contests.
Following Mendoza's strong outing in the opener, the Royals hope scheduled Game 1 starter Jonathan Sanchez (1-3, 6.21 ERA) can bounce back after he allowed six runs and six walks in 5 2-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 11-8 loss to St. Louis on Sunday. Sanchez, who has not won since beating the Los Angeles Angels in his Kansas City debut April 8, is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts since coming off the disabled list from biceps tendinitis.
He'll be opposed by fellow left-hander Scott Diamond (6-3, 2.67), who has never pitched against Kansas City. After giving up four runs in each of his previous two starts - both losses - the rookie yielded three and struck out seven in a season-high eight innings of a 4-3 win at Cincinnati on Sunday.
"We were trying to keep the pace going and keep things simple," Diamond told the Twins' official website. "That was the mentality, to get back on the mound and keep going."
Minnesota (30-45) likely faces a difficult challenge in the nightcap against scheduled Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar (5-7, 5.07), who has thrown 16 2-3 scoreless innings while winning his last two starts. The right-hander struck out eight Monday while tossing a seven-hitter in an 8-0 win over Tampa Bay for his first shutout since Sept. 18, 2009."The results have been dramatically improved since he got back to his three core pitches," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's starting to show exactly what he can do."
Hochevar is 4-3 with a 4.75 ERA in 11 starts at Minnesota.
The Twins plan to recall suburban Minneapolis native Cole De Vries (1-1, 4.20) from Triple-A Rochester to start the second game. The right-hander went 2-1 with a 4.63 ERA in four starts at Rochester after making his first three major league starts with Minnesota from May 24-June 4.
"I feel a little more comfortable with the situation because last time there were a lot of firsts going on and it's kind of a roller coaster of emotions," De Vries said. "(The) second and third situations are a little easier to manage."
In his most recent major league outing earlier this month, De Vries allowed five runs in five innings but earned his first career win in a 10-7 win at Kansas City.
Minnesota's Ryan Doumit went 1 for 3 hours after he signed a $7 million, two-year contract Friday. He's hit .353 (12 for 34) during his last nine games but is 1 for 8 with three strikeouts against Sanchez.
|Kansas City Royals|
|June 18, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Lateral strain in lower left leg|
|June 17, 2012||Chris Getz||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left lateral leg strain|
|June 07, 2012||Felipe Paulino||15-Day DL||Strained right groin|
|May 26, 2012||Jarrod Dyson||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right hamstring injury|
|May 22, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Left ribcage contusion|
|May 22, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Left ribcage contusion|
|June 24, 2012||Matt Capps||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 17, 2012||Matt Capps||Day-to-Day||Sore right shoulder|
|June 17, 2012||Joe Mauer||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right quadricep|
|June 16, 2012||Joe Mauer||Day-to-Day||Sore left hamstring|
|June 15, 2012||Justin Morneau||Day-to-Day||Left forearm injury|
|June 14, 2012||P.J. Walters||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire joked that he might need nine innings from Scott Diamond before the opener of Minnesota's doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals .
Diamond apparently took him seriously, pitching eight solid innings, and Trevor Plouffe homered to help the Twins beat the Royals 7-2 in the opener of a day-night set Saturday.
"You ask me what you want," Gardenhire said, "you want a complete game by your starter. That's pretty close. A heck of a performance."
Easily the Twins' most-effective starter since being called up in May, Diamond (7-3) allowed two runs and six hits to give Minnesota a big lift with another game coming up. Twins relievers entered with the third-most innings (268 1/3) in the majors behind the Royals (283 1/3) and Colorado (284 2/3).
"I was feeling confident earlier, this is just icing on the cake I guess," Diamond said. "I'm pretty happy to be able to just keep going out. With a double header today, I'm just trying to eat up as many innings as possible."
Diamond struck out four and walked two while pitching eight innings for the second consecutive start. Glen Perkins finished the seven-hitter. It was a far cry from Friday's loss to the Royals, in which Minnesota needed five innings of relief from its bullpen.
Royals left-hander Jonathan Sanchez (1-4) didn't fare nearly as well. While Diamond cruised through Kansas City's lineup, Sanchez issued six walks and was done after 4 1-3 innings. His 10 allowed hits tied a career high.
"At times when you're fighting your command, your whole focus and concentration is trying to get the ball over the plate," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "There were times when his whole focus was this way that he forgot about what was happening behind him."
Both starters finished with 101 pitches.
Minnesota strung together five consecutive hits to open a 6-0 lead in the fifth inning, including a strange RBI single from Brian Dozier .
With one out and runners on first and second, Dozier's grounder bounced off the ground behind the batter's box - and then rolled fair. While Sanchez and catcher Brayan Pena scrambled after the ball, Dozier sprinted safely to first and Ryan Doumit scored all the way from second.
"It was spinning really, really hard, so I was just like, `Well, why not, I'm dying for a hit, let's just take off and see what happens,"' Dozier said with a laugh. "( Justin Morneau ) of course was the first one, he said, `Hey why don't you just try that every time, you might get a hit out of it."
The Royals won't remember that play quite as fondly.
"It was clearly a foul ball," Pena said. "Then I saw it spinning back and I saw that it was a fair ball. It's one of those games where things don't go your way."
Alexi Casilla added a two-run double and Denard Span had an RBI single before Yost brought in Vin Mazzaro .
Yuniesky Betancourt drove in Kansas City's first run with a groundout in the sixth. He also singled in a run in the eighth.
Sanchez pitched five effective innings to win at the Los Angeles Angels in his first start of the season on April 8, but has struggled since that victory. He is 0-4 with a 7.19 ERA in his last nine starts.
"It's a slump, you know," Sanchez said. "It's not working. I'm not doing anything that's working right now."
NOTES: The loss snapped Kansas City's four-game winning streak. ... The Twins won a doubleheader game for the first time at Target Field since May 8, 2010 against Baltimore. They were swept each of the last three times since. ... The doubleheader is to make up an April 28 rainout. ... Casilla had his fifth three-hit game of the season. ... Game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader will feature Minnesota's Cole De Vries against Luke Hochevar .