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) -- Heading into his team's day-night doubleheader against Kansas City, one of Ron Gardenhire 's top priorities was protecting Minnesota's taxed bullpen.
Scott Diamond and Cole De Vries eased their manager's concerns.
Diamond began the day tossing eight solid innings in a 7-2 victory, and De Vries closed it with six strong innings as the Twins completed the day-night sweep by beating the Royals 5-1 on Saturday night.
"A long day of baseball, and two nice wins," Gardenhire said.
The pair of victories helped the Twins finish June with a 14-13 record - their first winning month in almost a year.
"Geez, that's the first I've heard of it," said Joe Mauer , who hit his fourth homer in the second game. "But, you know, we've been playing pretty good baseball and hopefully we can continue to do that."
Josh Willingham and Chris Parmelee also homered for the Twins in the second game. But the story was De Vries, who was called up as the 26th player on the roster as allowed for doubleheaders - and promptly sent back down the minors after the victory.
"He wouldn't be able to pitch for probably four or five days right now," Gardenhire said. "We've got eight until the All-Star break, it doesn't make much sense to keep him here."
De Vries took the move in stride.
"Coming here, I knew I was the 26th guy, and usually the guy who comes up to be the 26th guy goes back down, and so I kind of figured that was going to happen," he said.
Pitching in front of his hometown fans, De Vries (2-1) struck out a career-high six and held the Royals to five hits. Kansas City's lone run against him came on Billy Butler 's homer leading off the second.
Luke Hochevar (5-8) allowed five runs and eight hits, including Minnesota's three homers.
A night after throwing five relief innings, the Twins' bullpen was needed for only four combined in the doubleheader thanks to Diamond and De Vries. Twins relievers entered the day with the third-most innings pitched in the majors.
De Vries struck out four in the first two innings, fanning Jarrod Dyson and Alcides Escobar to work out of a second-inning jam with runners at second and third.
Alex Burnett , Tyler Robertson and Jared Burton each pitched an inning of scoreless relief.
Hochevar entered the game having thrown 16 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings after stopping Houston and Tampa Bay.
After Mauer's two-out single in the first, Willingham homered. In the second, Parmelee hit his first homer of the season on a shot to deep right. Mauer's solo homer to left-center, the former AL MVP's first since June 2 and fourth overall, barely cleared the wall to make it 4-1 in the third.
Before Saturday, Hochevar had given up only two home runs in his previous 42 2/3 innings.
"Two of those home runs came with two strikes when I'm trying to put a guy away, and I just felt like my curveball didn't have that finish, that bite," Hochevar said.
Trevor Plouffe , who homered in the first game, scored on Darin Mastroianni 's RBI single in the sixth.
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.
"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 doubleheader today, I'm just trying to eat up as many innings as possible."
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. 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 bouncer hit the ground behind him and 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.
Alexi Casilla added a two-run double and Denard Span had an RBI single before Royals manager Ned 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.
Diamond struck out four and walked two while pitching eight innings for the second consecutive start. Glen Perkins finished the seven-hitter.
"The first game, we were dead," Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "It carried over to the second game. We're a much better hitting team than to do what we did today. It's disappointing."
NOTES: 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. ... The doubleheader was a makeup of an April 28 rainout.