The Minnesota Twins have been one of baseball’s best teams over the past month and right-hander Ervin Santana has been instrumental in the success. Santana went 3-0 during six starts in August and looks to extend his unbeaten string when the surging Twins host the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon in the rubber match of a three-game set.
Minnesota bounced back from a series-opening loss with a vengeance, hammering the Royals 17-0 to win for the fifth time in six games and remain one game behind the wild card-leading New York Yankees. Eduardo Escobar homered twice and drove in six runs, matching his RBI total from the previous 14 games as the Twins improved to 19-8 over the past four weeks. Kansas City is careening in the opposite direction, losing seven of its last nine games to drop 4 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the second wild card. Both the pitching and offense have been culprits for the Royals, who have been outscored 65-18 and shut out five times during the 2-7 slide.
TV: 2:10 p.m. ET, FSN Kansas City, FSN North (Minnesota)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Royals RH Ian Kennedy (4-10, 5.47 ERA) vs. Twins RH Ervin Santana (14-7, 3.27)
Kennedy was among the major contributors to Kansas City’s 10-18 record in August, posting an 0-4 record with a wretched 9.57 ERA in six starts last month. He has provided neither quality or quantity of late, tossing a combined 10 innings over his last three starts while yielding 15 runs and 19 hits, including six homers. Escobar is 7-for-17 against Kennedy, who is 0-2 with a 7.30 ERA in three starts versus the Twins this year.
Santana extended his unbeaten streak to seven starts by earning the win last time out against the Chicago White Sox, giving up three runs and seven hits over 6 2/3 innings. He has fared markedly better away from home, with a road ERA (2.48) 1 1/2 runs lower than at Target Field (4.04). Eric Hosmer is 9-for-29 with four homers and 14 RBIs against Santana, who has split two decisions versus the Royals this season.
1. Twins 1B Joe Mauer went 4-for-4 Saturday and has hit safely in 11 straight games and 16 of 17.
2. Royals closer Kelvin Herrera is expected to miss a few days with a forearm strain.
3. Twins SS Jorge Polanco is riding an eight-game hitting streak.
PREDICTION: Twins 6, Royals 4