With their offense producing runs at an incredible rate, the Minnesota Twins set their sights on a fifth straight victory as well as a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals when the American League Central foes square off this afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
After overwhelming the Royals by a 19-1 count in Monday's opener of this set, the Twins continued their recent scoring binge in another lopsided win last night. Minnesota pounded out 19 hits in its 11-2 rout of the Royals, with Danny Valencia going 4-for-5 with three RBI to lead the charge.
Joe Mauer, coming off a 5-for-5, seven-RBI performance in Monday's game, doubled twice and knocked in a pair of runs to help the Twins improve to 9-3 since the All-Star break. Michael Cuddyer and J.J. Hardy each contributed three hits and two RBI to Tuesday's triumph.
The Twins entered this series off a 10-4 win at Baltimore on Sunday, with yesterday's result marking the first team the club has scored in double digits three straight times since June 11-13, 1967.
"I think [the Twins are] the best hitting team in the American League," said Royals pitcher Bruce Chen after Tuesday's test. "They're good. I know they have some guys hurt, but they're still pretty good. I felt like I made good pitches."
Chen (5-5) allowed the first six Minnesota runs and a total of 11 hits over the first 5 1/3 innings to take the loss. His counterpart, Carl Pavano, was considerably better, as the resurgent right-hander limited the Royals to one run in five innings of work in posting his eighth straight winning decision.
Pavano is now 13-6 on the season, tied with the New York Yankees' CC Sabathia and Tampa Bay's David Price for the most wins in the AL.
Valencia has been on quite a roll as well lately. The rookie infielder had four hits, including a grand slam, in Monday's contest and has gone 8-for-9 with seven RBI so far in the series.
"It's been a great time for me," he said. "It's been a great time for the team. We've been winning and you couldn't ask for anything more.
Minnesota remained one game behind the Chicago White Sox, who defeated Seattle on Tuesday, in the race for first place in the AL Central with last night's verdict.
The Twins go for the sweep today behind Brian Duensing, who showed in his first 2010 start he can be as effective in that role as he's been for the team in relief this season.
In his first outing since being inserted into the Minnesota rotation in place of a struggling Nick Blackburn, Duensing held Baltimore to a run on four hits over five solid innings this past Friday. He left the game with a 2-1 lead, but wound up with a no-decision when the Orioles scored against the Twins' bullpen later on.
Prior to that performance, Duensing compiled a 3-1 record with a sensational 1.67 earned run average in 39 relief appearances for the year. The left-hander also did well when called upon to start in 2009, going 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA in nine such assignments, and beat the Royals by tossing five innings of two-run ball at Kauffman Stadium last August.
In eight overall encounters with Kansas City, Duensing is 2-0 with a 4.85 ERA.
The Royals hand the ball to Brian Bannister today and hope the inconsistent right-hander can continue his usual success in day games. The 29-year-old is 4-1 with a very solid 3.05 ERA in seven afternoon starts this season, compared to a 2-6 mark and 7.10 ERA at night, and sports an excellent 21-9 overall record in the day over the course of his career.
Bannister enters this afternoon's tilt in a slump, however, having lost in three consecutive starts and producing a subpar 0-4 record and 7.07 ERA over his last five mound trips. He's permitted four runs or more in each of those games.
The former University of Southern California standout did best the Twins at Kauffman Stadium on April 25 -- a game which took place in the day -- by yielding two runs over 6 1/3 innings. Lifetime against Minnesota, Bannister is 4-4 with a 4.09 ERA over 11 starts.
Kansas City has now lost five of its last six games and continues to have trouble against the Twins. Minnesota is 8-3 against the Royals this year and has taken 16 of the last 20 overall meetings between the teams. The Twins are also 18-5 at Kauffman Stadium since the start of the 2008 season.