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Twins Try To Stop Losing Streak

(Sports Network) - The Minnesota Twins have already sewn up a spot in the postseason, but the American League Central champions won't be entering the upcoming playoffs with much momentum the way they've been playing as of late.

Seeking to avert their longest losing streak of the season, the Twins continue a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals this evening from Kauffman Stadium.

Minnesota clinched its second consecutive AL Central title following a 6-4 victory over Cleveland last Tuesday and completed a series sweep of the Indians the subsequent day, but hasn't won a game since. After losing all three meetings with the Detroit Tigers over the weekend, the Twins were dealt a 10-8 defeat by the Royals on Monday.

The skid is Minnesota's longest since a four-gamer from July 7-10. The Twins have not lost five in a row since a six-game slide from May 15-20, 2009.

Josh Fields hit two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning to snap an 8-8 tie in Monday's opener, and four Kansas City pitchers combined to hold the Twins to just one hit over the final five innings to help the Royals halt a three-game losing streak.

Phillip Humber (2-1) picked up the victory after allowing one run in 2 2/3 innings of relief of starter Kyle Davies, who was battered for seven runs and eight hits before exiting with one out in the top of the fourth.

Jarrod Dyson had a two-run homer of his own earlier on for Kansas City, while Lucas May finished 2-for-3 with three RBI on the night.

Jason Kubel knocked in five runs for the Twins, three of which came on a homer off Humber in the top of the fourth that briefly tied the game at 8-8. Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer each collected two hits and an RBI in a losing cause.

Minnesota starter Kevin Slowey lasted only 1 2/3 innings and was pounded for six runs and six hits. Replacement Jeff Manship (2-1) didn't fare much better, as the right-hander was charged with three runs allowed while recording only four outs.

"This was not a good ballgame for our club," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "This is not acceptable. We can't lose our edge."

The setback kept the Twins one game behind East leader Tampa Bay in the battle for home-field advantage throughout the AL Playoffs.

Nick Blackburn gets the call for the Twins tonight in one of his final tuneups in preparation for a possible postseason start. The right-hander earned himself a spot in the team's playoff rotation with a strong late-season performance, having compiled a 3-2 record and an outstanding 1.81 earned run average in six starts since returning from a month-long stint in the minors.

Blackburn, who had an unsightly 6.66 ERA when sent to Triple-A Rochester in late July, has delivered a quality start each time following the promotion and was sharp again this past Wednesday, when he limited Cleveland to a run on five hits over seven innings to pick up his 10th win of 2010.

Gardenhire has named Blackburn his Game 4 starter (if necessary) for the upcoming AL Division Series, slotting him in behind Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing.

The 28-year-old will be aiming to improve upon a 1-2 record and 4.59 ERA in nine lifetime games against Kansas City. Blackburn faced the Royals twice back in April and surrendered a total of 11 runs (10 earned) and 17 hits over only 9 1/3 innings pitched, while receiving a no-decision both times.

While Blackburn gears up for the playoffs, Kansas City's Sean O'Sullivan will be using Tuesday's matchup as a chance to audition for a starting role in 2011. The young right-hander impressed his employers in his most recent outing, holding the Indians to a pair of runs and four hits over six innings to help the Royals post a 4-2 win last Thursday.

O'Sullivan hasn't done well since coming over to the Royals in a midseason trade from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, however. In 11 starts following the trade, he's just 2-6 with a subpar 7.21 ERA and has allowed 14 homers in only 58 2/3 innings.

The 23-year-old opposed the Twins for the first time in his career earlier this month but struggled mightily, permitting five runs and a pair of homers while walking five batters in 4 2/3 innings of a loss in Minneapolis.

Kansas City halted a string of six straight losses to Minnesota with last night's result, but have still lost 12 of 16 matchups between the teams this year. The Twins are 5-2 at Kauffman Stadium this season and 19-6 on the road against the Royals since the start of the 2008 campaign.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.