The Minnesota Twins have cut their deficit in the American League Central division race to six games behind the co-leading Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians, and will attempt to cut even further into that lead this evening as they play the second of their four-game set against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field on Friday night.
The Twins got down early in their first game after the All-Star break on Thursday night, but a pair of four-run outbursts helped power them past the Royals by a final score of 8-3. Trevor Plouffe hit the go-ahead home run in the bottom of the fifth, and Francisco Liriano got past a shaky start to provide seven solid innings of work.
Tonight, the Twins will give the ball to right-hander Nick Blackburn (7-6, 4.24 ERA). Blackburn has one start against the Royals to his credit this year. It came back on June 4, as he allowed two runs and seven hits over five innings of work as the Twins defeated the Royals at Kauffman Stadium by a score of 7-2. He has not looked especially good in either of his last two starts, allowing eleven runs and sixteen hits in just nine full innings of work, but the Twins have managed to win both games.
Kansas City will turn to right-hander Luke Hochevar (5-8, 5.46 ERA). He has two starts against the Twins during the 2011 season. He was on the losing end of the 7-2 decision back on June 4 mentioned earlier, as he allowed six runs and eleven hits over six innings. He also started against the Twins at Kauffman Stadium on May 1, and was much more successful, allowing three runs on five hits in 6.1 innings of work in a 10-3 Royals victory. Hochevar has also been pretty bad in his last two starts, lasting just eight combined innings and allowing eleven runs on fourteen hits in the process.
First pitch for this one is scheduled for 7:10 PM Central time from Target Field. The folks at Twinkie Town ought to have their Game Thread up and running here pretty soon, and we'll have the recap here for you when things have finished up in Minneapolis.