Twins welcome Royals for key AL Central weekend series

MLB

It’s still April, so there’s a lot of the Major League Baseball season remaining, but the weekend series between the Kansas City Royals and the Minnesota Twins that begins Friday in Minneapolis shapes up as a big one.

The Royals led the American League Central by 2 1/2 games over the Chicago White Sox heading into Thursday’s action, and seven full games over the Twins. That’s not an insurmountable margin, but there’s no time like the present to get things going for the Twins.

The Royals will send Brady Singer (1-2, 2.95 ERA) to the mound Friday against the Twins’ Michael Pineda (1-1, 2.42).

The Twins finally got things going with Wednesday’s 10-2 win in Cleveland. They hit six home runs against the Indians, erupting on offense and breaking a scoring slump. They had scored four or fewer runs in eight of the previous nine games.

One of the keys to Wednesday’s win, as well as one of the few bright spots so far this season, was Byron Buxton, who had the first five-hit game of his career.

“Anyone that’s watching is probably pretty amazed at what they’re seeing,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said about Buxton. “It’s something that we’ve seen before from him, but he looks fantastic. He leads in a lot of ways, and you really get a chance to see it when he’s going out there playing like that.”

For the Royals, the key has been their bullpen, especially as of late. Kansas City relievers are 6-1 with a 3.86 ERA, which is slightly better than the ERA of the starting rotation (4.09). But after six games of their nine-game road trip, that ERA is just 0.48 (one earned run in 18 2/3 innings).

That has the Royals in a great position heading into the second month of the season. Win or lose Friday, they’ll head into May with a winning percentage of at least .625. Of the 123 teams since 2000 to finish April with a winning percentage of .600 or better, 85 percent finished the season with a winning record, according to royalsreview.com. The average team had a .555 win pct, or 90 win-season, with a median of 91 wins.

While the rest of baseball might be surprised, the Royals aren’t.

“It has to do with belief,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said after Wednesday’s 9-6 victory in Pittsburgh. “They walk out there expecting good things to happen. Many of us have been a part of teams where the opposite is there. That’s a tough rut to get out of. But the one they’re on right now, I want them to continue to think that way, feel that way for as long as we can.”

Singer was outstanding in his last outing when he gave up one run over seven innings in Detroit. He struck out eight and walked none. Pineda had his worst outing of the season last Saturday against the Pirates. He allowed five runs (four earned) in 4 1/3 innings.

Pineda is 5-6 with a 4.21 ERA against the Royals in 11 career starts. Singer is 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA in three career starts against the Twins.

–Field Level Media

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