April 19, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It might be too late, but the Kansas City Royals are making a push to get back into postseason play.

After a disastrous 7-19 July, the Royals were seven games below .500, at 51-58, after an Aug. 5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

But after winning 4-1 Wednesday night at Detroit to sweep the Tigers they evened their record at 60-60. The Royals have won four straight, seven of eight and nine of 11. They have won their past four series.

"We're playing like champions," said Royals rookie second baseman Raul Mondesi, who hit his first career home run on Tuesday.

The defending World Series champion Royals return home Thursday to open a four-game series against the last-place Minnesota Twins. If the Royals are to keep their playoffs hopes alive, they may need to sweep the Twins. Anything less than winning three of the four could prove fatal to their postseason aspirations.

"The offense looks to me like it's definitely coming back around," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "That's what we were waiting on. We felt good all the way around with our starting pitching for the most part and the bullpen guys have done a phenomenal job without (Luke) Hoch(evar) and Wade (Davis). They've really picked up the slack down there. We feel good where we're at right now."

The offense did nothing in the first seven innings Wednesday. Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez did not allow a hit until Eric Hosmer's two-out double in the seventh. Sanchez did not come out for the eighth and the Royals promptly went to work on the Detroit bullpen. Alex Gordon homered on the first pitch of the eighth, extending his hitting streak to a season-high eight games, while Eric Hosmer hit a two-run homer in a three-run ninth. That allowed the Royals to sweep a three-game series in Detroit for the first time since September 2008.

While the Twins possess the worst record in the majors, the pitching matchup for the first game favors Minnesota, which will start Tyler Duffey. He beat the Royals 5-3 on Saturday, allowing two runs on six hits with one walk and six strikeouts. Duffey also beat the Royals on May 25 at Target Field.

Duffey is 8-8 with a 5.71 ERA with 25 walks and 90 strikes in 108 2/3 innings.

"I know Kansas City has been hard on us and they have a real good home record," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Hopefully we can turn it around, starting with Duff on the mound (Thursday)."

Right-hander Dillon Gee, who was the losing pitcher Saturday at Minnesota, will be making his 10th start and 25th appearance. After holding the Twins to two runs in the first five innings, he gave up a single and back-to-back home runs in the sixth, pulled with the Royals trailing by four runs.

Gee is 2-6 with a 6.35 ERA in nine starts. He has not won as a starter since May 31.

The Twins swept a two-game series at Atlanta and improved to 9-7 in August. Brian Dozier went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs, hiking his RBI total to 72, while Trevor Plouffe went 3-for-5 with three RBIs in the Twins' 10-3 victory Wednesday over the Braves. Kyle Gibson pitched a complete game to pick up the victory.

The Twins played without first baseman Joe Mauer and third baseman Miguel Sano in routing the Braves.

Mauer sat out with sore quads, while Sano has a sore elbow.

"We want to give him a chance to rest and be ready for the Royals," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Mauer. "He doesn't want to sit, but sometimes that extra day helps him."

Mauer is hitting .435 with a .516 on-base percentage and a .709 slugging percentage in August with two home runs, seven doubles and 11 RBIs in 14 games.

Sano made some throws from third base during infield practice and could be close to returning. The Twins could use Sano as the designated hitter in Kansas City, which was not an option at Atlanta under National League rules.

"He is doing better, but I don't get the feeling he is feeling 100 percent yet," Molitor said.

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