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American League Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, August 15 (All times Eastern)
Kansas City Royals (66-54) at Minnesota Twins (54-65), 8:10 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Kansas City - Danny Duffy (7-10, 2.57) Minnesota - Ricky Nolasco (5-7, 5.90)
(SportsNetwork.com) - A 6-1 homestand helped the Kansas City Royals grab first place in the American League Central. They'll try to maintain that advantage on Friday night in the first of four straight meetings with the last-place Minnesota Twins.
The Royals won their seventh straight series as they took three of four from the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics to begin the week. Thursday's 7-3 win clinched the series for Kansas City and gave the club its 18th victory in 22 games.
That surge has the Royals a half-game ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the division and Kansas City is 12 games over .500 (66-54) for the first time since July 20, 2003.
Kansas City used a five-run seventh inning to top Oakland on Thursday, will Billy Butler's two-run single capping the burst. Jarrod Dyson and Norichika Aoki also drove in two runs for the Royals, who play their next nine on the road.
"This is what we want," said Dyson. "We want to go up against the best in the business. When you are making a playoff push you want to face great pitching, you want to face a great hitting club."
Danny Duffy takes aim at a third straight winning start this evening and is coming off Sunday's 7-4 decision over the San Francisco Giants. The left- hander yielded four runs on three hits and three walks.
Duffy is 7-10 with a 2.57 earned run average in 24 games this season, including 18 starts. He just faced the Twins on July 30 and got a no-decision as he walked six but yielded only one run over 5 2/3 innings.
In seven career meetings with Minnesota, including five starts, the 25-year- old Duffy is 2-1 with a 2.03 ERA.
For the Twins, they'll see the return of Ricky Nolasco to the rotation. He has not made a start since July 6 due to a right elbow injury and is 5-7 with a 5.90 ERA on the year.
That wasn't what Minnesota was hoping for when it signed the right-handed Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million deal this past offseason that was the largest free agent contract handed out in franchise history, but Nolasco does have a chance to finish the campaign strong.
"I would image we would probable keep him to 80, 85 (pitches) his next time out," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told his team's website. "But his arm feels great, everything's strong. I'm sure he'll probably fight the whole system because I think he feels he's really ready to go.
"We'll look to start at 80 and work our way up from there. Depends on how it goes, if it's hard innings or easy innings."
The 31-year-old Nolasco is 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA in three career starts against the Royals.
Minnesota kicks off an 11-game homestand tonight having won three of its past four games. The Twins took the rubber match of a three-game set with the Houston Astros with a 3-1 victory on Wednesday.
Kyle Gibson scattered a run over 7 2/3 innings for his 11th triumph of the season.
"I was sitting right there with him," said Gardenhire of his decision to keep Gibson on the mound. "I said 'If he gets through the eighth inning under 100 pitches we let him go back out there and take a shot at it.'"
Kennys Vargas had a late two-run hit and Joe Mauer added a pair of hits, including his third homer of the season.
Since coming off the disabled list on Monday, Mauer has gone 5-for-11 to push his hitting streak to 15 straight games. That is one shy of his career best set from Aug. 4-24, 2008.
Mauer is a career .334 hitter versus the Royals, but 0-for-4 in his career against Duffy.
The Twins and Royals have split 12 meetings this season.
08/15 10:34:19 ET