Series: Game 4 of 4

Kansas City won 3-1

Game 1: Friday, August 15
Kansas City6Final
Game 2: Saturday, August 16
Kansas City1Final
Game 3: Sunday, August 17
Kansas City12Final
Game 4: Monday, August 18
Kansas City6Final

Royals 6

(69-55, 36-27 away)

Twins 4

(55-68, 26-33 home)

    8:10 PM ET, August 18, 2014

    Target Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota 

    123456789 R H E
    KC 000030111 6 13 0
    MIN 000000103 4 7 0

    W: J. Vargas (10-5)

    L: T. May (0-2)

    S: G. Holland (38)

    Royals-Twins Preview


    The Kansas City Royals have built a 1 1/2-game lead in the AL Central and will get a chance to extend it against a struggling young arm for a last-place team.

    The Royals will try for an eighth straight series win Monday night when they conclude a four-game set in Minnesota.

    Sunday's 12-6 win set the Royals (68-55) up for another series win and gave them an MLB-best 20-5 record since July 22. They haven't been in first place this late in a season since 2003.

    Josh Willingham hit his first home run with Kansas City, and it came against the club that traded him a week ago.

    Alex Gordon had a home run, triple, three runs scored and two RBIs. The left fielder is 6 for 11 in the series and is batting .350 over his last 15 games at Target Field.

    The Royals also continued to get offense from Billy Butler, who went 3 for 5 with an RBI to bump his season average to .280 for the first time since June 28. He's batting .393 in his last 14 games, but he's got just a .203 average against Minnesota this season.

    The Twins (55-67) have a hot-hitting first baseman of their own. Joe Mauer had a 16-game hitting streak snapped Saturday, but he bounced back by going 1 for 2 with a home run and two walks Sunday. He's batting .353 over 18 games and has homered twice in his last four after leaving the yard just twice in his first 78.

    Kansas City now turns to Jason Vargas, who should be riding plenty of confidence.

    Vargas (9-5, 3.27 ERA) threw a three-hit shutout his last time out for arguably the best outing of his career. The left-hander didn't walk a batter and struck out four in Wednesday's 3-0 home win over Oakland, his third start since undergoing an appendectomy.

    "He got back to being who he was. We thought it would take him two starts before he got sharp again and, luckily, it proved to be right," Royals manager Ned Yost told MLB's official website. "He was just dynamic, he was in complete control, he was commanding both sides of the plate. His changeup was unbelievable."

    Things look promising for a strong follow-up effort. Vargas is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts against the Twins this season and 4-2 with a 2.13 ERA in 10 road starts, two of which have come in Minnesota.

    Left-handed hitters Mauer (10 for 24) and Chris Parmelee (7 for 13) have had success against Vargas, but righties Trevor Plouffe (4 for 22) and Kurt Suzuki (6 for 32) haven't.

    The Twins' Trevor May, meanwhile, is still trying to prove he belongs at the big league level. In two outings, May (0-1, 12.46) hasn't been able to find the strike zone, issuing nine walks in 4 1/3 innings over one start and a relief effort.

    "He's been like a raging bull out there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We gotta calm him down right now."

    After a disastrous first start Aug. 9, he allowed three runs -- two earned -- and three hits with two walks in 2 1/3 innings of relief in Tuesday's 10-4 loss in Houston.

    "It was better than the first time, but I've still got a long way to go," May said. "Things just didn't go my way."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Gameday Matchup

     Kansas CityMinnesota
    Current StreakW1L1
    Last 106-45-5

    Pitching Matchup

    Kansas CityMinnesota
    J. Vargas
    11-10, 3.71 ERA

    Last Game:
    9/24 at CLE
    4.0 IP, 4 ER
    Dec = ND
    T. May
    3-6, 7.88 ERA

    Last Game:
    9/25 at DET
    6.0 IP, 3 ER
    Dec = Loss

    Gameday Lineups

    NO.Kansas CityMinnesota
    1. N. Aoki, RF D. Santana, CF
    2. O. Infante, 2B B. Dozier, 2B
    3. S. Perez, C J. Mauer, 1B
    4. B. Butler, 1B K. Vargas, DH
    5. A. Gordon, LF O. Arcia, RF
    6. J. Willingham, DH T. Plouffe, 3B
    7. M. Moustakas, 3B C. Parmelee, LF
    8. A. Escobar, SS E. Fryer, C
    9. J. Dyson, CF E. Escobar, SS

    Research Notes

    Jason Vargas is quietly having one of the better seasons in the American League. He went 7 innings allowing just 1 earned run on Monday, his 17th start allowing 2 ER or fewer this season.
    From Elias: With the win over the Twins, the Royals have won 8 straight series. From Elias: That matches Baltimore's recent eight-series winning streak, which was snapped by the Indians this past weekend, for the longest in the majors this season. It's the first time the Royals have won that many consecutive series within a single season since winning nine straight in 1991.
    The Minnesota Twins have the lowest ISO (.086) in at-bats that end in a changeup this year. Jason Vargas has thrown a changeup 30.1 percent of the time this year, which is third among all qualified starters.

    ESPN Stats & Information