Twins face Royals in home finale, with eyes on playoffs

MLB Minneapolis
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Left-hander Martin Perez gets the start Sunday afternoon as the Minnesota Twins play their final regular-season home game against the Kansas City Royals in Minneapolis.

Barring a major collapse in the final seven games of the season, the Twins (95-60) will return to Target Field in early October to take part in the American League Division Series. Minnesota heads into Sunday’s contest with a four-game lead in the AL Central over the Cleveland Indians and with a magic number of four to garner their first division title since 2010.

Perez (10-7, 4.92 ERA) is 1-1 with a 4.46 ERA in six career starts against Kansas City, which will be going for a split of the four-game series after rallying for a 12-5 victory on Saturday night. Perez is 0-1 with a 7.02 ERA in three starts against the Royals this season, allowing 18 hits, four walks and 13 earned runs over 16 2/3 innings while striking out 12.

Kansas City (57-99) will start right-hander Jorge Lopez (4-8, 5.93), who is 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in five career appearances, including two starts, against the Twins. He is 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA in three games against Minnesota this season.

Lopez is 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his three starts in September, allowing 16 hits and three walks over 17 1/3 innings with 11 strikeouts over that span. He comes in off a tough 2-1 loss at Oakland on Tuesday, where he pitched six scoreless innings before giving up a leadoff homer to Matt Olson to start the seventh. He then hit Mark Canha, who came around to score what proved to be the winning run on a double to right-center by Seth Brown.

“He had everything going, good curveball, spotted his fastball well, mixed in some changeups,” Royals manager Ned Yost told the Kansas City Star. “His last four or five starts have been really impressive.”

Lopez began the season with a 1-7 record and was demoted to the bullpen for most of the summer before returning to the rotation in a 7-5 victory against Baltimore on Aug. 31.

“They’re all impressive right now from where he’s come, in my estimation, to where he’s at now,” Yost said of Lopez’s recent starts. “He’s just pitching with so much more conviction, so much more command, and just throwing the ball really well.”

“The last three, four starts I’ve been doing the same thing,” Lopez said. “Just trusting my sinker and have that power curveball after those sinkers.”

Kansas City avoided hitting the 100-loss mark for the second consecutive season on Saturday night with the impressive win, scoring the final 10 runs of the game — including seven runs during an eight-hit, 13-batter ninth inning highlighted by a two-run, pinch-hit go-ahead home run by Cheslor Cuthbert off Taylor Rogers.

“This offense never quits,” Yost said. “They keep grinding. They keep battling.”

“That’s going to happen,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli told the media. “It happens a few times every year. This is going to be one of those times for us. We’ll regroup. We’ll be back out there in the morning ready to go.”

–Field Level Media

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