Twins visit Royals with chance to avoid division cellar

MLB

Heading into the final series of the season, the Kansas City Royals still can finish anywhere between third and fifth in the American League Central.

As the Royals prepare to face the Minnesota Twins, manager Mike Matheny is concerned about one thing, and it’s not where his team finishes in the standings.

“All I’m concern about is how well we play,” Matheny said. “The other stuff takes care of itself. The record is going to be a byproduct of playing the game the right way.”

The Royals (73-86) will host the Twins (71-88) on Friday night. The Twins will need a sweep to avoid the AL Central cellar.

Minnesota will give the start to right-hander John Gant (5-10, 3.74 ERA). The Royals have not announced their starter.

Both teams lost Thursday night. The Royals fell to the Indians 6-1, while the Twins lost to the Tigers 10-7.

Matheny has been using the same line all season, and one final series isn’t going to change it.

“We play to win,” Matheny said. “I’m excited about how the guys have been playing lately. It is good that we have a number of guys chasing different things they’d like to achieve. Mostly what we’re trying to achieve is winning habits, the habit of going out and putting together really good baseball, every single day. Unfortunately, we only have four days left to do that.

“A lot of times you get to this point in the season with a team that doesn’t have their name written down in that playoff book, and there’s a whole lot of different perspectives. This team has done a great job of putting their heads down and realizing that it’s an opportunity to play a game they love and do it really well. It’s all I can expect and hope for.”

One of those Royals who is “chasing different things” is Salvador Perez, who leads the majors in home runs (48) and RBIs (121). He put a scare into Royals fans Wednesday night when he slipped heading into the dugout and had to be removed. But he was in the lineup Thursday — as the designated hitter — and went 1-for-4 with a double.

Gant has lost seven of his last eight decisions. His biggest issue has been the number of innings per start. In six games since rejoining the rotation, he’s averaging 3.5 innings. In his last start, he allowed two runs (one earned) in three innings against Toronto.

He’s 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in three relief appearances against the Royals.

While the Royals have seen improvement this year, the Twins have been a disappointment. The two-time reigning AL Central champs came into 2021 thinking a “three-peat” was a reasonable expectation. Now they’re focused on returning to contention in 2022.

“I fully anticipate this offseason we’re going to try to find a way to get better for ’22 and beyond,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey told MLB.com. “I’ve approached each of the last three offseasons, really even going back after ’17, with an approach: ‘How do we find a way to get better now and in the future?’ We talk about sustainability. In order to do that, you have to keep an eye on short term and long term.

“We’re going to find a way to invest in next year’s team. This is not with an eye toward five years down the line.”

–Field Level Media

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