Right-hander Jose Berrios will try to win his third consecutive start when the Minnesota Twins face the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night in Minneapolis.
Minnesota (95-59), vying for its first American League Central title since 2010, holds a four-game lead over the Cleveland Indians (91-63) with eight games remaining. The Twins have won four of their past five.
Kansas City (56-99) has dropped four in a row and seven of its last eight. A loss would mark the second straight 100-defeat season for the Royals, who finished 58-104 in 2018.
Berrios (13-8, 3.58 ERA) is 2-2 with a 4.11 in 11 career starts against Kansas City. However, has garnered a pair of no-decisions in two starts against the Royals this season while compiling a 3.21 ERA.
The two-time All-Star has been particularly impressive in his past two outings, a 5-0 victory over the Washington Nationals on Sept. 10 and a 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Monday. He has allowed just two runs and seven hits over 14 1/3 innings in those two contests, striking out 12 and walking three.
Berrios had struggled before the back-to-back wins, compiling an 8.07 ERA over a six-start stretch.
“Every outing, I’m feeling better and better,” Berrios said after the Monday win. “My arm was feeling great today. I was feeling great overall and my pitches were working good for me.”
Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said, “The execution has been better. I can’t point to one reason why that is. But the stuff is clearly a tick up from maybe what we saw in July and August. He’s just looked great.
“This is exactly what he looked like for much of the year early on. This is the stuff. This is the execution. … I think he feels it right now.”
Right-hander Glenn Sparkman (4-11, 6.02 ERA) will start Saturday for Kansas City. In his past two starts, Sparkman has a win and a no-decision following an nine-start stretch in which he went 0-6 with a 6.88 ERA. However, he wasn’t exactly superb in the latest two outings, giving up a combined seven runs in 9 1/3 innings.
Sparkman has opposed the Twins three times this year, going 1-1 with a 5.94 ERA. For his career, he is 1-3 with a 6.08 ERA in seven games (three starts) vs. Minnesota.
The Twins have won the first two games of the four-game series, 8-5 on Thursday and 4-3 on Friday.
One bright spot for Kansas City in Friday night’s defeat was the play of Ryan McBroom, who enjoyed his first career three-hit game and is now batting .308 through 16 games. McBroom is 6-for-12 in his past three games and has hit safely in seven of his past eight games.
The 27-year-old first baseman/outfielder was obtained from the New York Yankees on Aug. 31 for international signing bonus pool money and a player to be named later or cash. In 117 games this season for New York’s Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate, McBroom batted .315 with a .402 on-base percentage, a .574 slugging percentage, 26 homers and 66 RBIs.
“No doubt,” Royals manager Ned Yost said when asked if he liked what he’s seen from McBroom so far. “I like a lot. I like the fact he can play multiple positions — first base and the outfield. I like the way he swings the bat. He’s just getting himself settled in here, and he’s going to continue to grow and get better. Definitely like what I’ve seen from him so far.”
–Field Level Media