The Kansas City Royals are currently playing some of their best baseball of the season and they'll look to keep it going on Thursday when they wrap up a three-game set with the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
Kansas City has won a season-best eight in a row and is off to a 5-0 start on its nine-game road trip. The Royals began their winning streak with a three- game home sweep over the Baltimore Orioles, then went on to sweep the White Sox in Chicago this past weekend.
The win streak is their longest since jumping out to a 9-0 start in 2003, which also marked the last season the team was over .500 this late in the year.
Still, the Royals (53-51) remain seven games back in the American League Central as their run has coincided with similar stretches by the division leaders. Detroit has won five in a row and nine of 10, while Cleveland is working on a seven-game win streak. Kansas City is 4 1/2 games behind Cleveland for the AL's second wild card spot.
"We're just hoping to continue it every day," said designated hitter Billy Butler. "Everybody in here doesn't want to be the guy that ends the streak. That's the type of pressure we want to put ourselves in."
Jeremy Guthrie was the winning pitcher in Wednesday's 4-3 victory, as he allowed two runs over six innings to improve to 11-7. He walked in a run in the sixth inning but managed to escape a no-out, bases-loaded jam with no further damage. Royals closer Greg Holland later came on to convert his 21st consecutive save opportunity, and 28th overall on the season.
Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon made a costly fielding error in the seventh inning when he could not come up with a ground ball with a man on third and two outs. Another run would eventually score as a 2-2 game turned into a 4-2 Royals' lead.
Minnesota's (45-59) offense went a disastrous 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position.
"We left a lot of people out there, a lot of strikeouts again," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We need to put the ball in play a few more times in those situations. I know they made some pitches but boy, we looked like a couple times we really didn't even need to swing."
Gardenhire will turn to Scott Diamond to try and avoid the sweep on Thursday. Diamond has gone 0-3 with a 5.23 ERA over his last six starts but held Seattle to one run in 6 2/3 innings on Friday.
Meanwhile, ace James Shields toes the rubber for Kansas City. He tossed seven scoreless frames in Friday's 5-1 win over the White Sox to improve to 5-7 with a 3.09 ERA on the season.
"Forget the record," manager Ned Yost said. "The record doesn't tell a quarter of the story of the way he's pitched all year. He's been really, really good. He's an innings eater, he keeps us in the game every time. We've just struggled to score runs for him."
Shields faced Minnesota on June 28 and gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings as Kansas City won, 9-3.
Yost said the newly-acquired Justin Maxwell (Houston) will likely make his Royals debut in center field with a lefty on the mound and Lorenzo Cain continuing to deal with a left groin injury. Maxwell, a right-handed bat, is hitting .302 against lefties this season.
The Royals are aiming for their first sweep in Minnesota since winning all four games from May 7-10, 1999.