Although they were swept this past weekend, the Kansas City Royals remain well on their way to clinching their first division title in 30 years.
The Royals can make some real headway beginning Monday night with the second-place Minnesota Twins visiting Kauffman Stadium, and Yordano Ventura will try to help while earning a seventh consecutive victory.
Kansas City (82-54) suffered a three-game home sweep with Sunday's 7-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox but remained 12 ahead of Minnesota in the AL Central because the Twins (70-66) fell 8-5 at AL West-leading Houston.
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"It's a long season and this stuff happens," first baseman Eric Hosmer told MLB's official website.
Minnesota's loss dropped the Royals' magic number for the division title to 15, and they could get it to single digits by sweeping three against the Twins.
Having Ventura on the mound could give Kansas City a chance to accomplish the more modest goal of avoiding a season high-tying fourth consecutive defeat.
Ventura (10-7, 4.24 ERA) is 4-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his last five starts after giving up one run in seven innings of Wednesday's 12-1 rout of Detroit. He also matched a career-high 11 strikeouts from a 5-3 win against Baltimore on Aug. 27.
The right-hander has a 2.82 ERA in his string of six winning decisions, the longest single-season streak by a Royals starter since Zack Greinke in 2009. The last Kansas City starter to take seven consecutive wins in one campaign was Jose Lima in 2003.
Ventura, 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA in his last five home starts, will face Minnesota for the first time since Aug. 16, 2014. He is 1-2 with a 4.08 ERA in three matchups against the Twins, all of them coming last season.
He'll be opposed by left-hander Tommy Milone (7-4, 3.60), who will try to build on his second win in seven second-half starts in a 3-0 victory against the White Sox on Wednesday. Milone went seven innings and fanned seven after going 1-3 with a 6.23 ERA in his previous six starts.
"It's fun to pitch in meaningful games in September," Milone said. "We're going through that right now and we've just got to take it one game at a time and continue to build off of it."
Milone yielded one run over six innings July 3 in his most recent start against Kansas City, which won 3-2 at home in 10. Milone was 1-1 with an 8.15 ERA in four prior matchups.
The Twins opened a nine-game trip by dropping two of three to the Astros but are still 1 1/2 games behind Texas for the AL's second wild-card spot following the Rangers' 7-0 defeat against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
The Royals have won seven of their last 10 against the Twins but split a four-game home series July 2-5.
Lorenzo Cain, batting .360 in his last 13 games, is hitting a team-best .341 versus Minnesota this season. He has five hits in his last nine at-bats against Milone.
Eduardo Escobar, 3 for 5 lifetime versus Ventura, is batting .365 with five homers and eight doubles in his last 17 games. Highly touted rookie Miguel Sano returns to the site of his major league debut, where he went 6 for 15 with two doubles in the four July games.