It'll take something much worse than the Kansas City Royals' current stretch to threaten their sizable lead atop the AL Central, but a cavalier attitude regarding their struggles likely won't help with the playoffs approaching.
Kansas City looks to avoid a season-high fifth straight loss as it sends inconsistent Edinson Volquez to the hill Tuesday night against the visiting Minnesota Twins.
The Royals (82-55) hold the biggest division lead in the majors with an 11-game edge over the second-place Twins (71-66) despite being outscored 31-9 during a four-game skid.
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Their only runs in Monday's 6-2 loss to the Twins came on Kendrys Morales' RBI groundout and a sacrifice fly from Salvador Perez. Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas had two hits apiece for Kansas City, which scored 27 runs in the two games prior to its skid.
The Royals have the majors' best bullpen ERA at 2.46, but relievers have allowed 11 runs in 15 innings during the losing streak. Starters have an 8.57 ERA in that stretch.
"We haven't played up to our standard," manager Ned Yost said. "I think our starting pitching hasn't been exceptionally sharp through this run, and offensively, we've faced some tough pitching."
Volquez (12-7, 3.53 ERA) didn't show much concern after giving up six runs and eight hits in three innings Thursday against Detroit before the Royals rallied for a 15-7 win.
"It's just part of the game," Volquez said. "Just a bad day."
The problem is that Volquez is having those types of days regularly of late. He's allowed six runs in three of his last five starts in an up-and-down stretch during which he's allowed one earned run in the other two.
Volquez has had some of his best days against Minnesota, going 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA while tossing at least seven innings in all three starts this season. Trevor Plouffe is one of the few Twins batters who has given him trouble, going 4 for 9.
Eduardo Escobar went 3 for 3 and drove in three runs Monday, improving his average to .394 over his last 18 for Minnesota, which sits 1 1/2 games behind Texas for the AL's second wild card.
The Twins had the fewest road wins in the AL on Aug. 19 before winning eight of their next 11 away from home.
"It's not about making any kinds of statements," manager Paul Molitor said. "We're trying to hang on and make the playoffs next month, and the only way to do that is to beat teams along the way, like Kansas City."
Kyle Gibson (9-9, 3.84) has struggled lately on the road, going 0-2 with a 9.30 ERA in his last four outside of Minnesota. One of his best starts of the season came in Kansas City, though, when he gave up four hits in eight innings of a 2-0 win July 2 to improve to 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA in three career outings at Kauffman Stadium.
This will be the third time in five starts against the Royals in 2015 that the right-hander has opposed Volquez. Gibson, who has a 2.60 ERA over his last three outings overall, has gone 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA in the other four.