Twins-Royals Preview

The last time the Kansas City Royals faced the Minnesota Twins, they locked up home-field advantage throughout the 2015 postseason.

This week they collected their rings as World Series champions.

The Royals meet the Twins for the first time as reigning champions when the AL Central rivals start a three-game series on Friday night in Kansas City.

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The Royals had two days off after splitting two games in three days against the New York Mets in a rematch of the Fall Classic they won in five games.

They got their jewel-encrusted championship rings prior to Tuesday's game, then were shut down by World Series villain Noah Syndergaard, the towering right-hander who beat them in Game 3 last October after throwing at leadoff man Alcides Escobar.

Escobar tripled to lead off the bottom of the first inning Tuesday but the Royals managed only two more hits as they struck out nine times against Syndergaard in six innings.

"We've got our rings now, so the whole process is over now," Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. "So it's time to turn the page, move on and get better playing baseball and winning baseball.''

The Royals were 12-7 against the Twins last year, including a three-game sweep to end the season. They secured home-field advantage with a 6-1 win at Minnesota in the Oct. 4 season finale.

Right-hander Yordano Ventura was Kansas City's opening day starter last year and will make his first start of 2016 on Friday. Ventura pitched much better over the second half of 2015, going 9-2 with a 3.56 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break. He was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA overall and is 2-3 with a 3.90 ERA in five career starts versus the Twins.

Minnesota was swept in Baltimore to start the season, scoring six total runs in a tight three-game series marred by its lack of hitting in key spots.

Joe Mauer hit his first home run Thursday but the Twins couldn't hold onto a two-run lead in a 4-2 loss. Minnesota hit .216 in the series, went 2 for 21 with runners in scoring position, left 20 men on base and struck out 35 times.

Leadoff hitter Brian Dozier is in the middle of Minnesota's woes, opening the season 0 for 11.

"The one thing we were able to do last year was capitalize on opportunities, comparably when we didn't have as many as some other teams," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. "I think it's one of those things that builds early. Guys get up there and they are grinding, almost too hard even though we are only three games in."

Ervin Santana will make his second start after the right-hander's first career opening day start was cut short by a 70-minute rain delay. He threw two scoreless innings in Monday's 3-2 loss, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out three.

Santana, who spent 2013 with Kansas City, is 5-7 with a 4.63 ERA in 16 career starts against his former team, including an 0-1 mark with a 2.40 ERA in two starts last season.

Escobar is 7 for 21 lifetime against Santana and cleanup hitter Eric Hosmer is 4 for 12 with two homers and four walks.

Twins shortstop Eduardo Escobar is 5 for 10 against Ventura but Mauer has one hit in 10 career at-bats against him with five strikeouts.

Dozier, who led the Twins with 28 homers and 39 doubles last season, hit .179 with no home runs and four doubles in 18 games against Kansas City in 2015. He went 1 for 6 against Ventura.