Twins' sweep a good sign

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 5, 2011 - 11:47 PM

The Twins left Kansas City with their first four-game win streak of 2011.

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KANSAS CITY, MO. - After getting swept in Detroit last week, the Twins needed a telescope to see first-place Cleveland in the American League Central standings.

Now, a powerful set of binoculars will do.

The Twins have moved four games closer to the Indians in four days, and they can continue biting into their 12 1/2-game deficit Monday night, when they open a three-game series in Cleveland.

"We're a long ways under .500, so we have to do a lot of winning and a lot of catching up," said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose last-place team improved to 21-37 with Sunday's 6-0 victory over the Royals. "The only thing we can do is go game-by-game."

The Royals have to be kicking themselves. The Twins were 20 games under .500 when they arrived in Kansas City and played the final two games without Denard Span, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome.

Still, the Twins outscored the Royals 26-6 in their first four-game sweep of any team since 2007, while Texas was sweeping four from the Indians.

Brian Duensing (3-5) pitched eight innings Sunday and broke a six-start winless streak, and the .179-hitting Jason Repko had three RBI, including a two-out, two-run single off Jeff Francis (2-6) in a three-run first inning.

It's the first time all year the Twins have owned a four-game winning streak.

"The Minnesota Twins came in here with all their stars gone, all their big players out of the lineup and kind of a mix-and-match lineup, if you will, and they kicked our tails four straight," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said.

Alexi Casilla, who has lifted his average from .175 to .262 since May 14, did the most kicking for the Twins, going 8-for-15 in the series. He went 2-for-3 in the finale, and pressured Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer into making a key error on a first-inning sacrifice bunt.

Go figure, but Cleveland's biggest challenge the next three days might be cooling off Casilla, who is 8-for-11 in stolen base attempts.

"We're going to go there and try to do the same things, just try to get on base and play small ball," Casilla said. "If we get a chance to steal, we're going to steal, and we have the power bats, too."

Injury updates

• Span missed his second consecutive game because of a sore neck but was available to hit. He felt dazed after sliding into Royals catcher Brayan Pena on Friday and was checked by a doctor to make sure he didn't have a concussion.

Span could return to center field Monday, which will give Gardenhire an interesting choice in left. Delmon Young is batting .215 and has four extra-base hits in 144 at-bats. Meanwhile, rookie Ben Revere has an eight-game hitting streak and is batting .280.

• Morneau was out of the lineup for the second day in a row because of left wrist soreness.

"We'll see how he is [Monday]," Gardenhire said. "I'm assuming Morneau's going to want to go back out there and play, but if that doesn't happen, we'll start looking at what we need to do, whether it's send him home, get him checked out, I don't know."

• Nick Blackburn felt lingering stiffness in his lower back Sunday morning but still hopes to make his next scheduled start, Thursday against Texas.

"We'll know more here in the next couple days," Gardenhire said. "If he's still feeling really stiff, we might skip a start with him and just put [Anthony Swarzak] right in there to give him extra time. If you have issues with your back, it's really hard to go out and compete."

The middle infield plan

Gardenhire reiterated Sunday that he would like to put Nishioka at shortstop with Casilla at second base when Nishioka returns from the disabled list. The Twins opened the season with Casilla at short and Nishioka at second before Nishioka broke his leg April 7.

Casilla has looked confident and comfortable at both middle-infield positions during his recent upswing. Nishioka is scheduled to begin a minor league rehab assignment with Class A Fort Myers on Monday.

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