– The Kansas City Royals have been slowed this year by injuries, free agent defections and slumps. But suddenly they look like the defending World Series champions again.

“They do against us,” Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said succinctly.

If the Royals storm back into the playoff picture, the Twins will have something to do with it. Kansas City’s season-long domination of the Twins continued Saturday with a 10-0 beatdown at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City pummeled Hector Santiago’s center-cut fastballs all over the field, and Royals righthander Ian Kennedy stifled the Twins at the plate.

Kansas City has won seven consecutive games and 12 of its past 14 to get its fans thinking playoffs again. Once 49-55, Kansas City has since gone 14-5 and have won five series in a row. The bullpen is on a 26 ⅔-inning scoreless streak.

The Royals are eight games behind Cleveland for the AL Central lead and 4 ½ games back in the AL wild-card race. They need to keep riding the wave if they are to be relevant down the stretch.

“We got everything going for us — starting pitching, the bullpen has been spectacular, our defense has been good and we’re starting to swing the bats well,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “That’s a good combination.”

The Twins are fueling the momentum by looking meek at the plate and awful on the mound.

The season series has been lopsided, with the Twins going 2-10 against their division rivals while being outscored 81-38. The Royals have taken the first three games of this four-game series, and another victory Sunday would give them their first sweep of the Twins in Kansas City since Aug. 4-7, 1975.

Alex Gordon led the Royals by going 3-for-4 with two home runs, a double and two RBI. Lorenzo Cain was 3-for-4 with three RBI. Kennedy pitched eight shutout innings to improve to 8-9.

“They have a well-built team,” Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe said. “And they have had a taste of winning and success.”

Santiago couldn’t do anything right and watched his ERA since being traded to the Twins on Aug. 1 soar to 10.89 in four outings. He gave up eight runs and 11 hits over 4 ⅔ innings.

Santiago gave up three runs in the third inning, two coming on Cain’s double to left on a fastball down the middle. Gordon crushed a 2-1 pitch to right in the fourth to make it 4-0.

The end for Santiago came in the fifth. Eric Hosmer hit an RBI single on a 3-0 fastball. Salvador Perez rocketed a two-run homer to left on a fastball that was supposed to be on the outside corner but slid over the heart of the plate. Then Gordon followed with a second homer, on a pitch that was just below the belt and over the middle half of the plate. Kansas City led 8-0.

Santiago didn’t issue a base on balls for the second consecutive outing, but trading walks for wallops is bad business.

“Too many pitches in the middle of the zone,” Santiago said. “Too many mistakes, and things happened right after another.”

Offensively, the Twins didn’t get beyond first base after the second inning.

“I know they have played well against us, but it is a tough league,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “They are finding ways to hold on to their hope here as we head down the stretch. I’m still impressed by what they do and how they play, how they make us work and the pressure they put on us.’’