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Updated: September 12th, 2011 10:28pm
Twins Daily: Short series with Royals could decide AL Central cellar

Twins Daily: Short series with Royals could decide AL Central cellar

by Phil Mackey
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Who says the Minnesota Twins wouldn't play meaningful baseball in September?

On Tuesday, the Twins open a two-game series with the Kansas City Royals in a battle to stay out of the American League Central cellar.

As it stands, the Twins (59-87) sit two games behind the Royals (62-86) in the standings, and the two teams will meet five times before the end of the season, including a three-game series at Target Field to close the year.

Numbers game

6: The number of times the Twins have finished in last place since the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961.

8-5: The Twins' record against Kansas City this season.

2003: The last time the Twins finished with a losing record (8-11) against Kansas City.

Health report

• RHP Scott Baker (elbow) and LHP Francisco Liriano (shoulder) each threw bullpen sessions at Target Field on Sunday, per the Pioneer Press, and each will throw again on Wednesday. The Twins are hopeful Liriano and Baker can return to pitch out of the bullpen before the season ends.

On deck

Tuesday's series opener (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) will pit right-hander Carl Pavano (8-11, 4.52) against left-hander Bruce Chen (10-7, 4.30).

With a mid-80's fastball and slow breaking ball, Chen has managed to keep his ERA right around 4.00 all season, although he has given up 10 earned runs over his last two starts. In two outings against the Twins this season, Chen has allowed seven earned runs on 17 hits in just 10 1/3 innings, striking out three while walking five.

Pavano has given up a league-leading 231 hits on the year, but he hasn't received a great deal of help from his infield defense lately. All things considered, Pavano has pitched OK since the beginning of August, posting a 3.38 ERA while allowing 63 hits in 48 innings, striking out 25 and walking only seven. He went the full nine his last time in Kansas City on June 3, allowing only two earned runs in a 5-2 win.

Coming up

• Wednesday: @ Kansas City, 3:10 p.m. RHP Liam Hendriks (0-1, 3.86) vs. RHP Luke Hochevar (10-11, 4.73)
• Thursday: Off day
• Friday: vs. Cleveland, 7:10 p.m. RHP Kevin Slowey (0-5, 6.07) vs. RHP Jeanmar Gomez (3-2, 3.95)

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd