On Tuesday night the struggling Royals will try to turn things around when they take on the Minnesota Twins, who reside two games ahead of Kansas City in the American League Central.
The Twins have won two straight games heading into Kauffman Stadium and hope to stay hot as they face their division rivals. This is also an opportunity for the Royals, who have struggled of late, to make a push in the standings.
The Twins have won seven of their last 10 games including a dominating 10-0 victory on Sunday over the Mariners. Minnesota will send right-hander Samuel Deduno to the hill to try to keep the team on track. The Royals will counter with Luis Mendoza, who is 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA in five career appearances against the Twins.
This is the first stop on the Twins' road trip before they travel to Washington to face the Nationals.
"We're going to see two pretty good teams," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But both of them are fighting it a little bit with injuries and stuff."
After going 8-20 in May, the Royals started June with a 4-1 victory against the Rangers on Saturday, but their success didn't last long as they dropped the next game, 3-1. That's not a great start, but it's better than where they were. After losing eight straight, they've won two of the last four.
"We're not winning pretty games right now," left fielder Alex Gordon said. "It's coming back late, so it's good to see that fight in our team. We're definitely not playing where we need to play. We've still got a ways to go. Hopefully, we can keep improving. It's a long season. We went through a tough stretch. Now maybe we can start with a good stretch here."
The Royals are hoping that good stretch will start with Mendoza. The 29-year-old right-hander has gone 1-2 with a 4.63 ERA in eight starts this season.
Mendoza will be looking to notch his first win since May 13 and help the Royals gain some ground on the Twins.
The Royals have lost his last three starts, but he has still looked solid. In his last outing against the Cardinals on Wednesday, he allowed just one earned run in 5 2/3 innings. In the start prior, he also allowed just a run over five innings against the Angels.
Twins: Deduno looking to build on strong start
Deduno is set to make his third start of the season on Tuesday for the Twins and he's hoping that his last start was an indication he was moving in the right direction.
He was roughed up in his first start against the Tigers, giving up nine hits and six earned runs, but fared better against the Brewers on Wednesday, giving up just one run in seven innings. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA on the year.
"Deduno is what he is," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's going to wing it and he's going to misfire. You're going to have some five-inning games and you might have a nine-inning game. It kind of depends on if they're swinging at it. If they're swinging, he can go deep into games, but if they're making him throw more, his outing is going to be shorter because of pitch counts. But as far as stuff goes, he's pretty confident in what he has to do."
Royals: Team enjoying chance to work with Brett
• The Royals were looking for a spark after losing eight straight games. They turned to Hall of Famer George Brett, who joined the staff on Thursday as the hitting coach.
"He just brings that X-factor," catcher George Kottaras said. "It's George Brett, the Hall of Famer. He's done a lot of great things in his career and he's still here."
Brett stays involved with the team during Spring Training every year, but this is his first coaching stint with the Royals.
"He's here for us," Kottaras continued. "Any questions we have, we just talk and sit there and he's backing us up 100 percent, so it's good to have him. It kind of changes the mood around here having him around. He definitely speaks his mind and it's just been a lot of fun."
Since he joined the staff, the Royals have gone 2-2.
• Royals catcher Salvador Perez will rejoin the team on Monday after missing the last seven games on bereavement leave. He ranks second in the AL for hits by a catcher with 47.
• Royals left fielder Alex Gordon had his 24th multi-hit game on Sunday, which tied him for the league lead.
• The Twins' 10-0 victory was their third shutout of the season.
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.