At 42-39 and in second place in the American League Central, the Royals have been one of the surprise teams of 2014, even temporarily overtaking the first-place Tigers earlier this month.
But in its continued journey to end a nearly three-decade playoff drought, Kansas City will face a significant test the next two weeks: a nine-game road trip, then four straight against the Tigers to take them to the All-Star break.
That stretch starts at 7:10 p.m. CT Monday when left-hander Danny Duffy gets the ball opposite right-hander Yohan Pino and the Twins at Target Field. It will be the first meeting between the clubs since Minnesota took four of six in April.
Duffy pitched in the previous series, combining for 4 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. He moved to the rotation at the beginning of May and has been sharp ever since, posting a 2.76 ERA and 1.09 WHIP while limiting opposing batters to a .192 average in 10 starts.
The most recent of those outings came Tuesday against the Dodgers. Duffy allowed one run on four hits and four walks in six innings, absorbing the loss in a 2-0 decision favoring Los Angeles.
"He didn't have his best stuff, he wasn't sharp and he found a way to get us through six innings with just one run scored against him," manager Ned Yost said after the game. "I thought it was a great job."
This will be Duffy's first start against Minnesota since late August 2013, when he shut out the Twins for 6 2/3. He owns a career 2.29 ERA and 1.22 WHIP against the Twins.
Conversely, Pino has never seen the Royals -- or most other Major League teams. This will be just the third big league start for the 30-year-old journeyman. After limiting the White Sox to two runs in seven innings June 19, Pino lasted just three innings while yielding five runs to the Angels on Wednesday.
"I just missed a couple pitches with two strikes, and that was my problem," Pino said afterward. "I left a couple pitches up in the zone and they got hits. My changeup wasn't every good today. I just have to keep working. I have another start and hopefully I do better."
Pino didn't initially expect to make this start. The Twins optioned him to Triple-A Rochester on Thursday before recalling him Friday when shortstop Danny Santana hit the disabled list.
"Crazy," Pino said upon returning to the Major League team again. "I was supposed to fly today [Friday] to Rochester, and they called me this morning [saying] Santana doesn't feel good."
Royals: Cain tore up LA pitching
Lorenzo Cain's Sunday didn't start off too well -- his first-inning error allowed the Angels a second run -- but by game's end he more than made up for it.
The Kansas City right fielder finished 4-for-5 with three doubles, including a fourth-inning line drive to left that plated two runs.
That effort caps an impressive run against Los Angeles pitching. As the Royals played host to the Dodgers and the Angels this week, Cain went 11-for-27 (.407) with five extra-base hits and five RBIs in six games. His four hits Sunday tied a season high (May 5 and May 26).
Cain continuing that hot hitting against the Twins wouldn't exactly be a surprise. He is a career .317/.386/.465 hitter against Minnesota, Cain's best numbers against any of the AL Central teams.
Twins: Mauer riding 10-game hit streak
This season has been a subpar one for Joe Mauer through the first three months, but with a third-inning, two-out RBI single on Sunday, the Minnesota first baseman has a season-high 10-game hitting streak to his credit.
Mauer is hitting .375 (15-for-40) with a .405 on-base percentage and five doubles in that stretch, which started June 19. He's also knocked in 10 runs in those 10 games.
Mauer's .271 average would be his lowest over the course of a full Major League season, but he is trending upward. Before this streak, Mauer was hitting .254.
• Neither team has played particularly well of late. The Royals are 3-7 in their last 10 games, while the Twins lost five straight before pulling out a 3-2 win over the Rangers on Sunday. It snapped a 10-game road losing streak.
• With an 0-for-4 effort on Sunday, Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier is hitting .200 (10-for-50) in his last 14 games, which also ties his longest homerless streak of the season. He also has just one extra-base hit in that stretch, a double on June 19.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.