The Minnesota Twins headed into the penultimate week of the Major League Baseball season with a slim chance of making the postseason.
That's better than the Kansas City Royals, who have been mathematically eliminated for a while.
The Twins will conclude their season series with the Royals beginning Tuesday evening. The Twins will hand the ball to Dylan Bundy (8-7, 4.68 ERA). The Royals will counter with Zack Greinke (4-9, 4.10 ERA).
The Twins lost to the Cleveland Guardians 11-4 Monday. They entered the bottom of the sixth inning trailing just 4-3, but they gave up three in the sixth and four more in the eighth.
To make matters worse, starting pitcher Sonny Gray left after throwing 44 pitches in two innings with a recurrence of the right hamstring troubles that had put him on the Injured List in late April and also resulted in an early exit from his Sept. 2 start against the White Sox.
The Twins are limping home, going 6-12 in September, including losing seven of eight September games against the first-place Guardians.
The Twins entered September trailing the Guardians by a game and a half, and that deficit dropped to one game after the Guardians lost to the Orioles on Sept. 1.
The Twins lost two of three to the White Sox, three of four to the Yankees and three straight to Cleveland. A three-game sweep of the Royals offered a little hope before losing four of five in Cleveland.
"I'm not ready to talk about the season like it's behind us," manager Rocco Baldelli said after Monday's loss. "I don't think that's appropriate. We still have guys in that clubhouse that are ready to work and that are ready to play, and we still have games to play."
Maybe matching up against the Royals is what the Twins need. They're 12-4 against Kansas City in 2022, with only these three games remaining. Anything short of a sweep would be disastrous, if not surprising.
Bundy will be making his second start of the season against the Royals. He took a no-decision in his last start, Sept. 15. He's 2-2 with a 4.11 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts) against the Royals in his career.
The Royals have gone 10-21 since the start of a three-game series in Minnesota in mid-August. They're in danger of losing at least 100 games for the third time in the last four seasons.
The Royals traded away most of their veteran position players before the trade deadline, meaning there were many days like Sunday when a majority of the starting lineup was made up of rookies.
"We're always looking at those good at-bats, the hard contact, the situational hitting," Royals manager Mike Matheny said after Sunday's 13-3 loss to the Red Sox in Boston.
"We're seeing guys taking some good at-bats, fighting through some counts. Seeing everything that we want to see from all of them. Overall, they're putting together good at-bats and those are gonna pay off in the long run."
Greinke, who was brought in to provide leadership to a young rotation, has pitched better than his 4-9 record.
He has made two starts since returning from right forearm tightness. He's allowed four runs in 10 innings. In his first start after his return, Greinke allowed one run on six hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out two.
He's 0-4 with a respectable 4.74 ERA this season against the Twins. He's 5-13 with a 4.65 ERA in 29 appearances (25 starts) in his career against Minnesota.
--Field Level Media