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CLE@MIN: Nolasco strikes out six over 6 2/3 innings

The last-place Twins will get a chance to inflict some more damage to the top of their division when they begin a series against the American League Central-leading Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday night.

In its most recent series, Minnesota took two of four games from the Tigers, who are fighting for a playoff spot and currently in second in the AL Central.

The Royals are coming off a loss to the Yankees in a makeup from an earlier rainout, and they'll face Ricky Nolasco on Tuesday in the series opener against Minnesota.

The right-hander will be making his third start since coming back from a strained pitching elbow that had him on the disabled list.

Nolasco (5-9, 5.96 ERA) gave up four runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings in his last start against the Indians, but he didn't receive any run support in a 5-0 loss. It was a slight improvement from his first start coming off the DL, when he gave up five runs in six innings -- against the Royals.

"I thought it was a lot better," Nolasco said. "I made a lot of good pitches. But I also had a couple I wanted back. But at the end of the day, I thought I threw the ball well. It's getting there and a step in the right direction as far as feeling good."

The Minnesota offense has also been rolling, as the Twins lead the Majors in runs scored this month and scored 42 runs in their series against the Tigers -- including 20 on Friday and 12 in Game 1 of their doubleheader on Saturday.

The Twins' bats will come up against Royals left-hander Danny Duffy on Tuesday. Duffy is 8-11 with a 2.53 ERA on the season, and is 3-1 in August. In Duffy's last start, one bad inning snapped his three-game win streak.

Pitching at Colorado, he gave up a grand slam to Matt McBride in the sixth of his seven innings in a 5-2 loss. A two-out error made all four runs unearned, but Duffy blamed himself for walking left-handed batter Corey Dickerson to load the bases.

"I think the walk killed me the most," Duffy said afterward. "I've been really good with lefties the entire year, and I just nibbled a little bit. I'm more upset about the Dickerson at-bat than the McBride at-bat."

Duffy's had some success against the Twins, going 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA in nine career outings. This season, in five games (three starts), he's 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA.

Royals: Expecting excitement to build
When the Royals left on their recent road trip, they'd held first place in the AL Central for just three days at home. So the city didn't really have much time to get used to the idea.

But now the Royals are back, still in first place, and they're expecting some good crowds and rising excitement.

"Excitement, a buzz, energy," manager Ned Yost said. "It's fun to play baseball where you're fighting for a championship, fighting for the playoffs and your fans are in it, too. So I think it should be an electric-type atmosphere, too."

Yost was asked if the Royals might now get some "professional respect" after taking the division lead.

"I don't care about the professional respect right now. The only thing I care about is helping this team get to the playoffs," he said. "Everything else will come with that. But right now, our focus is winning baseball games and treating this city to playoff baseball."

The buzz was present at Kauffman Stadium on Monday night, when 32,358 boisterous fans came to watch the Royals in a makeup of a June 9 rainout. The current 10-game homestand runs through Sept. 3.

Twins: Pino headed to DL with minor elbow strain
Right-hander Yohan Pino underwent an MRI exam after feeling some elbow discomfort during his start in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader, and he was diagnosed with a minor strain of his ulnar collateral ligament.

Pino came up as the club's 26th man on the roster for the twin bill and gave up four runs (one earned) over five innings to get his second career win. He was optioned back to Rochester after the game, but Pino reported that his elbow began to flare up during the third inning, and he will remain in Minnesota to be treated by the club's medical staff at Target Field.

He'll be placed on the Minor League disabled list instead of the Major League disabled list because he was technically sent back to Rochester after his start.

"They think it'll be two to four weeks before he's able to throw here," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "But as the 26th man, he has to go back. It's a stipulation as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that he has to be DLed at Rochester."

Worth noting
• Although he lost on Sunday, Kansas City's Jason Vargas recorded a quality start, allowing three runs (two earned) in six innings. The Royals pitching staff now has 76 quality starts on the year, second in the AL to Oakland.

• With a seventh-inning double on Sunday, Trevor Plouffe tied the Twins' single-season club record for doubles by a third baseman. Plouffe now has 37 doubles this season, fourth-most in the Majors, tying Corey Koskie's mark set in 2001 and '02.

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