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TB@KC: Vargas allows one run in eight strong innings

Around the Royals, four runs became sort of the magic number. Get four and, generally, good things would happen.

That was the pattern last season when the Royals had a 64-13 record when they scored at least four runs. When you've also got the American League's best ERA, 3.45, that's a pretty good combination.

That seems to be carrying over into 2014. Going into Sunday's game against the Twins, the Royals have won four games and each time they had four or more runs. Fewer than that, they've lost -- six times.

What the Royals need is more offense. They've had just one run in each of two losses at Target Field, outscored, 17-2.

"We've had some ups and downs, but throughout the season, you're going to have the offense hitting really good and the pitching is going to give up some runs," designated hitter Billy Butler said. "And then you're going to have some games like [Friday] night where we couldn't score and that's when you get blown out [10-1]. But hopefully, we can put it together and we're on the same side of things more often than not. That's the way it is, that's why we play 162 games."

Left-hander Jason Vargas -- who is 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA in two starts for the Royals -- will oppose right-hander Kevin Correia as the Twins go for a three-game sweep in Sunday's series finale.

While the Royals have managed all of one home run in their first 10 games, the Twins have nine homers in their 11. Two are by Josmil Pinto, a catcher-designated hitter whose power has the organization drooling over his potential. He had a towering blast to left field off Kansas City starter Bruce Chen on Friday night.

"To have pop in our lineup is something we've been striving for for a long time," Twins acting manager Terry Steinbach said. "He showed us in the brief three weeks he was up last year what he can do to our offense.

"We're going to try to get him in there as much as we can, as well as trying to get him behind the plate. He's a young kid that has some talent back there and he has to grow. As long as he's swinging the bat like he is, we're going to get him in there as much as we can."

Last year, Pinto had 19 home runs and 37 doubles combined for Double-A New Britain, Triple-A Rochester and Minnesota. He also hit .342 in 21 games for the Twins.

Twins: Gardenhire expected back
Manager Ron Gardenhire is expected to return to the Twins' dugout on Sunday after missing the first two games of the series.

Gardenhire was away for the funeral of Michael Hirschbeck, son of former umpire John Hirschbeck, in the Akron, Ohio, area. The younger Hirschbeck, 27, died after a long battle with a brain disease.

He had served as a Twins batboy during past Spring Trainings and developed a friendship with Gardenhire and others in the Twins organization.

Royals: Thin again in infield
The arrival of left-hander Danny Duffy as the team's 12th pitcher meant that infielder Johnny Giavotella returned to Triple-A Omaha.

That left the Royals with only Danny Valencia as a backup infielder and he's primarily a third baseman, although he's already been used to fill in for Omar Infante at second base.

Bottom line, though, is there's really no logical replacement at shortstop so it's extremely unlikely that a pinch-hitter will be used for Alcides Escobar.

Worth noting
• This will be the 10th day game in the Twins' 12 games so far. For the Royals, it's the eighth day game in 11 games.

• Mauer is 7-for-18 (.389) in his career against Royals starter Jason Vargas with six RBIs.

• Jason Kubel has a seven-game hitting streak in which he's 13-for-29 (.448) with six RBIs. His overall average of .405 leads the Twins.

• Salvador Perez has at least one hit in 29 of his 34 career games against the Twins with a .385 (50-for-130) average. Comments