Kansas City Royals (+100) at Minnesota Twins (-110, 8.5 o/u)
Early in the season, it looked like the Kansas City Royals (31-23) and Detroit Tigers were going to run away with the AL Central. Both teams have skidded of late, though, and the surprising Minnesota Twins (33-23) have taken over the division lead. Tonight, the Royals will look to get back on level terms with the Twinkies when they travel to Target Field in Minneapolis for the first of a three-game set (8:10 PM Eastern).
The Twins have opened up a one-game lead at the top of the division thanks to an AL-best 20-9 home record. Minnesota did drop two at home to the lowly Brewers, but rebounded with a 2-0 yesterday on the strength of eight shutout innings from Mike Pelfrey pitched 8.0 innings.
“That was a big-time performance,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said to the Associated Press. “It’s been a rough week for our bullpen in terms of usage, so to get eight innings was really, really big.”
Tonight, Minnesota will send righty Phil Hughes (4-5, 4.96 ERA) to the mound. Hughes saw his ERA jump last time out, allowing 11 hits and five runs in just 4.5 innings in a 6-3 loss to the Red Sox.
Like Minnesota, the Royals lost two of three in their last series (against Texas), but managed to take the finale (4-3). Tonight’s game marks the start of an eight-game road trip for the World Series runners-up, who will go on to face St. Louis and Milwaukee before returning home.
Kansas City will counter Hughes with lefty Jason Vargas (4-2, 4.79 ERA). Vargas has been trending up, winning three of his last four. But Minnesota has been solid against left-handed pitching, winning 15 of 22 against lefty starters this season.
So, even though Kansas City has won the last three in the series, considering the Twins home record and their success against lefties, they offer better value tonight.
Pick: Twins (-110).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “AAAA7323”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)