When the Royals and the Twins open a three-game set on Tuesday at Target Field, they'll both be looking to welcome a few players back into their lineup.
With an off-day on Monday, the Royals expect to have center fielder Lorenzo Cain back after missing Sunday's game against the White Sox due to some groin tightness. Cain experienced some issues after running down a Jeff Keppinger line drive and crashing into the wall on Saturday night.
"It was something similar when I ran into the wall at Oakland that time," Cain said, referring to his mishap in April 2012. "I went into the wall and kind of felt something in my left groin. So, we're kind of day to day right now."
Meanwhile the Twins will welcome new dad Joe Mauer back into the clubhouse. Mauer missed two games in Anaheim and the four-game series in Seattle as his wife went into labor prematurely with their twins on Tuesday night.
Manager Ron Gardenhire said he was thinking of checking in with his All-Star catcher on Sunday, but he didn't want to get in the way of what he as the father of three grown children knows is a hectic life for Mauer right now.
"I know he's got so much going on," Gardenhire said, noting all the family and friends Mauer is hosting amid the births and subsequent, sleep-deprived nights.
When asked if he expected a cigar from Mauer when he rejoins the team, Gardenhire joked, "I'm just waiting on my T-shirts from the All-Star Game. My T-shirts and cap.
"I know cigars are coming. Yes, I'll make sure I get a good cigar from him, I promise you that. It's going to be two cigars. It's two kids."
While the Twins are looking forward to the return of their All-Star catcher, they'll turn to Mike Pelfrey (4-8, 5.15 ERA) to get things done on the mound on Tuesday. He last saw the Royals on June 6 -- an outing in which he threw 6 1/3 innings and gave up three runs on seven hits and one walk.
Meanwhile, right-hander Ervin Santana will toe the rubber for the Royals. He is 6-6 with a 3.06 ERA, but has been slightly more efficient of late -- 3-1 and a 2.78 ERA in his last 10 outings. One of those starts included a game on June 30 at Minnesota. Santana received a no-decision, allowing three runs on five hits and four walks while striking out five.
Royals: Kansas City hits .500 mark
With a 4-2 extra-innings win over the White Sox on Sunday, the Royals improved to 51-51 on the season and reached .500 for the first time since June 17, when they were 34-34. After the win on June 17, the Royals dropped their next four games.
• Not only did the Royals improve to .500, but they also extended their winning streak to six games, which included a three-game series sweep of the White Sox.
"It's really cool," said Alex Gordon, who hit a decisive two-run homer in the 12th inning on Sunday. "Since I've been here, I don't think we've been .500 this late in the year so this is a lot of fun. We've got a lot of guys playing well and picking each other up. This is a good team right now."
Twins: Minnesota gearing for a tough stretch
Tuesday marks the start of a long grind for the Twins as they'll play 20 games in 20 days. They have an off-day on Aug. 8, but it's offset by a doubleheader the following day against the White Sox -- making up a rainout on April 19 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Gardenhire has been prepping for the stretch by resting some key players over the Seattle series, including Pedro Florimon on Saturday and Justin Morneau, who served as the designated hitter on Sunday.
"We're just playing everybody; I want to make sure that everybody is involved," Gardenhire said on Saturday. "We're going into a stretch of games here when everybody's going to play. We have so many games with very little days off."
• The Twins are 9-14 since the last time they played the Royals on June 27-30, when the teams split a four-game series at Target Field.
Kelly Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.