The Royals have been streaky all year, and they appear to be trending in the right direction at the right time.
Kansas City commenced the season with a 17-10 mark before enduring a 6-22 stretch. After winning 20 of 32 games, the Royals dropped five straight contests entering the All-Star break. Since the break, they have gone 14-3, including 12 wins in their last 13 games.
"It's a long season. It's a marathon season," manager Ned Yost said. "I always tell our guys -- and they know -- you can't get too high when we're doing good and you can't get too low when we're not doing good, because every team's going to scuffle down the road and sometimes they're going to scuffle twice. It's the good teams that are going to bounce back from that scuffle and continue to press forward, and our kids have done a good job of that."
The Royals thumped the Twins, 13-0, in Monday's series opener to push their record to five games above the .500 mark. Yost isn't taking the fourth-place Twins lightly.
"We know that they're a very good offensive team over there and they can jump up and get you any time," Yost said. "So our focus is to continue to do what we do: Pitching good, catch the ball and get some hits when we need 'em."
The Royals sit 3 1/2 games behind the Indians and 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers in the American League Central. Detroit and Cleveland will tangle three more times this week. The Tigers claimed the first contest of their four-game set.
"We've just got to worry about what's going on in here," said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. "We can't worry about what's going on in Detroit or Cleveland's locker room. Obviously, they've been playing good baseball too. They're good teams. That's what we knew before getting into this whole thing. We've got to stay consistent with what we've been doing and if we continue to win ballgames, we should be in a fine spot."
Meanwhile, Monday's loss snapped the Twins' three-game winning streak. Minnesota swept Houston over the weekend. Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire has been impressed by the Royals, who outscored his club, 18-7, in a three-game sweep at Target Field last week.
"They're getting better and getting more experience," Gardenhire said. "They're still a young team, but they're full of enthusiasm right now. There's a lot of confidence on the other side and we saw that at home at our place. They have talent and it goes a long way. They play hard and run the bases and look for openings. It's what you do when you're winning. You try to take advantage of things and that's what they're doing."
Twins southpaw Andrew Albers will face a tall order in his Major League debut on Tuesday, when he faces the red-hot Royals. Albers was 11-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 22 starts at Triple-A Rochester.
Kansas City will counter with right-hander James Shields (6-7, 3.08 ERA).
"We've been working our butts off all season long to get to where we're at and I think if you asked us in Spring Training if we'd be in this situation right now, we'd take it all day," Shields said. "We've still got a lot of work to do. We've got a month and a half or two months left and we've got to grind it out."
Twins: Albers set for debut
In 132 1/3 innings at Rochester, Albers recorded 116 strikeouts and issued 32 free passes. The 27-year-old was a 10th-round pick by the Padres in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
"He put himself on our radar. You can't overlook what he's accomplished down there every time he pitches," general manager Terry Ryan said. "He has a knack of being able to produce quality innings. He's got just enough funk, he's got location, he's got deception, he's got the stomach and the heart."
Royals: Yost's bunch not short on confidence
A young bunch that has played together for a few years now, the Royals are brimming with confidence.
"We're definitely finding ways to win games whereas in the past we would play well and then make a mistake, then next thing you know we find ways to lose that game," said designated hitter Billy Butler. "Now, we've got the confidence going out there that if we hang in there long enough that we're going to do something good to win a game and that's a great thing for a change. I don't think it's going anywhere. This team's got too much character on it.
"I've said this since May: We've already played our worst baseball, so we could only go up from there."
• Miguel Tejada's eight-game hitting streak came to an end on Monday, when he went 0-for-3 with a walk. During the hot stretch, Tejada hit .414 (12-for-29) with five RBIs.
• The Royals have won 11 of 14 meetings with the Twins this season.
• Over his last three starts, Twins righty Kevin Correia has allowed 24 hits in 9 1/3 innings.