Royals ride first three-game sweep into home series with Tigers

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the All-Star break began, the Kansas City Royals owned the worst record in the majors at 27-68. The industry joke was all the Royals needed was a 41-game winning streak to get back to .500.

The Royals will not see anything close to .500 this season and probably will not be able to avoid 100 losses, but they did register their first series sweep of the year, taking three straight from the Minnesota Twins to match their longest winning streak of the season.

They will try to extend that Monday when they open a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium.

“We needed it,” Kansas City catcher Drew Butera said of the sweep. “I think the four days (break) did us well. We kind of regrouped ourselves both physically and mentally. We have a good team. We haven’t been playing the way we should have been, having the results we should have been. This was nice to come back and get the second half on the right foot and, hopefully, get on a little roll here.”

Butera hit an inside-the-park homer to break a tie in the seventh inning in a 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday to conclude the sweep. It was the first inside-the-park home run by a Royals catcher since Brent Mayne did it twice in 1991.

“It doesn’t hurt, does it?” Royals manager Ned Yost said of winning three straight. “When we left for the All-Star break, I got the boys together and said, ‘Look, go home, enjoy your four days, catch your breath, relax, breathe deep, breathe out. Just relax and be ready to get back after the break and compete.’

“And they’ve done a wonderful job. I’m really pleased. I think our offense is really starting to come back around. I think our bullpen has been really good these here last few days. I think our starting pitching has been really good. I’m happy that we came off the break exactly the way we wanted to with three wins.”

The Royals will face another struggling team in the Tigers, who are 17 games below .500 and dropped two of three to the Boston Red Sox. The Tigers were held to five hits, struck out 10 times and lost for the eighth time in 10 games.

Left-hander Francisco Liriano, a familiar face, will start the opener for Detroit. He is 3-5 with a 4.67 ERA in 15 starts this season. In 79 innings, he has allowed 66 hits, walked 45 and struck out 63 while yielding 42 runs, only one unearned (4.67 ERA).

He went 6-7 with a 5.66 ERA in 18 starts and 20 relief appearances last season with the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros. He has a career record of 105-104 with a 4.17 ERA with six clubs.

Liriano last pitched July 15 in a no-decision against the Astros, coming out after three innings with tightness in his back. He gave up a run on on hits and three walks while striking out three.

Liriano has faced the Royals 22 times, including 19 starts, in his career. He is 8-5 with a 4.03 ERA, allowing 51 earned runs and striking out 93 over 114 innings.

He is 1-0 with a 2.37 ERA in three starts this season against Kansas City. In nine career starts and one relief appearance at Kauffman Stadium, Liriano is 4-3 with a 3.40 ERA.

The Royals will counter with rookie right-hander Heath Fillmyer, who will be making his second career start. Fillmyer’s other start was a 7-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox on July 8, when he allowed four runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings.

While the Royals are familiar with Liriano, this will be Fillmyer’s first time to face the Tigers. Overall, he is 0-1 with a 3.45 ERA in five appearances.

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