As Kansas City strives to make a push for the playoffs, it might have to do so on the strength of beating Minnesota.
The Royals took care of business on Tuesday night with a 7-2 win at Target Field, as the American League Central rivals get set to square off Wednesday night in the middle game of a three-game set.
Including Wednesday's tilt, the teams will square off eight times over the next month.
"They're a good baseball team and they've got pitching -- we've got three of their best [in this series]," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They're very athletic. It's a good baseball team. We've had a tough time with them this year already. We're going to have to play some good baseball."
The Twins are 3-8 this year against the Royals -- 2-3 at home. Of the teams' eight remaining games against each other, five are at Target Field.
Hoping to help reverse those less-than-stellar records is Minnesota right-hander Kevin Correia, who starts on Wednesday.
Correia (7-7, 4.56 ERA) has been the Twins' most consistent pitcher, but his last outing was not one of his finer efforts. Last Friday against the Mariners, he gave up six runs on seven hits, including an early three-run home run to Nick Franklin and lasted only 1 2/3 innings.
"It was obviously my worst start of the year," Correia said. "I felt all right, I think the first half of the second inning, I was making good pitches, it just kind of got a couple balls through the hole and then I make a couple bad pitches after that, and they just kept hammering them."
Correia last saw the Royals on June 30, an outing in which he gave up five runs on seven hits and three walks. Through five innings, he struck out three, but received a no-decision in Twins' 9-8 loss.
For the Royals, Tuesday's win lifted them above the .500 mark for the first time since improving to 20-19 after a win in Oakland on May 18.
They've won a season-high seven straight games and nine of 11 since the All-Star break.
With that momentum, Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie takes the mound on Wednesday hoping to gain some momentum of his own.
After allowing five earned runs in three of his first four July outings, Guthrie notched his 10th win of the season against Baltimore on July 25. He allowed one run on six hits with five strikeouts over six innings.
"I told a lot of people to ask me about the Royals over the break, how we were doing, where we were, and I said, 'We need to win five out of seven or we'll be in big trouble,'" Guthrie said after that start. "I thought about that and said, 'OK, now I get the chance to help the team do that.' "
Royals: Santana talks quiet near Trade Deadline
All has been calm on the Royals' front as the clock ticked toward the non-waiver Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. CT on Wednesday.
"It can develop fast, but nothing really going on right now," manager Ned Yost said before Tuesday's series opener against the Twins. "Talking, but not much action."
Speculation about possibly dealing right-hander Ervin Santana, Tuesday's winner, has simmered and cooled since the Royals came out of the All-Star break with an 9-2 surge that has put them above the .500 mark and just five games out in the American League Wild Card race.
Twins: Mourneau hoping to stay in Minnesota
First baseman Justin Morneau was a late addition to the list of Twins representatives on hand for the unveiling of the 2014 All-Star Game logo at Target Field on Tuesday, causing manager Ron Gardenhire to joke about Morneau's trade status on the eve of the Trade Deadline.
Morneau has been the subject of trade rumors leading up to the Deadline, as he's in the final year of a contract that pays him $14 million and the Twins sitting in fourth place in the AL Central.
But Gardenhire took a light-hearted approach to those trade rumblings with Morneau joining Minnesota natives Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins for the All-Star logo press conference.
"I asked him how he got in on the 2014 logo if he's not going to be here -- he laughed," Gardenhire said. "You've got to have fun with it. It's serious stuff but still, I want him to be relaxed and play baseball. You can't control that stuff."
• The three runs Twins reliever Brian Duensing allowed in Tuesday's game were more than the Minnesota bullpen had surrendered in the previous 20 2/3 innings.
• Mike Moustakas' two-homer game on Tuesday gave him four home runs in July, the most he's hit in a month this season.
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.