Kansas City, which leads Minnesota by 4 1/2 games, is embarking upon a season-long 11-game road trip that will run until the All-Star break. The Royals -- coming off a three-game sweep of the Rays -- have excelled away from Kauffman Stadium, going 20-16.
The Twins, who dropped two of three to the White Sox entering this series, have taken three of five from the Royals in 2012, although the teams split their two games at Target Field in April.
Friday's matchup features two pitchers who have split time between the rotation and the bullpen. Brian Duensing will make his second start of the season for the Twins, opposing Luis Mendoza.
Duensing was limited to a strict pitch count in his first start, Saturday against the Reds, and allowed four runs in three innings. After 30 relief appearances this season, the left-hander said he hit a wall while making 63 pitches, but otherwise felt good.
"I was throwing with a lot of conviction and a lot of confidence, and I feel like that was something I really didn't have last year as a starter," Duensing said. "I felt like I was hoping, or trying to will the ball where I wanted it to go. So that's a complete turnaround there. I know it was only three innings, but I felt good. It's something I can take to the next start."
Manager Ron Gardenhire expects to get about 75 pitches out of Duensing against the Royals.
"We were watching him as close as we possibly could," Gardenhire said of the last start. "It was right at that 50-60 [pitch] mark, and you could see it. It looked like it flattened out just a little on him, and that's expected. But he was throwing the ball really well."
Mendoza lasted 4 1/3 innings against the Cardinals on Saturday, when he made his eighth start out of 13 total appearances.
The Kansas City righty allowed three of his four runs in the fifth, and once again, he seemed to wear down as the game progressed. In Mendoza's starts, opponents have posted a .471 OPS in their first plate appearance against him, .766 in their second and .871 in their third.
"The whole game, I just tried to pitch on contact, tried to stay in the game long enough," Mendoza said Saturday. "In the fifth inning, the ground balls found the holes."
Royals: Some clarity behind the plate
Catcher Salvador Perez was activated from the disabled list last Friday, giving the Royals three catchers.
With Perez proving his health and batting .312, the club only needed one backup at the position. The Royals chose Brayan Pena, designating Humberto Quintero for assignment on Wednesday.
A 30-year-old switch-hitter, Pena has played in 40 games this year, batting .268 with a .652 OPS and improved defense. It's his fourth year with the organization.
"I never take anything for granted. I just go out there and do my job. I'm very thankful," Pena said. "Like I always say, I wish I could retire as a Royal. That's why I try to do my best and play my hardest."
The Royals filled Quintero's roster spot by recalling Jason Bourgeois from Triple-A Omaha for his second stint with the club this year. The right-handed-hitting outfielder started in center field against Rays lefty Matt Moore and went 1-for-2 with a walk.
"We've got a chance to see a bunch of lefties in the next week, 10 days," manager Ned Yost said. "We need another right-handed bat in the lineup."
Twins: Smooth ride for Revere
An 0-for-3 game on Wednesday against the White Sox provided a bump in the road, but outfielder Ben Revere has spent most of June on a tear.
He entered Wednesday with 12 multihit games this month and was tied for first in the AL with 35 total hits, while batting .347.
Revere also has stolen 11 bases in June and 15 for the year in only 42 games, ranking fourth in the league. He has been caught three times.
"He's pretty good at anticipating," Gardenhire said. "But it's a learning process. There's times where he'll take off and you say he has no chance, but he outruns the ball sometimes, which is nice to have that kind of makeup speed where you can outrun that mistake."
The White Sox touched up the Twins for 12 runs on Wednesday, the 34th time this season that Minnesota has allowed at least six runs. Only the Rockies have more of those games.
Mendoza has never pitched at Target Field. He took a loss against the Twins on June 6 in Kansas City, giving up two runs in five innings.
Duensing's ERA is 4.23 in 51 career starts and 3.25 in 89 relief outings.
He went 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA in five games, including four starts, against the Royals last season. In two relief appearances this year, he gave up two runs in two innings.