The Minnesota Twins’ hopes for an American League Central title and a postseason playoff berth took a major hit over the weekend after suffering a three-game home sweep against the first-place Cleveland Guardians.

But manager Rocco Baldelli said his team isn’t ready to throw in the towel as it opens a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night in Minneapolis.

“It’s not the series we were even close to looking for here,” Baldelli said after Sunday’s 4-1 loss dropped Minnesota below .500 (69-70) for the first time since April 23 (7-8) and 4 1/2 games behind the Guardians. “One thing we’re not going to do is dig a hole and sit here and bury ourselves and say this is over. This thing is not over. It’s not even close to over.”

The Twins, who have 23 games remaining, still have a crucial five-game series with the Guardians coming up in Cleveland this weekend to try and make up ground. And the defending division champion Chicago White Sox, who began Monday in second place 2 1/2 games out of first, still have four games left with Cleveland and six with the Twins.

“I think the other teams we’re going to be competing against, they also know it’s not over,” Baldelli said. “So what we have to do is pick ourselves up right now and show up on Tuesday. And we’ve got to go out there and start winning some ball games.”

“We just need to work hard and play baseball,” said first baseman Luis Arraez, who is in the hunt for the American League batting title with a .315 average. “That’s what I say every time. We just need to enjoy the game.”

Minnesota is 9-4 against Kansas City (57-84) this season, including a pair of three-game series sweeps, the last one coming Aug. 15-17 at Target Field when the Twins outscored the Royals 17-2 in the process.

Tuesday’s opener features a starting pitching rematch from that series. Left-hander Kris Bubic (2-11, 5.40 ERA) will start for Kansas City and will be opposed by right-hander Joe Ryan (10-8, 4.05).

Ryan is 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three career starts against the Royals, including a 4-2 victory on Aug. 15 against Bubic in Minneapolis when he allowed two runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings while striking out six.

Bubic is 1-4 with a 4.91 ERA in eight career games and seven starts against the Twins and picked up the loss in the Aug. 15 meeting, yielding four runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out seven and brings a 1-2 record and 4.43 ERA in five career games and four starts at Target Field.

Kansas City comes in off a 4-0 victory over visiting Detroit on Sunday as Brady Singer allowed just four hits and a walk over seven innings while striking out six. Singer (8-4) joins Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie as the only starters in the American League this season with four starts with at least seven scoreless innings.

“He thrives in situations that are tough or a little different,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said of the 26-year-old Singer, who has emerged as the team’s ace. “He knows that we’ve lost a couple of games. It’s almost like he willed it to happen. … That’s what the good ones do, whether they have their good stuff or not. So take that mentality, mix it with good stuff, you’re going to see special things happen. Today was a special outing for Brady.”

–Field Level Media