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Royals aim for consecutive wins over Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins signed veteran right-hander Lance Lynn in March in the hopes of bolstering their starting rotation for a possible run to the postseason after reaching the wild-card game a year ago.

Lynn (6-7, 5.21 ERA), who gets the starting nod Wednesday as the Twins wrap up a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Target Field, still could be a deciding factor during the season's final months, but it may not be while wearing a Twins uniform.

The 31-year-old has quietly pitched his way into the annual rumor mill ahead of baseball's annual non-waiver trade deadline by going 5-3 with a 3.49 ERA in his last nine starts, including a 2.83 ERA in five June outings.

He was tagged for seven runs and failed to get out of the second inning in his first July start but bounced back his last time out, holding the Orioles to a run on six hits while striking out three over six innings to snap a two-game losing streak.

Lynn himself is partially to blame for the Twins' woes in 2018. He opened the season 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA through his first eight starts before turning it around.

Combined with his track record during six seasons with the Cardinals, which includes a 5-4 record and 4.50 ERA in 24 postseason appearances, Lynn could be an attractive player for a contender looking to round out its rotation.

"He's been fairly steady for us," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It looks like he's really got command of his fastball. He can notch it up when he needs to."

Lynn is 1-1 with a 5.04 ERA in five career starts against the Royals. One of those starts came this season, when he allowed two runs and six hits over six innings and picked up a win in an 8-5 victory over the Royals on May 28.

Minnesota sits 8 1/2 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central after having its five-game winning streak snapped Tuesday night by Kansas City.

The Royals had dropped 10 in a row coming into Tuesday's contest and will try to win consecutive games for the first time since taking the last two contests of a three-game series with the Twins in Kansas City on May 29-30.

Twins right-hander Burch Smith (0-0, 5.40) will get his first start since 2013 on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old right-hander made seven starts for the Padres in 2013 but returned to the minors a year later before missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons following Tommy John surgery.

He spent last season in the Rays' minor league system and was acquired by the Royals after the Mets selected him sixth overall in the Rule 5 draft last winter.

Working out of the bullpen for Kansas City, Smith appeared in 24 games, allowing 23 runs on 38 hits with 39 strikeouts and 21 walks in 38 1/3 innings.

When struggling starter Jason Hammel was moved to the bullpen, manager Ned Yost decided to give Smith a chance.

"He's got more of a starter's mentality than a reliever, if you understand what I'm saying," Yost said. "It takes him a long time to get loose. He's got routines. It's not good for a reliever."

Smith has made two career appearances against the Twins, both this season as a reliever. He gave up five hits, three walks and seven runs over three innings in those outings, but did not get a decision in either.