KANSAS CITY -- Tommy Milone continued his impressive stretch since replacing Ricky Nolasco in the Twins' rotation, making the decision on what to do once Ervin Santana returns from his 80-game suspension for PED use on Saturday even more difficult.
Milone gave up just one run over six innings to lower his ERA to 1.95 over his last six starts, but it wasn't enough, as the bullpen couldn't protect a late lead in a 3-2 loss to the Royals in 10 innings on Friday night.
The Twins still haven't announced whether Santana will replace a starter or if they'll go to a six-man rotation heading into the All-Star break.
Milone said it's something he's thought about, but he's trying his best to put in the back of his mind, and feels like he's pitched well enough to make his case to stick in the rotation.
"Yeah, it's in there, but you try not to think about it, especially when you get between the lines," Milone said. "It's not going to do anything but hurt you. I'm just trying to do my job and give the team a chance to win. Since I've been back, I feel like I've been pretty confident commanding the zone."
Milone, the lone lefty in the rotation, has a 3.03 ERA in 10 starts, but he has really shined in his last six outings since taking over for Nolasco in early June after a stint at Triple-A Rochester.
"This is probably one of the best stretches of my career," Milone said. "I'm feeling good and feeling confident every time I go out there. At the end of the day, I'm just trying to get the team a win."
Milone put the Twins in position to win, but Casey Fien gave up a game-tying RBI bloop single to Kendrys Morales with two out in the eighth. The Twins got out of a bases loaded jam in the ninth with a five-man infield on a wild play that saw Dusty Coleman break for home on a sacrifice fly, only to change his mind and get thrown out going back to third to end the inning.
But the Royals ultimately won it on an infield chopper from Jarrod Dyson, as Lorenzo Cain raced home from third and just barely beat the throw to the plate from Joe Mauer to give the Royals a win that was confirmed by a replay review.
"It's a tough loss," manager Paul Molitor said. "We give up the lead in the eighth on a ball up the middle and they end up flaring one out to left field, which was tough because Casey was throwing the ball well. Somehow we dodged that bullet there in the ninth and sometimes there's luck involved when you go in that direction and try to plug as many infield holes as you can.
"To me, the big story is we didn't score enough. Tommy did a nice job. The bullpen did a nice job for the most part. You have to try to find a way to score more runs."