MINNEAPOLIS — The Kansas City Royals have won eight straight series for the first time since 1991, when a guy named George Brett was still getting hits.

Erik Kratz homered twice after replacing an ailing Salvador Perez, and Jason Vargas pitched seven strong innings to lead the first-place Royals to a 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.

Vargas (10-5) allowed one run on four this and struck out three, but had his scoreless innings streak snapped at 17 when Oswaldo Arcia hit a solo homer in the seventh.

Perez had two hits and two RBIs before leaving in the seventh because of discomfort in his right knee, helping the Royals win for the 21st time in 26 games.

Kansas City extended its lead over the idle Detroit Tigers in the AL Central to two games.

When Perez left, Kratz came in as a pinch hitter and drove a pitch over the wall in left field for a 4-0 lead. He added a solo shot to center in the ninth for his first multihomer game.

Top Pirate returns

PITTSBURGH — Pirates star Andrew McCutchen expects to come off the disabled list when he is eligible to return today.

McCutchen pronounced himself “good to go” after taking live batting practice Monday. The reigning NL MVP is batting .311 with 17 homers and 67 RBIs in 109 games.

McCutchen, who has been out with a rib injury, wore padding on his torso while facing a Pirates farmhand at PNC Park before Monday’s game against Atlanta.

McCutchen experienced sharp pain while taking a swing in an Aug. 3 loss at Arizona. He was placed on the DL on Aug. 11 after not playing for a week.

Inside pitch

  • Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton was out of the lineup again for Monday night’s game against the Red Sox, a day after asking for a day off. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that Hamilton needs another day to relax and he would be coming to the park early today to work on things.
  • New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon will be placed on the bereavement list today and reliever Gonzalez Germen will take his spot. Colon will miss at least three games and up to seven. Colon was scheduled to start Monday, but he left the team to be with his mother in the Dominican Republic. She is extremely ill. The veteran’s next start is projected for Sunday against the Dodgers.
  • Pittsburgh minor league pitcher Michael Clemens was suspended 68 games without pay for possession and use of human growth hormone.
  • Boston optioned center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to Triple-A Pawtucket and recalled outfielder/infielder Mookie Betts.
  • The slumping Cincinnati Reds activated Brandon Phillips (thumb) from the 15-day disabled list.
  • Washington agreed to a minor league deal with Nate Schierholtz and assigned the veteran outfielder to Triple-A Syracuse. Schierholtz, 30, is a .254 career hitter with 51 home runs and 224 RBIs.