The Kansas City Royals seemed an unlikely pick to be a thorn in the side of a team pursuing the best record in the American League, but they've been exactly that over the past week.
With a 7-1 road victory on Monday, the Royals wreaked further havoc on the Houston Astros' aspirations for league supremacy. Kansas City took three of four from the Astros at home last week and then swept a three-game road series against the Chicago Cubs.
"We're building off of (Sunday), and each day we just take something positive that we've been doing," Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said.
The Royals have won seven of nine road games after losing 16 of 18 away from Kauffman Stadium. Their offense has caught fire, following a season-best 16 hits in the finale against the Cubs with 13 against the Astros in the opener of the three-game series.
"Guys are buying in," Matheny said. "They're game-planning well, and right now they're just fighting through at-bats."
Right-hander Brady Singer (3-8, 5.23 ERA) will make his second consecutive start against the Astros on Tuesday. Singer did not get a decision when he faced Houston on Aug. 18, when he allowed two runs on six hits and two walks with six strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in the Royals' 3-2 victory.
It was his first career appearance against Houston.
Singer has allowed two earned runs or fewer in six of his past eight starts but remains winless in his last 10 starts since early June. Singer is 1-3 with a 5.25 ERA on the road.
Rookie right-hander Luis Garcia (9-6, 3.39 ERA) gets the starts for the Astros on Tuesday. Garcia did not get a decision when he allowed three runs on four hits and one walk with three strikeouts over five innings in the Astros' 6-3, 10-inning win over the Royals on Thursday.
Since logging seven innings twice during a four-start span to open June, Garcia is 4-2 with a 4.27 ERA over nine starts and has not worked more than six innings in any of those appearances.
The Astros' loss on Monday assured Kansas City of winning the season series. Houston is 1-4 against the Royals, who were in last place before their recent hot streak.
The loss also continued a mystifying trend for the Astros, particularly at home, where they have been swept by the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles this season. They also dropped three of four against the visiting Minnesota Twins earlier this month.
"It's been tough," Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel said. "We haven't been able to take care of business against teams that are not on the same level in the standings."
The substandard showing against non-contenders might prove costly in September as the Astros battle the Oakland Athletics for the AL West title while also pursuing the best record in the league. The Astros have squandered several opportunities to boost their record in the thick of a pennant chase.
"It's very disappointing," Houston manager Dusty Baker said. "That's what happens when you play back-to-back series (against the Royals). They're hot and feeling pretty good about themselves.
"It doesn't matter if it's the softer part of the schedule as far as everybody is concerned. They don't feel like it's the softer part of the schedule. These teams are playing loose and you can tell. They're as dangerous as a contender."
--Field Level Media
FROM THE ARCHIVES