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Royals begin series with visiting Diamondbacks

Journeyman right-hander Luis Mendoza makes his first career start against the Arizona Diamondbacks tonight when the Kansas City Royals host their weekend foes for the first of three interleague games at Kauffman Stadium.

Mendoza, who signed with Boston as an undrafted free agent in 2000, spent minor-league time with the Red Sox and San Diego Padres before heading to Texas in a July 2006 trade.

He made 32 appearances for the Rangers over three seasons and won four of 12 decisions, then headed to Kansas City for a player to be named later in a late spring training deal on April 2, 2010.

He won two of three decisions in six appearances in 2010 and 2011 before becoming a full-time member of the Royals' rotation this spring. He was 0-2 with a no-decision in his initial three starts, but has since won two of three outings while lowering his earned run average from 6.92 to 4.76.

In his last start, on May 13 at Chicago, Mendoza gave up a run on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings of a 9-1 victory - the eighth of his career.

Arizona goes with former first-round draft pick Joe Saunders - 12th overall, 2002 - who faces the Royals for the seventh time in his 169th major-league start.

The 30-year-old Virginia native, who pitched in the American League with the Los Angeles Angels from 2005-2010, is 4-0 in six previous starts against Kansas City while allowing 12 runs on 43 hits in 42 innings.

He's held Royals batters to a .267 average in those six games, which is four points better than the .263 average he's allowed through his initial seven starts of 2012 - which have yielded two wins and a 3.43 ERA.

He was 2-1 after four starts but has gone winless in three straight, including a 7-3 shellacking by San Francisco in which he allowed 10 hits and six runs in five innings.

Saunders is 1-0 in three road starts this season.

On Thursday in Colorado, Justin Upton's two-run homer in the ninth inning lifted the Diamondbacks over the Rockies, 9-7, in the final game of a two-game series at Coors Field.

Upton, who was 0-for-6 with five strikeouts against Rafael Betancourt prior to his home run, fell behind 1-2 with two outs. But Betancourt's cutter caught just enough of the plate and Upton drove the ball deep into the seats in right-center.

Gerrardo Parra reached two hitters earlier with a double.

J.J. Putz loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth, but was able to strike out Alex White before getting Ramon Hernandez to ground into a game-ending double play.

Brad Ziegler (2-1) earned the win after recording the final out of the eighth.

In Kansas City, J.J. Hardy's two-run single in the seventh inning lifted the Baltimore Orioles over the Royals, 5-3, in the finale of a two-game series.

Humberto Quintero knocked in two runs and scored once for the Royals, who came into the series riding a four-game winning streak.

Johnny Giavotella had an RBI.

Luke Hochevar (3-4) allowed four runs on seven hits over six-plus frames. The right-hander struck out six and walked one.

The Royals are 7-11 in 18 interleague meetings with Arizona, including a 3-9 mark at Kauffman Stadium.