Desperate to become relevant now that they've switched over to the American League, the Houston Astros attempt to snap a two-game slide Saturday as they clash with the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Outside of Miami which gutted its roster before the 2013 campaign began, Houston is the weakest team in baseball with a mere 22 victories in 62 opportunities. The team with the worst scoring differential (minus-91) again had trouble producing on offense on Friday in a 4-2 setback.
The Astros managed to deliver nine hits against James Shields and the KC bullpen, but at the same time struck out eight times. Shields scattered nine hits over seven innings, leading to a pair of runs. The hurler also issued three walks, but countered with six strikeouts as he lowered his ERA to 2.81 yet failed to factor into the decision.
"We're playing some baseball now and it's good to see," Shields said. "Today was a grind day. I think I was in trouble almost every inning, but we made some unbelievable plays on defense."
Salvador Perez hit his second home run of the season for Kansas City, a squad which is fourth in the AL Central and 6 1/2 games out of contention entering play on Saturday. Eric Hosmer added a pair of hits and scored twice for the hosts.
Houston starter Jordan Lyles pitched seven strong innings, giving up only two runs on six hits, fanning three, but still the result was not to his liking.
"I'm not happy with the pitch I made to Perez," Lyles said. "I was trying to go in and get him to roll over for a double play. It was up and he put a good swing on it."
Brandon Barnes had two hits and scored once for the visitors, the other run being credited to Marwin Gonzalez.
Gunning for his second win in as many outings, Erik Bedard steps up to the mound for the Astros Saturday. The left-hander had gone more than a month between decisions, although his outing against the Angels earlier this week resulted in his very first win of 2013.
Against Anaheim, Bedard permitted just a single run on five hits and a walk, fanning a pair over seven innings as he managed to drop his ERA below five for the first time since the second week of April.
In terms of his personal history against Kansas City, Bedard has a record of 4-2 with a 2.93 ERA in seven appearances.
Desperate to break out of a lengthy funk, Ervin Santana is set to counter for the Royals. Since being 3-1 entering the month of May, the right-hander has hit the skids, at one point losing four consecutive outings.
More recently Santana clashed with Texas last weekend in Arlington and was left without a decision even though he allowed just a single run on three hits and a couple of walks through seven innings. Santana struck out five in the meeting, but still KC was saddled with the 3-1 setback on the road.
A member of the Angels up until this season, Santana has faced off against Houston only once previously in his career, permitting four runs on nine hits over 6 2/3 innings of work.
Kansas City, which has a record of just 5-12 versus the Western Division so far this season, won the series against Houston in 2012 by a slim 2-1 margin.