The Kansas City Royals try to extend their win streak to a season-high five in a row Sunday afternoon as they close out a three-game set against the Houston Astros at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals, who have put together two other four-game win streaks already this season, last won at least five straight back in September of 2011 when they in fact captured seven in a row.
The star of the game on Saturday was Ervin Santana, who allowed just two runs on five hits and struck out six through seven innings as he logged the 100th victory of his career. At the plate, Lorenzo Cain knocked in a couple of runs for the hosts and both Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer scored twice for a club that remains in fourth place in the American League Central.
"We got the lead early," Hosmer said of the effort. "That's what we've been trying to do, get these guys some run support so they can go out there and just throw their stuff, and see if they can hit it. And Erv's stuff today was real nasty and he just put it on cruise control and let Guty (J.C. Gutierrez) take care of the rest."
As for the Astros, already 15 1/2 games out of contention in the AL West, Chris Carter tried to offset his two strikeouts with his 13th home run of the campaign, a solo shot in the seventh. Brandon Barnes added a double and scored the other run for a squad that has the worst scoring differential (minus-96) in all of baseball.
Knocked around rather hard was Houston starter Erik Bedard, who was charged with all six runs on eight hits and three walks, striking out only two through 4 2/3 innings of work.
"I think that was probably the worst game we've played all year," Astros manager Bo Porter said.
Seeking just his second win since the end of April, Lucas Harrell is set to make the start for the Astros Sunday. The right-hander has dropped five of his last six decisions, including his most recent outing on Tuesday against Baltimore at home.
Versus the Orioles, the Missouri native permitted just two runs -- one earned -- on five hits and struck out six through seven innings, but the Houston offense failed to supply any power in a 4-1 defeat.
Now in his fifth major league campaign, Harrell is facing the Royals for only the second time after being lit up for six runs on nine hits and three walks through 3 1/3 innings previously.
Assuming the task of taking down the Astros will be Luis Mendoza. The right- hander, who previously pitched for the Texas Rangers in the Lone Star State, has earned just four decisions in 10 opportunities this season and all but one of those have been defeats.
On Tuesday Mendoza again had trouble with his control, issuing three walks in just 4 1/3 innings to go along with seven hits, leading to three runs in a 3-0 setback versus Minnesota.
Kansas City has dropped all but two of the 10 games in which Mendoza has appeared thus far.
Working against the Astros, new to the American League this season, is a pitching staff that has the highest ERA in the majors at 5.03, the only team with a mark over 4.60 at the moment. The squad has the fewest shutouts in the AL (two), which isn't that surprising when considering the group is allowing opponents to hit a lofty .288 through 63 games.