If the Oakland Athletics plan to make a strong playoff push they might want to start now as the club begins a stretch of nine games against the bottom of the American League Central.

Rookie Jarrod Parker takes the hill on Tuesday for the Athletics when they begin a three-game series against the last place Kansas City Royals. After this set, Oakland, which is in play for an American League wild card slot, will return to the Bay Area for three against both Cleveland and Minnesota.

"It doesn't mean because we're not playing teams above .500 coming up that you're going to play better," manager Bob Melvin told the Athletics' website. "You have to keep grinding, you have to keep the intensity."

The A's enter the opener of this set after dropping two of three in Chicago against the White Sox, including Sunday's rubber match, a 7-3 setback.

Jonny Gomes, Adam Rosales and Derek Norris all homered for Oakland, while Bartolo Colon (9-9) surrendered six runs -- five earned -- on nine hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings. Colon had allowed just one unearned run over his three previous starts.

Parker, meanwhile, hasn't pitched all that well recently, compiling an ERA over 5.00 since the All-Star break but is 3-0 in his last four road starts. He has never faced the Royals before.

Kansas City will turn to veteran Jeremy Guthrie after splitting a four-game series in Baltimore, ending with a 5-3 setback on Sunday.

Mike Moustakas homered in that one for Kansas City, which has lost two out of three on the heels of a three-game win streak. Bruce Chen (8-10), who received a loss for the fourth time in his last five decisions, gave up four runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He added five strikeouts.

Guthrie will be making his fifth start for the Royals since being acquired from Colorado on July 19. The right-hander has been pitching poorly this season and is 4-12 overall with a 6.10 ERA. He did, however, earn his first win as a Royal last Wednesday with eight scoreless innings in a 2-1 win over the White Sox.

In his career Guthrie is 2-4 with a 5.56 ERA in nine appearances versus the A's.

These two teams have split six games so far this year, with the Royals recording shutouts in each of their victories.