Lefty Bruce Chen takes the mound a day after his 35th birthday today when the Kansas City Royals travel to Minute Maid Park to close out a three-game interleague series with the Houston Astros.
Chen, a native of Panama, had his worst outing of 2012 in his final start as a 34-year-old, allowing six runs on seven hits while retiring just five batters and getting a no-decision in Kansas City's 10-7 loss at St. Louis on June 16.
The drubbing at least temporarily ended a run that had seen him bounce back from an 0-4 start to the season with five wins in his next seven decisions while lowering his earned run average from 4.98 to 4.44.
Chen, who's made 331 major-league appearances since being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Braves 19 years ago, is 2-3 in eight road starts this season and 1-1 in 10 career meetings with the Astros.
Kansas City, which dropped Monday's opener, made it an even series on Tuesday when Luke Hochevar held Houston scoreless into the eighth inning and Billy Butler homered in a 2-0 victory.
Hochevar (4-7) scattered five hits, walked four and fanned six through 7 2/3 innings for the Royals, who have won six of eight. Jonathan Broxton turned in a scoreless ninth for his 17th save.
"It's starting to come together," Hochevar said. "The main thing is making good pitches. That's where my focus has been and that's where I plan on it staying."
Wandy Rodriguez (6-5) allowed six hits and two runs over seven full frames for the Astros, who have dropped six of eight.
Hochevar was pulled with two down in the eighth. Jed Lowrie walked with two outs and Carlos Lee hit a ball just below the home-run line in left, leaving two in scoring position. Aaron Crow came on and fanned Justin Maxwell to keep it a 2-0 game.
Despite two singles in the ninth, KC came away with no more insurance as Alcides Escobar was caught stealing and Jarrod Dyson hit into an inning-ending double-play.
Broxton made sure the lead held up, working around a leadoff walk to Brian Bogusevic by retiring the next three batters.
Houston turns to second-year right-hander Jordan Lyles, who turned three the year that Chen was drafted.
Lyles, a supplemental draft pick of the Astros in 2008, debuted with two wins in 20 appearances last season and made four starts this year before picking up win No. 1 against Cincinnati on June 3.
He's 0-2 in a pair of starts since, allowing 15 hits and 10 runs in 8 2/3 innings in interleague meetings with the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers.
Lyles has never faced the Royals.
The Astros lead the overall interleague series, 17-12. Kansas City won two of three at home when the teams last played in 2010.