Royals look to carry momentum to Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Kansas City Royals will carry a two-game winning streak and some much-needed momentum into the opener of a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics on Monday night at the Oakland Coliseum.

The Royals had lost five consecutive games and nine of 11 before beating the White Sox on Saturday and Sunday in Chicago. Kansas City rallied for a thrilling 5-4, come-from-behind win Saturday, then routed the White Sox 14-6 on Sunday afternoon.

"Those types of wins, like I said last night, can jump-start a team," Royals manager Ned Yost said after the Sunday victory. "Momentum is easy to stop, it seems, but it's hard to get. We were kind of spinning our wheels, trying to get momentum. But those types of games where you have the lead, lose the lead and get the lead back can jump-start your momentum. What happened today is what I hoped would happen after a game like last night."

The Royals (59-58) trail the Los Angeles Angels by one game for the second American League wild-card spot. Kansas City is in third place in the AL Central, five games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians.

Kansas City had 16 hits Sunday, including three from second baseman Whit Merrifield, who drove in a career-high five runs and came up a double shy of a cycle.

Jake Junis, a 24-year-old rookie right-hander, will be called up by the Royals from Triple-A Omaha on Monday to make his eighth start and 11th appearance of the season.

Junis made his major league debut April 12 against Oakland, pitching a scoreless inning of relief in an 8-3 loss at Kauffman Stadium. Now he will start against the A's for the first time in his first appearance at Oakland.

Junis is 4-2 with a 4.70 ERA for the Royals this season and has made multiple trips back and forth between Kansas City and Omaha. He made his last start for the Royals on Aug. 6 in the second game of a doubleheader against Seattle after being called up from Omaha as the team's 26th player, allowable for twin-bills.

Junis allowed one run on four hits over eight innings in a 9-1 victory against the Mariners. He struck out seven, walked none and returned to Omaha after the game.

"His curveball and slider were his 'A' curveball and slider," Yost said following that victory. "It was a big boost for us."

The young A's are in last place in the AL West at 52-66 but are coming off a 2-2 series split at home against Baltimore, another wild-card playoff contender.

Oakland beat the Orioles 9-3 on Sunday with four rookies in the starting lineup. They got a three-run homer from rookie third baseman Matt Chapman, a two-run shot from veteran outfielder Matt Joyce and a solo homer from rookie first baseman Matt Olson, who has homered in three straight games.

"These guys are awesome," Joyce said of Oakland's rookies. "When you see this team, I get really excited about these guys and the young talent that they have. There's a tremendous amount of young talent here. These guys are fun to play with. They're a great group of guys. They're very humble. They work hard. They do everything right. I think it's going to be an exciting future for the A's."

A's rookie right-hander Jharel Cotton (5-9, 5.72 ERA in 17 starts) gets the ball Monday. In three starts since coming off the disabled list after recovering from a blister on his right thumb, Cotton is 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA and five home runs allowed.

Cotton gave up six runs on eight hits over six innings Wednesday in a 6-3 loss to Seattle. Nelson Cruz hit two home runs and Kyle Seager one off Cotton.

Cotton went 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA in five starts for the A's last season.

"Last year was a pretty good one," Cotton said Sunday. "Right now I'm going through some failures, but I'm dealing with it well. Coaches are talking to me. They're keeping me in check, so basically I feel great. I'm playing a sport I love. It's the big leagues. You just got to come to work every day and get better, and that's what I'm doing, getting better every time I go out there."

Cotton is 1-0 with a 0.71 ERA in two career starts against Kansas City, both at Kauffman Stadium. On April 10 this season, he pitched seven shutout innings in a 2-0 victory against the Royals. Cotton allowed two hits, struck out six, walked two and allowed no home runs.