Braves-Royals Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated June 24, 2013
The Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals are hoping they've put an end to their respective scoring slumps. That doesn't mean runs will be easy to come by Tuesday night. Ervin Santana looks to continue his outstanding stretch on the mound and provide a rude welcome to the Braves, who counter with Kris Medlen in the franchise's first visit to Kansas City. After consecutive 2-0 losses to open a weekend series in Milwaukee, Atlanta (44-33) salvaged the finale with Sunday's 7-4 victory. Chris Johnson and Jordan Schafer hit solo homers after Brian McCann's first-inning grand slam ended the Braves' 24-inning scoreless stretch. "Games like this, they say hitting is contagious," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Hopefully, it catches a couple of guys and keeps going.'' Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman need to get going, as they're a combined 9 for 50 in the last seven games. Justin Upton, the team leader with 15 home runs, has two hits in his last 15 at-bats, but he's questionable after missing two games with a sore hand. "If we don't have to use him, we won't use him," Gonzalez told the Braves' official website. With Santana (5-5, 2.64 ERA) on the hill, Upton might benefit from getting another day off. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 0.94 ERA in four June starts after throwing seven innings of one-run ball in last Tuesday's 4-3 loss at Cleveland. It was Santana's seventh consecutive start in which he's pitched at least seven innings. However, he's 2-3 during that stretch as Kansas City (35-38) has plated three runs or fewer four times. "We don't have to think about that," Santana told the Royals' official website. "Every time we take the mound, we have to do our best and trust our bats. You just try to make it simple. Trust our teammates, try to play hard and know that things aren't going our way right now, but it's going to turn around." The Royals are hoping that's the case after back-to-back homers by George Kottaras and Jarrod Dyson in the fifth inning led the way in Sunday's 7-6 victory over the Chicago White Sox. Kansas City had nine total runs while losing its previous four. "For us to pull out that victory later in the game shows our resiliency," said right fielder David Lough, who went 3 for 4. The Royals, though, need more from their top four run producers. In the last five games, Billy Butler is 2 for 14, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez are 2 for 15 and Lorenzo Cain is 1 for 15. Butler didn't face Medlen (4-7, 2.96) in a 6-3 loss to Atlanta on April 16 - the Braves' 10th consecutive victory - while Gordon, Perez and Cain went a combined 2 for 10 off the right-hander. Medlen gave up a solo homer to Chris Getz and one unearned run over seven innings before Atlanta scored four in the eighth. Medlen improved to 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA in four outings this month with seven-plus innings in Wednesday's 5-3 home win over the New York Mets. He allowed three runs, but just one was earned due to his throwing error. "Other than that play, I felt like I was in control," Medlen told the Braves' official website. Atlanta will become the final NL team to play in Kansas City, where the Royals have won eight of 11 after a franchise-record 11-game skid.
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