Orioles-Royals Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated May 16, 2012
If the Kansas City Royals had any lingering memories from last month's 12-game losing streak, their play of late should put those completely out of mind. Coming off two impressive wins over one first-place team, the Royals look to continue their best stretch of the season against another Wednesday night when they host the Baltimore Orioles. The season appeared to be slipping away from the Royals when they matched the third-longest losing streak in team history April 11-24 and fell to 3-14. But a surprising turnaround has followed and Kansas City (15-20) enters this two-game series with a season-high four straight wins and 12 in the last 18 contests. After taking two of three from the White Sox, the Royals finished their road trip with two games against West-leading Texas. Kansas City's pitchers were able to keep the AL's most potent offense in check, limiting the Rangers to five runs en route to the team's first two-game sweep of Texas since 1977. "To come in here and win two games is big for us,'' manager Ned Yost said. "Our pitching has been pretty good. That shows you how good.'' While an ERA of 1.50 is the biggest reason for the team's four-game run, the hitters have also done their share by going 14 for 38 (.369) with runners in scoring position. Leading the offense has been Mike Moustakas, who homered and reached base in his 22nd straight game in Tuesday's 7-4 win. He's batting .369 (24 for 65) during that stretch. Baltimore (23-14) completed a challenging stretch against the Yankees, Boston, Texas and Tampa Bay with a 9-6 record after Tuesday night's 5-2 victory over New York. Wei-Yin Chen pitched seven strong innings and Adam Jones hit his team-best 11th home run to help the Orioles stay tied with the Rays atop the AL East. "It started with our pitching,'' Jones said. "Chen halted that lineup and gave us an opportunity.'' Much of Baltimore's surprising success can be attributed to its play on the road, where it is 11-5 - a major league-best .687 winning percentage. The Orioles are seeking their first six-game win streak away from home since Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2004. J.J. Hardy had five hits in the team's most recent road game and is batting .409 (18 for 44) with five homers and nine RBIs in his last 10 contests overall. Jones is 18 for 50 (.360) during an 11-game hitting streak against the Royals. This series features two of the league's best bullpens. Orioles relievers rank second in the league in ERA (2.28) and closer Jim Johnson is 12 for 12 in save opportunities, yielding one run in 16 2-3 innings. Kansas City's bullpen has compiled a 1.04 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 26 innings over the last seven games. Tommy Hunter (2-2, 5.14 ERA) gets another chance to establish himself in Baltimore's rotation. Recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday to pitch on three days' rest, the right-hander allowed four runs and five hits over six innings in a 7-3 loss to Texas. Since pitching very well in consecutive starts at the end of April, Hunter has been roughed up for nine runs and 13 hits in two outings this month spanning 10 1-3 innings. He's 0-1 with a 9.56 ERA in three road starts, giving up seven homers in 16 frames. Hunter won his only career start against the Royals on Sept. 1, 2010, while with Texas. Felipe Paulino (1-1, 3.09) makes his third start of the season for Kansas City. After pitching six scoreless innings to beat the Yankees in his season debut, the right-hander gave up four runs and seven hits over 5 2-3 innings in a 5-0 loss to the White Sox on Friday.
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