Kansas City Royals manager Tony Pena doesn’t think his team is playing poorly under the pressure of a tight division race. He just thinks his players need to find their second wind.
“We aren’t pressing, we seem more tired,” Pena said of his struggling team. “The ballclub seems a little flat right now.”
The Royals hope to shake off their fatigue as they resume a three-game series with the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Kansas City had won nine straight against Texas dating to last year prior to Monday’s series opening 7-4 loss. Mark Teixeira homered twice and Colby Lewis pitched seven strong innings as the Rangers handed the Royals their third straight defeat overall.
Kansas City slipped two games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. The Royals are in a second-place tie with defending division champion Minnesota.
The Royals, who have not lost four in a row since Aug. 18-21, will send veteran right-hander Paul Abbott to the hill in search of his first win since last season.
Abbott, who won a career-high 17 games with Seattle in 2001, has been unable to get back in the win column since having his 2002 campaign cut short by a shoulder injury.
Acquired from Arizona in August, Abbott has gone winless in his first three starts for Kansas City, but pitched very well in the Royals’ 6-5 win over the Rangers on Thursday, allowing just one hit over six scoreless innings, while striking out six and walking four.
Abbott’s last victory came on April 13, 2002, when he pitched Seattle to a 9-4 victory over Texas.
The Rangers have won two straight since a five-game skid.
STANDINGS: Royals - 2nd place (tied), 2 GB, AL Central. Rangers - 4th place, 19 1/2 GB, AL West.
ROYALS PROBABLE STARTER: Abbott (0-0, 6.33 ERA). Abbott is 6-1 with a 3.81 ERA in 15 career appearances, including 11 starts, against the Rangers.
RANGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Ismael Valdes (7-8, 6.14 ERA). Valdes is 0-3 in his last six starts. He did not receive a decision in Thursday’s 6-5 loss at Kansas City, surrendering one earned run and six hits over 5 1-3 innings. The veteran right-hander is 3-2 with a 4.47 ERA in nine career starts against the Royals.
SEASON SERIES: Royals, 6-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Royals - 1B-OF Ken Harvey homered twice Tuesday. He had not homered since July 5. … 3B Joe Randa is riding a 14-game hitting streak. … OF Ibanez is 10-for-25 (.400) lifetime against RHP Valdes. Rangers - OF Teixeira is the sixth switch-hitting rookie in major league history with at least 20 homers. OF Beltran was the last with 22 for Kansas City in 1999. Hall of Famer Eddie Murray is the leader in that category, with 27 for Baltimore in 1977. … C Todd Greene walked for just the second time this season Monday. He hadn’t drawn a walk since April 13. … Valdes is 4-4 with a 7.51 ERA in 10 home starts this year.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Royals - 33-33 on the road; Rangers - 37-32 at home.
INJURIES: Royals - OF Michael Tucker (leg), 15-day DL; RHP Kevin Appier (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Jose Lima (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Kyle Snyder (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Miguel Asencio (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Runelvys Hernandez (elbow), 60-day DL. Rangers - OF Juan Gonzalez (calf), 15-day DL; OF Kevin Mench (wrist), 15-day DL; RHP Chan Ho Park (rib cage, oblique), 15-day DL; RHP Ricardo Rodriguez (hip), 60-day DL; RHP Jeff Zimmerman (elbow), 60-day DL; INF Herbert Perry (shoulder), 60-day DL; OF Rusty Greer (neck), 60-day DL.
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