When the Houston Astros last faced the Kansas City Royals, they won their first of seven straight series and turned their 2005 season around. This time around the Astros may already be hitting their stride.
Houston (35-32) seeks its fifth straight win and ninth in 10 games when it opens a three-game interleague series with the Royals at Minute Maid Park on Friday.
The Astros were 26-38 and stood in fifth place in the NL Central when they took two of three games at Kansas City from June 17-19 of last season.
From there, the Astros closed the regular season on a 61-34 run that clinched the wild card and led to their first World Series appearance.
Houston got off to a 19-9 start this season, but dropped 22 of 30 games from May 5-June 5 to fall 8 1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the division lead.
The Astros are 8-1 since and are coming off a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs that kept them within five games of St. Louis.
“It’s particularly difficult to get a sweep on the road,” Ausmus said. “Certainly at Wrigley Field—which is one of the three or four (ballparks) where there is a big home-field advantage.”
Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (8-3, 4.48 ERA) looks to keep Houston’s run going when he takes the mound Friday. Rodriguez has won back-to-back outings for the first time since opening the season with a 4-0 April.
He allowed a season-high three homers—all solo shots—on Sunday, but the offense backed him with plenty of support in a 14-4 win over Atlanta.
“Some of the pitches I threw, I took a little bit off,” said Rodriguez, who gave up seven hits and struck out five in six innings. “I didn’t feel strong.”
Rodriguez is facing the Royals for the first time.
Kansas City (17-48) kicked off its seven-game road trip by losing three of four games to the Los Angeles Angels, including a 3-2, 10-inning defeat Thursday in which the Royals had just four hits and went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
The loss dropped the Royals to a major league-worst 7-29 on the away from. They are just 1-10-1 in road series, with the lone win coming when they took two of three at Oakland from May 29-31.
Right-hander Scott Elarton (1-8, 5.24) gets the start Friday when he faces his original team for the first time.
Control issues and home runs continue to plague Elarton, who has lost three straight outings and four of his last five, including an 8-2 defeat to Tampa Bay on Sunday in which he allowed three homers and walked four in 4 2-3 innings.
The 25th overall pick by Houston in 1994, Elarton went 32-21 with a 4.82 ERA with the Astros from 1998-2001 before he was traded to Colorado.
Houston is the only major league team Elarton has never faced.
The Astros have won 12 of the last 14 meetings in the series dating to June 1998 and are 13-5 against the Royals all time.