When they’re hitting, the Kansas City Royals don’t look like the worst team in baseball.
The Royals hope for another strong offensive showing when they continue a three-game game series with the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Saturday.
Kansas City (18-48) beat Houston 7-2 in Friday’s series opener for just its second win in seven games. The Royals managed more than seven runs for the first time since a 16-12 win over Texas on June 5, and scored more than three runs for just the sixth time in 16 games.
“It’s definitely been difficult for us,” starter Scott Elarton said. “We’ve had our struggles. You name it, we’ve done it badly.”
The Royals rank last in the majors with 259 runs. Still, catcher John Buck was encouraged by Friday’s victory.
“Anytime things are going the way they’ve been going for us, it’s big to win the first game in a series,” Buck said. “You just hope to ride it and maybe do well in the series and take it from there.”
The Royals ended Houston’s four-game winning streak. The Astros (35-33), winners of eight of 10, had scored 31 runs during their streak.
“We certainly didn’t take them lightly,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “They just outplayed us.”
Taylor Buchholz (3-6, 6.06 ERA) will look to help Houston bounce back. He lost his second straight start last Saturday, allowing four runs and seven hits, while striking out a career-high eight, in eight innings of a 4-2 loss to Atlanta.
The rookie right-hander is 0-3 with a 9.97 ERA in his last four starts since throwing a complete-game, 5-0 win over Texas on May 21.
After a rough third inning in which he gave up a three-run homer to Edgar Renteria, Buchholz settled down to retire the next 12 batters.
“It definitely feels good to get back on track,” said Buchholz, who has never faced the Royals. “It kind of felt like what I did in the beginning, when things were going really well.”
Kansas City will counter with Bobby Keppel (0-2, 3.04), who allowed four runs in 5 1-3 innings of Monday’s 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. The rookie right-hander, who was making his third career start and fifth appearance, had taken shutouts into the seventh and ninth innings in his last two starts but gave up the four runs by the fourth inning.
“The last two innings I kind of got into a rhythm and threw some good pitches down in the zone,” said Keppel, who made his major league debut May 25.
Entering Monday’s start, Keppel had given up a total of five runs in 26 2-3 innings. He has never faced Houston.
“Bobby was pretty good, but not as good as he has been,” manager Buddy Bell said. “He was kind of up in the zone. He was behind in the count a little more than he has been. But he pitched into the sixth. He battled all night, but it wasn’t as easy for him as the other two starts.”