They’re still mired in last place in the AL Central, but the Kansas City Royals have hardly been pushovers lately.
They’ll be trying for their first three-game home sweep of the Texas Rangers in more than five years Sunday when the teams meet at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals (46-57) have not swept Texas (46-58) in Kansas City since July 15-16, 2002. Their last sweep of the Rangers came July 11-13 the following season in Texas.
Kansas City beat Texas 6-5 on Saturday for its third straight win. The winning streak is the Royals’ fifth of at least three games this season, but they have failed to win the fourth game four times. The Royals won a season-best five straight June 24-29.
The victory also boosted Kansas City to 12-10 this month. The Royals went 15-12 in June, the first time since going 15-11 in July 2003 that they recorded a winning month, aside from a 1-0 October last season.
John Buck, who entered Saturday’s game hitting just .180 in July, went 3-for-3 and drove in a pair of runs, and Tony Pena Jr. also had two RBIs. Octavio Dotel, the subject of trade rumors as Tuesday’s trade deadline approaches, recorded his 11th save in 14 chances, but gave up two runs in the ninth before finishing off the game.
“When closers were born I guess the Lord said, ‘You’re going to make people nervous,’” manager Buddy Bell said.
The Rangers, meanwhile, lost their second straight after sweeping a four-game series from Seattle. Nelson Cruz, called up Friday from Triple-A Oklahoma, homered twice and drove in all five runs.
Michael Young had three of the Rangers’ nine hits, extending his hitting streak to a season-high 11 games.
Kameron Loe (5-8, 5.59 ERA) will try to help the Rangers avoid the sweep in the finale.
Loe is 0-2 over his last four starts after winning each of his previous four, but his last start was a strong one. He allowed three runs in 6 2-3 innings without getting a decision Tuesday in the Rangers’ 4-3 win over Seattle in the second game of a doubleheader.
Loe had allowed 11 runs in 8 2-3 innings over his previous two starts, both losses.
“Kam was as good as he has ever been,” manager Ron Washington told the Rangers’ official Web site.
Loe made his only start against the Royals on June 8 last season and was pounded for eight runs in 2 2-3 innings, but escaped without a decision in the Rangers’ 16-12 loss in Kansas City. He also made two relief outings against the Royals in 2005, throwing two scoreless innings without getting a decision.
The Royals will call up Leo Nunez (0-0, 2.25) from Triple-A Omaha to start the finale. He is taking the place of Scott Elarton, who was released Wednesday, one day after coming off the disabled list and lasting just 1 2-3 innings in a 9-4 loss to the New York Yankees.
Nunez made his first major league start and only appearance of the season on July 17, giving up one run in four innings of the Royals’ 9-3 win in Boston. He was pulled after throwing 74 pitches.
“His pitch count isn’t up to where a starter normally is, but I thought he did a nice job against a good lineup,” Bell said at the time.
Nunez has made 48 career relief appearances, and has allowed six runs in 11 2-3 innings in seven outings against the Rangers, posting a 1-0 record.