When they made their last trip to Washington, the Kansas City Royals were driving toward the first winning season in franchise history.
The Royals have plenty of work to do if they want to post one this year, but a matchup with the struggling Nationals could help.
In its first visit to the nation’s capital in 39 years, Kansas City will try to avoid a fourth straight defeat Monday night by handing Washington a season-high seventh loss in a row.
During their third year of existence, the Royals won four of five over the Washington Senators from Aug. 10-12, 1971, en route to an 85-76 finish. Kansas City was 13-5 in Washington before the Senators moved to Texas in 1972 and became the Rangers.
The Royals would like to repeat that success in this three-game series, having dropped eight of 11 away from home and getting swept in Atlanta this weekend.
In each of those three games, Kansas City gave up runs in one of the first two innings but came back to tie or take the lead before falling.
The Royals (29-41) trailed 4-0 after the opening frame Sunday but took a one-run lead in the third, only to allow the tying run in the sixth and three more in the eighth for an 8-5 defeat.
Kansas City, among the AL’s worst staffs with a 4.90 ERA, has a 6.67 ERA in its last 10 road games.
Monday’s scheduler starter, Bruce Chen(notes) (3-1, 4.15 ERA), gave up a season-high five runs and 10 hits in 6 1-3 innings of his last road start but was the winning pitcher in a 9-8 victory at Minnesota on June 10. He wasn’t as fortunate Wednesday against Houston, giving up four runs over 5 2-3 innings of a 4-2 loss.
Chen lost his only start against the Nationals since their move from Montreal, a 3-1 defeat with Baltimore on May 21, 2006.
This time, Chen faces a Washington team that has hit .190 and been outscored 32-14 during a seven-game losing streak. It’s the Nationals’ longest skid since dropping eight in a row Aug. 28-Sept. 5.
Washington (31-39) took a lead Sunday against the Chicago White Sox with a three-run fourth inning but lost 6-3. The Nationals have scored in only three of their last 30 innings.
“It’s just not happening for us right now,” manager Jim Riggleman said after his team was swept at home for the first time this season. “We are struggling. Everybody in there knows it.”
Following his worst outing this year, Livan Hernandez(notes) (5-4, 2.94) might seem an unlikely candidate to end his team’s woes. After allowing a total of six runs in his previous three starts, the right-hander gave up eight in 6 2-3 innings Wednesday while yielding seven hits and six walks in an 8-3 loss at Detroit.
Hernandez is 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA in three career starts against the Royals but gave up eight runs and 13 hits in his previous matchup May 28, 2008.
The Nationals have won five of six meetings with Kansas City but are facing the Royals for the first time since June 8-10, 2004.