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Astros 6, Royals 5

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- Astros closer Jose Veras continued his exceptional pitching of late as Houston sent the Kansas City Royals to their fourth consecutive loss with a 6-5 victory Monday night at Minute Maid Park.

Veras, who entered the series having allowed batters to hit .105 over his previous 12 appearances, notched his seventh save while preserving the first win of the season for left-hander Dallas Keuchel (1-1). Veras was the fourth Astros reliever charged with cobbling together the final seven outs in support of Keuchel, whose six strikeouts matched a career high.

Eric Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur stroked back-to-back one-out doubles in the eighth inning to cut the Houston (13-32) lead to 6-5. But Astros right-hander Hector Ambriz retired Miguel Tejada and Elliot Johnson in succession to strand Francoeur in scoring position as the Royals suffered their fourth successive one-run loss despite matching their scoring output from the three-game weekend series sweep in Oakland.

Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (5-2) took with the loss for Kansas City (20-21).

For a spell, Keuchel seemed cursed by soft line drives, with Johnson driving in Hosmer with a flare in the second inning and Francoeur setting the table for Tejada with his soft single in the fourth.

Tejada, by contrast, struck a powerful blow after Francoeur's hit, ripping a three-run blast to left field that erased the Astros' 3-1 lead. The homer was the first for Tejada, who was making his second appearance of the Royals' nine-game road trip.

Houston matched the Royals' three-run frame with a three-spot in the bottom of the fourth, with their third baseman also striking the telling blow. Matt Dominguez followed a one-out walk to Carlos Pena and a subsequent single by Jimmy Paredes with a three-run homer to left field, his fourth of the season, and Houston reclaimed its two-run lead at 6-4.

The Astros squandered chances to boost their lead in the fifth and sixth. Chris Carter was erased at home by a strong Alex Gordon throw after failing to slide on Paredes' two-out single to left in the fifth. Houston loaded the bases against Royals reliever J.C. Gutierrez an inning later, but left fielder J.D. Martinez, batting cleanup for just the fourth time, lifted a fly ball to right field that Francoeur snagged to stifle that threat.

NOTES: Royals starters had worked at least six innings in 30 of 40 starts this season, including three consecutive quality starts during their weekend series at Oakland. Guthrie lasted just five innings against the Astros on Monday. ... With his first-inning single, Gordon extended his hitting streak to eight games, included all seven games of the Royals' current road trip. ... Astros right-hander Paul Clemens entered Monday ranked third in the majors in innings pitched by a reliever with 27.
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