Astros-Royals Preview

The Associated Press

A suddenly potent lineup has the Kansas City Royals on the brink of a season-best winning streak, though providing run support for Luis Mendoza lately has been a chore.

Kansas City seeks a fifth straight victory Sunday by completing a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros, who have dropped four of five.

The Royals (27-32) have outscored opponents 22-8 during their third four-game winning streak of the season, plating at least four runs in each contest. Five players drove in runs in a 7-2 victory over the Astros on Saturday.

Eric Hosmer went 2 for 2 with an RBI and a pair of walks, leaving him at 6 for 9 over his last three games.

The surge coincides with the recent hiring of George Brett as interim hitting coach for Kansas City, which has averaged nearly five runs in five meetings with Houston.

''We've started to hit better,'' said starter Ervin Santana, who picked up his 100th career victory. "I know (the offense is) going to do a good job.''

The Royals will try to continue their hot hitting to help back Mendoza (1-3, 4.76 ERA), who hasn't been at his best of late but also isn't receiving much help.

Mendoza hit 95 pitches through 4 1-3 innings while giving up three runs in a 3-0 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday. He's posted a 3.00 ERA in his last three starts but has received four runs of support in that stretch.

The right-hander has never started against the Astros but picked up a win in relief in his only appearance against them while pitching for Texas in 2008.

Houston (22-41) has had its own problems scoring lately, totaling five runs during a three-game skid and plating two or fewer in four of its last five. Jose Altuve had an RBI single and Chris Carter added a solo homer Saturday.

''That was probably the worst game we played all year,'' manager Bo Porter said.

Four of Carter's seven hits in his last nine games have left the park.

The Astros will turn to Lucas Harrell to slow the Kansas City lineup. Harrell (4-7, 4.97) suffered a 4-1 defeat to Baltimore on Tuesday, allowing two runs - one earned - while striking out a season-high six in seven innings. It marked the first time this season he didn't walk a batter.

"He's more composed, things don't snowball the way they did earlier in the season, and that's a credit to him for taking constructive criticism and making adjustments," Porter said of Harrell, who had a 7.53 ERA over his previous six starts.

The right-hander struggled in his only start versus the Royals, allowing six runs - including a three-run homer to Billy Butler - in 3 1-3 innings of a 12-6 loss for the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 12, 2010.

Butler is 9 for 18 with four doubles during his current five-game hitting streak.