Royals-Orioles Preview

AP - Sports

Led by some strong pitching, the Kansas City Royals have done a good job of playing spoiler on the road against a pair of potential playoff teams.

The Royals will try to take three of four from the Baltimore Orioles when the teams conclude their series Sunday at Camden Yards.

After winning two of three at AL Central-leading Chicago earlier in the week, Kansas City has taken two of its first three against Baltimore, winning 7-3 Saturday.

Alex Gordon hit two of his team's four home runs and Luis Mendoza was effective through six innings of a game delayed more than three hours because of rain.

"Same ballpark, same rain delay, same weather conditions,'' Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "They did a better job with it than we did.''

The loss dropped Showalter's Orioles (61-53) one-half game out of a wild-card spot.

The Royals (49-64) may not be in postseason contention, but they are currently pitching like a playoff club, giving up three runs or fewer in four of their last five games. They have won eight of 12, led by a staff ERA of 3.39 - a full run lower than their season mark.

What they haven't done, however, is slow down Baltimore rookie third baseman Manny Machado, who had an RBI double Saturday after he hit two homers and drove in four runs Friday.

Called up before the series opener to make his major league debut, Machado is 5 for 12 with four extra-base hits, five RBIs and four runs scored.

If Machado is back in the lineup Sunday, he'll try to help the Orioles salvage a series split. Baltimore has scored three runs or fewer six times in 10 games this month.

Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis is 0 for 11 through the first three games of this series but is 6 for 12 with two doubles off Bruce Chen (8-9, 5.51 ERA), who will get the ball in the finale for Kansas City.

Chen earned his first win since June after allowing two runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-2 victory over Chicago on Tuesday. He'd been 0-3 with an 8.73 ERA over his previous seven starts.

The left-hander struggled against the Orioles on May 25, allowing six runs and seven hits in four innings of an 8-2 defeat. He is 2-2 with a 5.26 ERA in his career against Baltimore.

Adam Jones is 6 for 13 with a home run off Chen, and is batting .329 with three homers during a 19-game hitting streak against the Royals. He's 4 for 10 in this series, while being hit by a pitch twice.

Tommy Hunter (4-7, 5.55) will take the mound for Baltimore to make his first start since Aug. 3.

Hunter had been scheduled to pitch Wednesday, but his turn was skipped after he warmed up during a 14-inning game the previous night, although he never entered that contest.

The right-hander gave up two runs in seven innings of a 4-3, 15-inning win over Kansas City on May 16.

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