Athletics-Royals Preview

The Associated Press

Another extended winning streak has the Kansas City Royals in position to possibly hold the AL Central lead this late in a season for the first time in 11 years.

The Royals might have the chance to do so with an eighth consecutive victory Monday night against the major league-leading Oakland Athletics.

Kansas City's 7-4 win over San Francisco, coupled with the Detroit's 6-5, 19-inning loss at Toronto on Sunday left the Royals (63-53) one-half game behind the first-place Tigers.

Eight games out of first July 21, Kansas City has since won 15 of 18. Winners of 10 straight in June, the Royals have recorded two winning streaks of seven or more in a season for the first time since 1985 - the last year they made the playoffs.

Detroit, meanwhile, has dropped 11 of 19.

A Royals victory Monday and a Detroit loss at Pittsburgh would leave them atop the division this late for the first time since August 29, 2003.

"I like the way we're playing," Kansas City manager Ned Yost told MLB's official website. "I've got a lot of confidence in those guys.

"I've had a lot of confidence in them even when they weren't producing like they're doing now because I knew it would come somewhere down the road.

Kansas City began the month by taking two of three at Oakland (72-45).

In the opener, Oakland's Sonny Gray (12-5, 2.87 ERA) allowed a homer to Raul Ibanez and two other hits while striking out seven in seven innings of a 1-0 loss Aug. 1.

"He's got good stuff and I didn't feel like waiting around too long," Ibanez said after that contest.

That outing was the last of a stellar stretch where the right-hander allowed five earned runs over 42 innings to go 5-1 before he gave up seven runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 7-3 defeat to Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

"He's able to wiggle out of some jams, which he typically does. (On Wednesday it), just wasn't the case," manager Bob Melvin said. "We just probably haven't seen a game out of him like this."

Alex Gordon went 0 for 3 against Gray this month, but is batting .357 with three homers and six RBIs in eight games since. Gordon and Salvador Perez each hit two-run homers Sunday as the Royals won their fifth straight at home.

''Gordy is swinging the bat well because he is seeing the ball well and putting good swings on it," Yost said.

Kansas City's Yordano Ventura (9-8, 3.47) has allowed three earned runs over 13 innings to win his last two starts. He gave up two and struck out eight in six innings of a 4-3 victory at Arizona on Wednesday.

Facing Oakland for the first time, the right-hander returns home where he is 3-2 with a 2.65 ERA in his last six starts.

The A's scored 18 runs while winning the first three at home against Minnesota, then fell 6-1 in the finale of the four-game set Sunday.

Stephen Vogt, who had the lone RBI, went 5 for 14 with two home runs and five RBIs against the Twins after going 0 for 21 in his previous six games. That included an 0-for-11 series against the Royals.

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