Nationals-Royals Preview

The Associated Press

While a lack of offense has the Kansas City Royals slipping out of contention, things might not get any easier against the resurgent Gio Gonzalez.

Gonzalez looks to keep their bats cold and lead the Washington Nationals to their fourth straight win Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.

Kansas City's playoff hopes took another hit after Conor Gillaspie homered to lead off the 12th inning to give the White Sox a 4-3 victory Thursday. A five-game losing streak has dropped the Royals (64-62) 9 1/2 games behind Detroit in the AL Central and seven games back of the final wild-card spot.

"They're grown men," manager Ned Yost said. "They've got to pull themselves out of it."

Since averaging 5.0 runs and batting .293 during a 17-3 stretch, Yost's club has scored 2.1 per game and hit .211 while losing eight of 10. Kansas City has also dropped five of seven interleague home games this season, scoring 19 total runs in those contests.

The Royals will try to break out against Gonzalez (7-6, 3.38 ERA), who can help get the Nationals (63-64) back to .500 for the first time since July 19.

Since allowing 10 runs and a career-high 11 hits over 3 1-3 innings in an 11-1 loss at Detroit on July 31, Gonzalez has yielded only four runs in his last three starts covering 18 innings. However, he's lost his only two decisions in that span while receiving three total runs of support.

He struck out nine and gave up two runs over seven innings in a 2-1 loss at Atlanta on Sunday.

Gonzalez is 3-3 with a 6.44 ERA in seven career starts against the Royals, but hasn't faced them since 2011 while with Oakland.

He's done a good job against Billy Butler (3 for 15) and Alex Gordon (1 for 7), though Butler is batting .361 over his last 16 games overall.

Kansas City counters with Bruce Chen (5-1, 2.20), who allowed season highs of six runs and eight hits over 5 1-3 innings in a 6-3 loss at Detroit on Sunday.

Chen, though, has yet to lose this season at Kauffman Stadium with a 3-0 record and 1.96 ERA in 14 appearances. He's limited opponents to one run and 11 hits over 20 2-3 innings in three home starts.

This will be the left-hander's first start against the Nationals in over three years after going 2-2 with a 5.70 ERA in six in the series from 2000-10.

Washington won its third straight with a 5-4, 13-inning victory over the Cubs on Thursday. Ryan Zimmerman had three hits, including a home run, and is 7 for 15 in his last three games. Tyler Moore is 6 for 12 during that same span.

The Nationals have averaged 2.3 runs and batted .176 in interleague road games, but are averaging 5.2 runs and hitting .288 while winning nine of 13 overall.

"We need things firing on all cylinders," outfielder Scott Hairston told the team's official website. "I think we have the talent, pitching and hitting, and once we all put that together, we're a dangerous team."

The Montreal/Washington franchise makes its first trip to Kansas City since taking two of three June 8-10, 2004.

The Nationals traded away two veteran players Friday, sending catcher Kurt Suzuki to Oakland and outfielder David DeJesus to Tampa Bay. Washington had acquired DeJesus from the Chicago Cubs just four days ago.

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