Royals-Astros Preview

The Associated Press

The Houston Astros are looking forward to returning home after a disastrous road trip, though the surging Kansas City Royals don't plan to make things any easier for them.

Kansas City looks to win for the sixth time in seven games when it opens a three-game set at Minute Maid Park on Monday night.

The Royals (29-35) have won five of six after beating St. Louis 5-3 in 15 innings Sunday, with Yuniesky Betancourt playing the hero.

Betancourt entered as a replacement for the injured Chris Getz in the first inning, then hit a go-ahead RBI double in the 14th. After the bullpen squandered the lead, he hit a two-run homer in the 15th to account for the final margin.

"That's destiny,'' Betancourt said. "It was my opportunity to put the team ahead twice. I was trying to do my best and it happened.''

The Royals have won seven of the last 10 overall meetings with the Astros and four of six in Houston, where Jonathan Sanchez hopes for another strong performance.

Sanchez (1-2, 5.93 ERA) had a solid return from his stint on the disabled list with bicep tendinitis, allowing one run in five innings of Kansas City's 4-3, 11-inning win over Milwaukee on Wednesday.

The left-hander is 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts at Minute Maid, last throwing seven shutout innings while with San Francisco in an 8-1 win Aug. 4, 2009.

"I think I pitched good there," Sanchez told the team's official website. "I don't follow numbers, I'm not a numbers guy. Just go there and have fun and play the game. I'm not a stats guy."

Houston hasn't had much fun lately in losing 16 of 21, which included being on the receiving end of Matt Cain's perfect game on Wednesday in San Francisco.

The Astros (27-39) finished their trip 3-6 after being swept by Texas, culminating with Sunday's 9-3 loss.

Jason Castro went 0 for 3 and dropped to 1 for 11 over his last four games, and Jose Altuve went 2 for 12 versus Texas after a 1-for-5 performance Sunday.

"You have to have a short memory and you can't dwell on what's happened in the past week," Castro told the team's official website. "It's nice to be going home."

Houston hasn't been much better at Minute Maid lately, having dropped four of six, but it will begin a 10-game homestand in hopes of turning things around.

"I think we need to take a step back from all this, take a deep breath and kind of push the reset button and get back after it (Monday)," said Jed Lowrie, who is 2 for 25 (.080) over his last seven contests.

Happ (4-7, 5.33) had the misfortune of being Cain's mound opponent Wednesday, though the left-hander didn't do himself any favors by allowing season highs of eight runs and 11 hits in 3 1-3 innings.

Happ, who has never faced the Royals, has lost his last four starts with a 7.17 ERA, failing to complete five innings in his last two.

He's been a lot better at Minute Maid than on the road, however. Happ is 4-4 with a 4.21 ERA in eight home starts but 0-3 with a 7.36 ERA in five outings away from Houston.

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