Royals-Cardinals Preview

The Associated Press

The St. Louis Cardinals' recently sub-par offensive performances have been rather perplexing, especially considering the slump has come at home.

The low-scoring Kansas City Royals hope to continue taking advantage.

Kansas City seeks a season-best fifth consecutive victory when it faces St. Louis in the continuation of the I-70 Series on Saturday.

Since scoring a season-high 14 runs at Houston on June 7, it has taken the Cardinals the first seven games of their nine-game homestand to match that number.

St. Louis (33-32) has scored two or fewer in six of those contests, including a 3-2 loss in the series opener Friday.

Tyler Greene had three hits for the Cardinals, who are tied for second in the NL in runs per game (5.0) at home. Their .289 home batting average is tied for the best in the majors, though it has dropped eight points during the homestand.

Carlos Beltran, who returned to the lineup after missing Thursday's 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox with a stomach virus, stole his 300th career base to become the first switch hitter in major league history with 300 home runs and 300 steals.

He's hitting .467 (14 for 30) during an eight-game hitting streak he extended in his first career game against Kansas City, which drafted him in 1995.

"I've been fortunate to be able to play this game for long, and today, it's great," Beltran told the team's official website. "It would have been great if we would have won."

If not for the Cardinals' pitching staff posting a 3.00 ERA and two shutouts over the last seven, their homestand could be much worse. Joe Kelly experienced a lack of run support his last time out.

Kelly (0-0, 1.80 ERA) allowed one run in five innings in his major league debut as the Cardinals fell to the Indians 4-1 on Sunday. The right-hander, pitching in place of the injured Jaime Garcia, threw 79 pitches and struck out four.

"Now that I have the first one out of the way, mentally I'm ready to keep going, ready to keep pitching,'' Kelly said. "I just try to let the defense do the work, don't try to strike everyone out.''

Kelly will face a Royals team that has won four straight but hasn't scored more than four runs in its last nine games. Kansas City (28-34) ranks last in the AL with 237 runs scored.

Each contest during the team's winning streak has been decided by one run, and none of the Royals' past nine has had a margin larger than two.

"It's hard to stay awake, the games are so boring," manager Ned Yost sarcastically told the team's official website.

The Royals' pitching staff has a 2.13 ERA during the winning streak, a mark Bruce Chen will look to improve upon in his first career start in St. Louis.

Chen (5-6, 4.44) allowed three runs in five innings of a 3-2 defeat at Pittsburgh on Sunday, though he's improved since beginning the season 0-4 with a 4.98 ERA through six starts. The left-hander is 5-2 with a 3.98 ERA in his last seven outings, but he's 1-2 with a 5.74 ERA in three career starts versus St. Louis.

The Royals and Cardinals have split 28 all-time regular-season meetings in St. Louis.

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