Royals-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

The Kansas City Royals are in position for a rare road sweep of the Texas Rangers.

In their way is a former AL Central nemesis - a pitcher who hasn't won a start in over three years.

Scott Baker enjoyed success in the past against the Royals, although it would be hard to anticipate anything of the sort Sunday when he starts for the Rangers opposite Jason Vargas.

Kansas City (72-56) seeks to cap a nine-game trip with a 7-2 mark and its first three-game sweep in Arlington since July 11-13, 2003, after consecutive 6-3 wins to start this series. The Royals are a major league-best 17-4 in August and have built a three-game lead in the Central over Detroit.

''The more you win, the more you believe,'' said center fielder Jarrod Dyson, who matched a career high with three RBIs Saturday. ''It's like routine to you. So that's probably why we're going so good right now.''

Baker (1-3, 5.75 ERA) is 0-4 with a 5.57 ERA in 10 starts for three teams since winning July 23, 2011, for Minnesota. He went 8-4 with a 3.41 ERA in 16 starts against the Royals in his days with the Twins.

The right-hander will be pitching on 11 days' rest since he threw two scoreless innings of relief to earn a 3-2, 14-inning win over Tampa Bay on Aug 12. He is 0-3 with a 6.97 ERA in four starts this year, the latest coming July 13 against the Los Angeles Angels.

Billy Butler is 3 for 29 against Baker, but seldom-used Raul Ibanez is 8 for 17 with two homers.

The Royals will give the ball to Vargas (10-5, 3.17), who is 5-2 with a 2.05 ERA in 11 road starts and seeking his first three-start win streak of 2014. He has yielded one run over 16 innings in winning his last two.

The left-hander spent his previous five seasons in the AL West, going 4-7 with a 4.33 ERA in 17 starts against Texas.

The Rangers (49-79) were contenders in those days. Now they are losers of seven of nine and 13-23 against southpaw starters for baseball's worst mark.

Vargas has limited Adrian Beltre to four hits in 30 at-bats. Alex Rios is a .238 hitter against him and Elvis Andrus is at .227.

His batterymate will be Salvador Perez, who sat out Saturday when manager Ned Yost told the catcher he could rest in one of the final two games of this series.

"He's 100 percent good," Yost told MLB's official website about Perez. "There's not a thing wrong with him."

Erik Kratz started in his place and had two runners steal on him but also caught Leonys Martin in the fifth inning.

"It is tough, especially when you can't string anything together," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "We tried to steal some bags to try to make some things happen but the catcher sort of stopped that at least on one of the steals."

Lorenzo Cain is 5 for 8 with three runs scored in this series for Kansas City.

Beltre is 13 for 27 in his last seven games, with four straight two-hit efforts for Texas.

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