(AP) — While top overall draft pick Mark Appel is expected to be their future, Jordan Lyles has been one of the most reliable current starters for the Houston Astros.
Lyles will try to lead the Astros to their longest road winning streak in 12 seasons when they open a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
The Astros made Stanford’s Appel the No. 1 pick in the draft Thursday after the Houston native went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 106 1-3 innings as a senior.
“This is just a surreal moment for me and my family,” Appel told MLB Network. “Just knowing that I’m going back home is a real honor.”
Although Appel isn’t likely to join the big-league club in the immediate future, Lyles – the 38th pick by the Astros in 2008 – has a chance to help Houston win seven straight on the road for the first time since June 30-July 24, 2001.
The Astros (22-39), who just dropped two of three at home to Baltimore, swept a six-game trip through Colorado and Anaheim before that set.
Lyles (3-1, 4.30 ERA) has posted a 2-0 record and 1.90 ERA in his past four starts. The right-hander has also pitched well versus the Royals (25-32), allowing three runs over 13 innings while splitting two career starts against them.
Since losing a team-worst 11 straight at home, Kansas City has won two in a row there. The Royals have a chance to win three straight overall for the first time since a four-game run April 30-May 5.
They had averaged 2.2 runs over their previous 14 games before breaking through with 11 hits in a 7-3 victory over Minnesota on Thursday.
“We’re getting better. We’re starting to come out of it,” manager Ned Yost said. “The offense looks like it’s starting to turn the corner a little bit.”
That would be a welcome sight for James Shields (2-6, 2.83), who’s gone 0-4 in his last six starts despite a 2.66 ERA, receiving nine runs of support over that span.
His 3.24 run-support average ranks among the lowest in baseball.
“I don’t care about run support as much as winning the game,” Shields said after going seven innings and allowing one run in a 4-1, 10-inning loss to Texas on Saturday. “I’ve got to do a better job pitching.”
Shields allowed two runs over seven innings against Houston on May 22 but was outpitched by Lyles, who yielded one run over six for a 3-1 victory.
J.D. Martinez, who went 2 for 3 with a homer off Shields in that meeting, is 8 for 19 in six career games against the Royals.
Though Royals slugger Billy Butler is hitless in six career at-bats when facing Lyles, he’s 10 for 17 in his last five games at home.
The Astros, who took two of three from the Royals in Houston last month, have won 10 of 15 all-time meetings in Kansas City.