The Kansas City Royals are still clinging to the AL Central lead after holding on to beat baseball’s worst team.
Kansas City tries to continue its success against the visiting Texas Rangers and spoil Derek Holland’s season debut Tuesday night.
The Royals (75-61) had dropped three straight and five of seven before winning 4-3 in Monday’s opener. Salvador Perez went 3 for 4 with a homer and three RBIs and Yordano Ventura pitched into the seventh inning. Greg Holland came on to record his major league best-tying 41st save, striking out two in his third consecutive day of work.
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"It’s kind of a double-edged sword for me," Holland said. "We’re in a playoff race and you never know when you’re going to get another chance to go to the playoffs. Kansas City hasn’t been there in a while."
Kansas City remains one-half game ahead of Detroit for the division lead. The Royals, 3-1 against Texas this season, haven’t finished with a winning record in the series since going 5-4 in 2007.
The Rangers (53-84) have hit .156 and scored five runs during a three-game losing streak. Alex Rios, hitting .161 over a 25-game stretch, is 3 for his last 30 against Kansas City. Leonys Martin has also struggled against the Royals, going 4 for his last 26.
Holland is finally set to make his season debut for Texas after working his way back from offseason knee surgery. He went 2-1 with a 4.43 ERA over six rehab starts in the minors.
"It has been a long process … longer than expected," Holland told MLB’s official website. "If we were in the pennant race, I would have been back sooner, but I can’t dictate that. My job now is to compete and show them what I can do. I know the season has been frustrating, it has been frustrating for me too. I just want to be a part of it.
"Being with the team, it’s like being called up again. I’ll probably be excited but I know how to calm myself down."
Holland allowed both runs over seven innings in a 7-2 win over Kansas City last May, improving to 2-0 with a 4.18 ERA over a four-start stretch in the series.
The Royals counter with Jeremy Guthrie (10-10, 4.43 ERA), who’s gone 5-1 with a 4.08 ERA in his last seven outings while receiving an average of 6.8 runs of support. He was tagged for five runs and nine hits over six innings in Thursday’s 11-5, 10-inning home loss to Minnesota.
The right-hander has recently been hit hard at Kauffman Stadium. Opponents are batting .398 against him over a five-start stretch there, during which he’s gone 1-2 with an 8.33 ERA.
Guthrie threw eight innings of one-run ball to win 6-3 at Texas on Aug. 23. He’s posted a 3.00 ERA in splitting his last four decisions against the Rangers.
Elvis Andrus has had Guthrie’s number, going 7 for 13 with a homer and two doubles since 2011. Adrian Beltre is 6 for his last 16 with a homer in their matchups.
Beltre is batting .429 with nine extra-base hits – four homers – and 12 RBIs during an 18-game hitting streak against Kansas City.
His .374 career average at Kauffman Stadium is the highest for an opposing hitter with a minimum of 150 plate-appearances since the stadium opened in 1973.