Royals send Junis and his 0.00 ERA out to cool off Angels

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While the Los Angeles Angels are on a tear, equaling their best 15-game start in franchise history, the Kansas City Royals have stumbled out of the starting blocks, losing nine of 12. The teams face off Saturday evening at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals’ three victories have been shutouts, two of them by 1-0 scores. They have been outscored 54-24 in the nine defeats, including a 5-4 loss Friday to the Angels.

The problem has not been Kansas City’s rotation. The starting pitchers are 3-5 with a 3.04 ERA and have held opposing hitters to a .219 average.

The weak link on the mound has been the bullpen. The relievers are 0-4 with three blown saves in five chances.

“I’m sure there is frustration,” said right-hander Jason Hammel, who allowed two runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision Friday. “There naturally would be frustration, not just getting it done, a step behind. But it’s a very long season.

“I’m not worried about it and the rest of the guys are not worried about it. We do need to find some rhythm, something to wake us up, I guess. It’s still like a spring training hangover.”

The Royals will start right-hander Jakob Junis (2-0, 0.00 ERA), who has allowed only four hits and no runs over 14 innings in his first two starts this season. He has stuck out nine and walked three batters, and opponents are hitting only .089 off him.

In a 10-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday, Junis allowed just one hit with two walks and three hit batters in seven innings. He is the sixth Kansas City pitcher to begin the season with back-to-back scoreless starts. The last was Zack Greinke, who accomplished the feat in his first three 2009 starts.

Junis is 4-0 with a 2.96 ERA in 10 career outings, eight of them starts, at Kauffman Stadium. He has struck out 45 and walked 14 in 51 2/3 innings at home.

His only career start against the Angels came last year, when he gave up eight hits, including two homers, and five runs in 5 1/3 innings. Junis took the loss in that 9-0 defeat.

While the Royals have struggled, the Angels are 12-3, the same as the 1979 club that won the AL West. They came from behind Friday to record their sixth consecutive victory and their ninth in their past 10.

The Angels top the majors with 98 runs.

“We’re hitting well,” said Albert Pujols, who homered and drove in three runs Friday. “This is professional hitters. They really make the opposing pitcher work. That’s what we’ve been doing.

“If somebody doesn’t do the job, we pass the opportunity. We just finish. If one guy doesn’t do the job, the next guy comes in and picks us up. It’s a great lineup. We’re just playing great.”

The Angels will send right-hander Garrett Richards (1-0, 4.20 ERA) to the mound Saturday for his fourth start of the season.

Richards yielded one earned run on four hits in 4 1/3 innings in his previous start Monday at Texas, an 8-3 Angels win.

In 10 career games, four of them starts, against Kansas City, Richards is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA. He has not started a game in Kansas City since Aug. 13, 2015.

Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is 3-for-16 (.188) with two RBIs off Richards. Mike Moustakas is 3-for-8 (.375) versus Richards. No other Royal has more than five at-bats against him.