Floundering Royals look to end skid against Athletics

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Athletics hope to take another step forward on what could be their most important homestand of the season when they host the Kansas City Royals on the second night of a four-game series Friday.

Having had his start pushed back one day so that the A’s could squeeze previously injured Paul Blackburn into their rotation, right-hander Frankie Montas (2-0, 0.64) will seek a second consecutive win over a Kansas City team that shows no signs of turning around a disappointing season.

Seeking to avoid his team’s sixth consecutive defeat, right-hander Jakob Junis (5-5, 3.62) will oppose Montas.

The A’s opened a 10-game homestand with a 4-1 win over the Royals on Thursday night, getting six sharp innings from Blackburn and, most important, a nine-hit attack against three Kansas City pitchers.

Oakland began the homestand, which also features Houston and the Los Angeles Angels, two teams ahead of the A’s in the American League West, with just a .500 home record. The offense has taken the blame for the unimpressive mark, with the A’s having hit just .222 in their first 30 home games, the second-worst team average in the AL.

A’s manager Bob Melvin did some lineup tinkering for the homestand opener, moving everyone in the middle of his lineup up a spot and demoting Marcus Semien, mired in an 0-for-17 slump, from second to sixth.

New cleanup man Matt Olson responded with his 13th home run of the season and Semien showed signs of life with two hits, helping the A’s record more hits in one game (nine) than they’d accumulated in the last two games of their previous homestand against Tampa Bay (eight).

Montas has no complaints about the support he’s gotten, especially the 16 runs he received when he faced the Royals in Kansas City last Friday. Of course, that game was on the road.

The 25-year-old has been impressive in both his starts this season, and in both his career outings against the Royals, against whom he’s 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA in two head-to-heads.

Montas will see a different look from the Royals this time around, with the club having traded leadoff man Jon Jay to the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this week for two minor-leaguers.

The Royals have not responded well to what some fear could be the start of an in-season fire sale, totaling four runs and 12 hits in their first two games without Jay.

Whit Merrifield has taken over the leadoff spot, going 2-for-9 in those games.

Junis pitched well against the A’s in a 5-1 loss on Sunday, a game that was tied 1-1 when the 24-year-old was sent back out to the mound to start the eighth inning.

He gave up the go-ahead run in the eighth before Burch Smith came on and served up a three-run home run to Olson, capping a four-run inning.

Junis has faced the A’s three times in his career, going 1-1 with a 3.14 ERA.

The Royals have yet to win on a seven-game tour of California, having lost three straight to the Angels before heading to Oakland on Thursday.

They’ve dropped five in a row overall.