Royals seek elusive second straight series victory vs. A’s

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After a horrible start to the season, the Kansas City Royals have been playing better recently.

The Royals ended April with a 7-21 record, but have won seven of their past 11 after pinning a 5-4 defeat on the Oakland Athletics on Saturday. Jorge Soler’s solo shot in the eighth inning broke a 4-4 tie.

The teams meet again Sunday in the finale of a three-game series. A Royals win would give them back-to-back series victories for the first time this season. They took two of three from the Minnesota Twins before the A’s came to town.

Right-hander Jakob Junis, the Royals’ most consistent starter with a 5-4 record and 3.61 ERA, will make his 12th start of the season.

Junis took the loss in his previous start, an 8-5 decision to the Minnesota Twins on Monday. Junis permitted three runs and six hits while walking a season-high four and striking out seven in six innings.

Junis is 8-3 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 career starts when pitching after a Royals loss. His 14 career victories are tied with Rich Gale (1978) for most victories by a Royals pitcher in his first 31 appearances.

Junis leads the team with 62 strikeouts and has limited opposing hitters to a .233 batting average. Left-handers are batting .239 off Junis and right-handers .277. He has given up four home runs to left-handed hitters in 117 at-bats and eight to right-handers in 141 at-bats.

Junis has a 2.57 ERA in two career appearances against the A’s. In his lone start on Aug. 14, 2017, in Oakland, Junis gave up two runs in six innings.

Junis has pitched at least into the sixth inning and allowed no more than three runs in his last three home starts. He is 3-3 with a 4.29 ERA in six home outings.

The Athletics will counter with right-hander Daniel Gossett, who is 0-3 with a 6.05 ERA. This is his second stint with Oakland this year.

Gossett made the Opening Day roster, but after going 0-1 with an 11.05 ERA in starts, he was optioned to Triple-A Nashville. He was recalled May 23 after going 4-0 with a 1.63 ERA in seven games (five starts) with the Sound.

He was leading the Pacific Coast League in ERA and holding opponents to a .190 batting average at the times of his promotion. PCL hitters were batting a puny .128 against him with runners in scoring position.

The 25-year-old right-hander was a 2014 second-round pick out of Clemson.

“He’s been a guy in our system who we’ve been looking forward to getting him here at the big league level,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “When he’s on, he’s on. He’s had some really good outings for us. The last one was not as good as the one before, giving up three home runs.

“But he’s a talented guy within our system that we envisioned being here as a part of our rotation, and that’s exactly where he is right now.”

Gossett is 4-14 in his first 22 career appearances. The only other A’s pitcher to lose 14 times in his first 22 outings was Johnny Gray from July 18, 1954 to May 10, 1955.

He lost Tuesday to Tampa Bay 4-3, allowing three runs and eight hits in five innings while walking two and striking out three.

“It was three mistakes, but he gave up eight hits,” Melvin said. “It wasn’t his best outing. The time before he was absolutely fantastic. He’ll look to improve on the outing he had last time, but we know he has it in him. His numbers in Triple A this year were fantastic.”

This will be Gossett’s first career appearance against Kansas City.