Royals-Astros Preview

Royals-Astros Preview

Published Jun. 20, 2012 10:28 a.m. ET

(AP) -- A strong starting pitching performance helped the Kansas City Royals even their set with the Houston Astros. They'll need a better effort from Bruce Chen than he gave in his last outing if they are to win a third straight series.

A day after his 35th birthday, Chen looks to bounce back from his worst start of the season when the Royals conclude their road set with the Astros on Wednesday.

Luke Hochevar allowed five hits and struck out six over 7 2-3 innings, and two relievers held Houston without a hit during Kansas City's 2-0 win Tuesday. The Royals have won six of eight to improve to 7-7 during interleague play this season.

"Our goal is to win the series," outfielder Jeff Francoeur told the Royals' official website.

After Hochevar thew well enough to earn his first win since May 12, Chen (5-6, 5.05 ERA) hopes to rebound from a dismal outing at St. Louis on Saturday. He allowed six runs and two homers over 1 2-3 innings before escaping without a decision in a 10-7 loss. It was the third time this season that Chen has yielded six runs in a game.

The left-hander is 1-1 with a 3.48 ERA in five starts against the Astros, whom he has not faced since 2010.

Billy Butler and Alcides Escobar each had two hits with an RBI for the Royals, who evened the set after falling short despite a five-run ninth inning rally in Monday's 9-7 loss.

Escobar is batting .359 with six RBIs in his last 10 games. Butler, who hit his 13th home run Tuesday, has homered in two of his last three games after he went 16 straight contests without one.

Carlos Lee and Chris Johnson each had two hits for the Astros (28-40), who have lost six of eight and fell to 4-7 against AL opponents this season. Houston was 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.

"That's why it's baseball. You have another game tomorrow," outfielder Jason Maxwell told the Astros' official website. "The key to success is how quickly you rebound, so you shake it off and get ready for (Wednesday)."

Lee is 4 for 11 in three games since coming off the disabled list Sunday from a strained left hamstring.

"Carlos did a good job (Tuesday of) making some adjustments," manager Brad Mills said. "That experience has helped him and we want to carry over that to the younger guys, and let them make adjustments as well."

Houston's Jordan Lyles (1-3, 5.50) takes the mound looking to avoid a third straight losing start after allowing five runs in 4 1-3 innings in each of his last two outings. He yielded three earned runs and eight hits in a 6-2 loss at Texas on Friday.

The right-hander has given up all of his runs over the last two starts in the fifth inning.

"I've got to do a better job of putting guys away when I'm ahead," said Lyles, who will face Kansas City for the first time.