MLB

Royals-Rangers Preview

The Kansas City Royals have hit left-handers well and they're up against a struggling Texas Rangers southpaw.

The visiting Royals can gain a four-game series split Thursday if they can add to winless Rangers starter Ross Detwiler's woes.

Kansas City (21-13) is batting .304 against left-handers for baseball's second-best mark heading into its first look at Detwiler.

The left-hander spent last season as a reliever with Washington, and his adjustment to starting again hasn't gone smoothly. His latest poor effort was Saturday's 7-2 loss at Tampa Bay in which he was charged with four runs over four-plus innings.

Detwiler (0-4, 7.22 ERA) has allowed seven homers - the most by a Rangers pitcher. Opponents are batting .322 against him.

The only Royals hitters he has faced that he could see Thursday are Omar Infante (1 for 5), Alcides Escobar (0 for 2) and backup catcher Drew Butera - who homered in his only at-bat.

Butera could be behind the plate in this day game in place of Salvador Perez, who is 2 for 12 in this series after catching the first three.

Kansas City isn't exactly sending a Cy Young Award candidate to the mound, either. Journeyman Jeremy Guthrie (2-2, 5.70) seeks his first set of consecutive wins after giving up two runs over 7 1-3 innings in Saturday's 6-2 victory at Detroit.

The right-hander is allowing opponents to bat .308 and his 3.47 strikeouts per nine innings ratio is the majors' lowest mark. He is, however, 8-1 with a 3.47 ERA in his last 10 overall road starts, including a win in last year's World Series.

Guthrie went 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA in two outings against Texas last year, with Adrian Beltre and Leonys Martin each going 2 for 6 against him.

He's had plenty of trouble versus Prince Fielder, who is 11 for 23 against him, and Elvis Andrus, who is 9 for 25.

The starter will seek to avoid allowing Shin-Soo Choo to hit a leadoff home run for the third straight game, which would make him the first to accomplish the feat since Brady Anderson did so over four consecutive games from April 18-21, 1996. Choo connected in a two-run first inning and Fielder added a two-run blast in the second as Texas (15-19) built an early four-run lead in Wednesday's 5-2 victory.

Fielder is 6 for 13 with two homers and five RBIs in this series.

''He smells the RBI," manager Jeff Banister said. "He smells what pitchers are trying to do. It's a quality, veteran hitter."

Choo is batting .345 during a 13-game hitting streak. Beltre is 5 for 13 in this series as he seeks his 400th homer.

Martin was out of the starting lineup with a sore left hand for the second straight game and the sixth time since spraining his left wrist May 3 against Oakland.

Kansas City, which leads the majors with a .285 average, has been held in check at .225 in this series. Eric Hosmer is batting .341 during a 10-game hitting streak.

These teams lead the majors in getting hit by pitches, with the Royals at 26 and the Rangers at 23. Nobody was hit Wednesday after Escobar was plunked in each of the first two games.

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