World Series MVP Salvador Perez is hoping he's finally solved his early season funk. The Kansas City Royals certainly aren't suffering from a championship malaise.
After coming through with his most significant hit of the season, Perez will try to help the Royals cap this four-game series with a third straight win over the Houston Astros on Thursday night.
Last fall, Perez went 8 for 22 with two RBIs and three runs while leading Kansas City to its first World Series title in 30 years by beating the New York Mets in five games.
That success didn't carry into 2016 for the All-Star catcher, who was hitting .208 with one RBI through seven games. Perez ended that slump with his first homer Wednesday, connecting for a go-ahead, two-run shot in the eighth inning of a 4-2 win at Houston.
"I have struggled a little, but every time I go to hit, I try to do the best I can do to do something to help us win," said Perez, who went 4 for 14 with two homers and four RBIs while the Royals beat the Astros in five games of last year's AL division series.
Perez, though, has a .186 average with three homers and nine RBIs in 12 games at Minute Maid Park, including the postseason.
The Royals (6-2) will give the ball to Ian Kennedy, who is aiming to open with back-to-back wins for the first time since 2012, with Arizona.
The right-hander got 2016 off to an impressive start Saturday, striking out seven while yielding five hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 7-0 win over Minnesota. That was a relief to Kennedy, who struggled through spring training with an 0-3 record and 6.30 ERA in six starts.
"There was a little more added to it, coming to a new team that's the defending world champs," Kennedy said. "You want to do well. It adds a little more to it in your first outing for them."
Kennedy has allowed one run in 12 2-3 innings while winning both career starts against the Astros (3-6) - both in Houston. However, he hasn't faced them since 2012.
He'll try to slow down Jose Altuve, who is 6 for 13 with a homer, two doubles, three RBIs and five runs in this series. The second baseman was 5 for 24 over the first six games.
Like Kennedy, Doug Fister is hoping a change of scenery can revive his career after going 5-7 with a 4.19 ERA in 25 games - 15 starts - with Washington last year. The right-hander allowed three runs with six strikeouts in five innings of a 6-4 win at Milwaukee on Saturday to end Houston's three-game skid.
"I felt like I had some decent command," Fister said. "Couple walks that really kind of irked me, but at the same time, it felt like I got out of situations when I needed to. Overall it wasn't a bad day, but I still have a lot of room to grow."
Fister is 1-4 with a 3.50 ERA over his last seven starts against the Royals, last facing them in 2013, with Detroit.