With the Kansas City Royals in danger of their longest losing streak of the last three seasons, the first step in avoiding it is scoring a run.
The defending World Series champions look to avoid a winless trip and put an end to a 26-inning scoreless drought in Sunday's series finale with the red-hot Seattle Mariners.
Kansas City (12-11) is mired in a five-game skid after dropping three to the Los Angeles Angels and the first two to Seattle (13-10) on this six-game road swing. The Royals haven't dropped six in a row since losing seven straight Aug. 17-24, 2013.
The most surprising aspect of Kansas City's latest slump is a lineup suddenly incapable of scoring, getting shut out in Seattle 1-0 on Friday and 6-0 on Saturday - stretching its road skid to seven games.
The Royals haven't scored since the first inning of Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Angels and have totaled seven runs in their last five games, dropping their season average to 3.35.
Their 26-inning drought is tied for the fourth longest in franchise history and is six shy of the record set by the 2004 club, which included the franchise's only shutout streak of three games. Kansas City was last shut out in back-to-back contests Sept. 24-25, 2013 - also in Seattle.
Mike Moustakas went 2 for 4 with a double Saturday, but the rest of the lineup combined for just three singles. Eric Hosmer's league-leading 18-game hitting streak came to a close.
"I've been through this a hundred times," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You just keep fighting to get out of it. You know our energy is good, the guys are fighting in the dugout, they're engaged. We've been through it. You fight through it."
To end their struggles, the Royals will have to figure out 23-year-old Taijuan Walker. The right-hander is off to a hot start and will try to lift the Mariners to their third straight win and 12th in 16 games, which would include victories in six of seven at Safeco Field.
Seattle is fresh off its first winning April since going 13-9 in 2009.
Walker (2-0, 1.44) matched a career high with 11 strikeouts in Monday's 3-2 win over Houston, including the final six he faced. He surrendered six hits and one run in seven innings while walking one, lowering his WHIP to 0.96.
"We've really seen that he has the ability to turn the dial up," manager Scott Servais told MLB's official website. "Later in games there's plenty in the tank. The adrenaline gets flowing, he gets a little emotional and he gets after it. He doesn't back off. He believes in himself and we certainly believe in him."
Seattle starters have tossed scoreless outings in three of the last five games, capped by Wade Miley's five-hitter Saturday.
Meanwhile, Kansas City's staff hasn't made it out of the sixth in the last four games and has a 7.71 ERA during its losing streak. Sunday starter Ian Kennedy started that slump, coughing up seven hits and five runs in six innings of Monday's 6-1 loss at Los Angeles.
Kennedy (2-2, 2.77) walked four batters and served up two home runs while striking out a season-low two.
The right-hander didn't fare well in last year's two starts against the Mariners, losing both while with San Diego. He totaled just 9 2/3 innings while allowing 12 hits and nine runs - six earned.
Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager, who homered Saturday, hit one of the Mariners' four home runs off Kennedy last season. Seth Smith, whose homer on Friday was Seattle's only hit, also hit one out Saturday and is 7 for 24 lifetime against Kennedy with four doubles, a home run and three RBIs.
Seattle has homered in nine straight games, totaling 15 in the stretch.