Though it's only mid-May, few could have guessed Kansas City would have a better record than the Los Angeles Angels , who have a payroll roughly $60 million more than the Royals'.
That may not be the case much longer, though, if Kansas City can't snap out of its funk as it begins a nine-game road trip Monday night against Los Angeles.
The Royals (18-16) have finished with a winning record only once since 1995, but bold offseason moves to bolster their pitching rotation have paid off early.
The Royals, though, have dropped six of seven after falling 4-2 to the New York Yankees on Sunday, with the offense mustering three or fewer runs five times in that stretch."We're still right in the hunt, but it's a long season," Shields said after the Royals were swept. "I've experienced (being) 11 games back going into September and making the playoffs (with Tampa Bay), so anything can happen. There's no panic here."
Los Angeles seemed to have that type of confidence entering the season, but it possesses the second-worst record in the AL.
The Angels (14-23) had won three straight before finishing with one hit - Mike Trout 's seventh-inning single - in Sunday's 3-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Josh Hamilton , the team's prized offseason signing who is hitting just .203, finished 1 for 12 in the three-game set."I think if there is one thing we saw in this series, is that we have the ability to pitch well and I think we have to carry that forward," manager Mike Scioscia said
That hasn't always been true in the case of Joe Blanton , who will be seeking his first victory in eight tries.
The Angels have lost each time Blanton (0-6, 5.66 ERA) has started, though he's received only three runs of support over 20 2-3 innings during a three-start losing streak.
Blanton has a 3.48 ERA in that stretch after posting a 7.84 ERA in his first four starts."I'm not happy right now, but it does feel better to contribute and at least give us a chance to win," Blanton said. "The first couple of starts, I wasn't doing that."
The right-hander is 3-1 with a 1.76 ERA in six career starts versus the Royals, whom he hasn't faced since 2007.
Kansas City with counter with a struggling start of its own in Luis Mendoza .
Mendoza (0-2, 6.38) has made four starts and has a 9.19 ERA over his last three after allowing five runs - three earned - in six innings of Wednesday's 5-3 loss at Baltimore.
The right-hander is 0-1 with a 15.00 ERA in two career starts versus the Angles, though neither came after 2008.
|Kansas City Royals|
|March 31, 2013||Danny Duffy||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|February 12, 2013||Felipe Paulino||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|Los Angeles Angels|
|April 30, 2013||Peter Bourjos||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|April 27, 2013||Sean Burnett||15-Day DL||Left forearm irritation|
|April 20, 2013||Mark Lowe||15-Day DL||Neck stiffness|
|April 20, 2013||Mark Lowe||15-Day DL||Neck stiffness|
|April 13, 2013||Kevin Jepsen||15-Day DL||Right triceps tightness|
|April 12, 2013||Alberto Callaspo||15-Day DL||Right calf tightness|
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- So much for Billy Butler 's offensive drought.
Butler broke out of a severe slump with five hits and five RBIs, and the Kansas City Royals kept Joe Blanton winless in eight starts this season with an 11-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.
"I knew I had been getting closer, but it's just one game," Butler said. "You've got to come out and do it consistently. Hopefully I'm on that upward streak now."
Butler's hit total tied his career high, established on July 27, 2009, at Baltimore. The designated hitter has three games with five or more RBIs in the majors - including a franchise record-tying seven on April 7 at Philadelphia, when he hit his first career grand slam. He began the day in a 4-for-35 rut with a .228 average and one RBI in 23 at-bats over his previous six games.
"Billy's one of the best hitters I've ever seen," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I've seen a lot of really good hitters go into little slumps, and Billy's slumps are usually 0 for 9 or 0 for 10. But you also know that any day he's capable of breaking out and really carrying the team for a period of time. Billy's like a light switch. All of a sudden he can walk in, flip it, and there he goes."
Luis Mendoza (1-2) allowed three runs and six hits over six innings, striking out six and walking none as the Royals began a nine-game road trip following a three-game sweep by the New York Yankees .
"We needed to get a win," Yost said. "We knew the offense would click sooner or later, and it did tonight. We knew Billy had been struggling, and that it was just a matter of time before he got back on track. And he did it in a big way tonight."
Mendoza was staked to a 10-1 lead and took a three-hitter into the sixth before giving up a pair of runs. Luke Hochevar pitched three innings for his first save in seven big league seasons.
"Everybody contributed offensively. We got a bunch of hits and a bunch of runs and made it easy for Mendy," Yost said. "But Mendy was pretty darn good tonight. When he missed, he missed down. He had a good two-seamer, a good sinker and good action to his pitches. He also had a good curveball that he kept down in the zone."
Blanton (0-7) threw 99 pitches through 4 2-3 innings, giving up seven runs and 12 hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. The right-hander's ERA shot up to 6.46.
"I felt like I threw the ball good tonight and my stuff was good," Blanton said. "When they made contact they found holes, broken-bat balls fell in for singles and balls bounced their way down the lines. It was one of those weird games. There were a couple of innings where I was one pitch away from it. But they got a couple of two-out hits that cost me three or four of those runs."
It's the first time in the Angels' 53-year history that they have been on the losing end in all of a pitcher's first eight starts in a season. The last time one of their pitchers was winless in his first eight starts was 1997, when lefty Matt Perisho started eight times as a rookie and was 0-2. The Angels were 4-4 in those games.
Kansas City opened the scoring in the first when Alex Gordon singled with two outs and came all the way around on Butler's double off the right-field wall. Two innings later, Butler drove in two more with a two-out single.
"He's a good hitter," Blanton said. "I threw him a little bit of everything."
The Angels got on the board in the third with an RBI single by Chris Iannetta , who had one hit in his previous 27 at-bats. But the Royals increased the margin to 4-1 in the fourth with Jarrod Dyson 's two-out RBI double and tacked on three more in the fifth with an RBI single by Lorenzo Cain and a two-run double by No. 8 hitter Salvador Perez that chased Blanton.
"Probably the biggest one was that last double," Blanton said. "I threw a cutter and left it up in the zone. Other than that, I thought my pitches were pretty crisp and had a lot of movement down in the zone. I felt like I had located, for the most part."
Even the Angels' improving bullpen couldn't contain Butler, whose two-run double highlighted a three-run sixth against rookie Michael Roth and gave the Royals a 10-1 cushion. The hit increased his RBI total to 25 and snapped a string of scoreless innings by Angels relievers.
NOTES: Angels RF Josh Hamilton was 2 for 3, including a ground double to the left side against the shift. He left the game in the seventh inning because he was "a little lightheaded," manager Mike Scioscia said. ... Butler, an All-Star for the first time last season, was moved into the cleanup spot five games ago after batting third most of the season. ... Blanton struck out the side in the second, his only 1-2-3 inning. The only time this season that he has left a game with a lead was April 22 against Texas, when the bullpen blew a 6-3 advantage and he ended up with a six-inning no-decision. ... Royals RF Jeff Francoeur , 3 for 24 with no RBIs in his last seven games, did not start even though he is 6 for 14 against Blanton. ... Kansas City's five doubles were a season high. ... The entire seven-game season series will take place this month, including a four-game set at Kansas City starting May 23.