(SportsNetwork.com) - As one of only two teams in the American League Central with a winning record, the Kansas City Royals try to keep the pressure on Detroit as they battle the LA Angels of Anaheim in the second test of a three- game series at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday.
Earlier this month the Royals put together an impressive 10-game win streak, which included a trio of victories against the Tigers, but since then the squad has dropped six of eight, which is why KC is now 3 1/2 games off the pace in the division.
Kansas City made a huge statement in the third inning last night when it tallied seven runs, but the remainder of the 8-6 decision saw the Royals struggle to generate offense. Omar Infante was a key contributor in the third when he connected on the first grand slam of his career.
Despite the long ball launched by Infante, Kansas City is still a distant last in that department in the AL, delivering only 46 home runs through 79 games.
Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain both accounted for three hits for the hosts, the latter scoring twice.
Kansas City starter Jason Vargas lasted just four innings as he surrendered six runs on nine hits, while Michael Mariot was credited with the win, his first of the season, after retiring only four batters. Greg Holland logged his 23rd save.
Matt Shoemaker entered the meeting with a record of 5-1 on the season, but the right-hander was shelled for eight runs on 11 hits in his four innings of action.
"Definitely not fun," Shoemaker said. "It's just something that's definitely going to make me tougher. Not that I already wasn't, but you learn from it."
Continuing his assault on AL pitching, Mike Trout lifted his batting average to .313 thanks to a pair of hits, one of those being a solo home run (18th) in the top of the first inning. Trout is now among the top seven in the AL in home runs, batting average and RBI (59).
"We could've easily put our head down when it was 8-2," Trout said of the comeback bid, "but we put together some great at-bats."
Designated hitter C.J. Cron added three RBI for the visitors, thanks to a pair of home runs, but still the Angels are two games under .500 on the road (18-20).
Alone in second place in the AL West, trailing only the Oakland A's, the Angels have played very well of late, although pitcher Hector Santiago has yet to share in the success. In fact, Santiago is still awaiting his first win of 2014, sporting a record of 0-7 thus far.
The left-hander from New Jersey most recently appeared in a reliever role last weekend when he registered just a single out to close the eighth inning versus Texas. A week earlier Santiago was saddled with his latest setback in a 7-3 loss at Atlanta. Against the Braves he permitted four runs on five hits and a pair of walks, fanning four over 5 1/3 innings.
This will mark the 10th all-time appearance for Santiago versus Kansas City, albeit just his fourth start. He has a record of 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA in 26.0 innings when setting up against Royals hitters.
Making his first-ever appearance against the Angels is second-year hurler Yordano Ventura. The right-hander recently saw a three-game win streak come to an end as he again fell below .500 on the season with a loss against Seattle on Sunday.
Ventura gave up only two runs on six hits and a couple of walks versus the Mariners at home and struck out six over seven innings, but that wasn't enough to keep from landing in the loss column.
Last month the Royals paid a visit to Anaheim and ended up with just one win in three tries versus the Angels, the lone victory (7-4) coming in 13 innings.