Although they've received little pitching help during a season-worst losing streak, the Kansas City Royals may be in position to turn things around in the opener of a three-game set at Petco Park.
Looking for the franchise's first victory in San Diego, the Royals give the ball to hard-throwing Yordano Ventura on Monday night when they try to deal the light-hitting Padres their fifth loss in six games.Kansas City (14-16) has posted a respectable 3.85 ERA overall, but its struggling staff has allowed seven or more runs in five of its last six games and posted an 8.00 ERA during the team's four-game skid.Jason Vargas was the latest starter to get knocked around Sunday, giving up season highs of seven runs and 11 hits over five innings in a 9-4 loss to visiting Detroit.Now the Royals will turn to the 22-year-old Ventura (2-1, 1.50 ERA), who allowed just two hits but piled up 92 pitches over five shutout innings Wednesday. He did not receive a decision after Kansas City rallied to break a 2-all tie in the seventh inning en route to a 4-2 home win over Toronto."My biggest focus was to go out there and throw strikes and try to keep the team close and help the team win, which is what we ended up doing," said Ventura, who possesses a triple-digit fastball.Since giving up a career high-tying four runs over four-plus innings in an 8-3 home loss to Minnesota on April 20, Ventura has surrendered nine hits over 13 scoreless innings in his last two starts -- both Kansas City victories.He'll try to extend the shutout streak against a San Diego team that ranks at or near the bottom of the majors with 84 runs, 16 home runs, a .216 average and .268 on-base percentage. The Padres (14-18) have scored only nine runs while batting .178 in their last five games, but scored just enough to end a four-game skid in Sunday's 4-3 home win over Arizona.Cameron Maybin reached base after an overturned umpire's call before scoring the winning run on Yonder Alonso's slow grounder. Maybin and Rene Rivera finished with two hits apiece as San Diego nearly matched its run total from the previous four games combined."We've been playing some really tough, close games," said Maybin, who is 8 for 23 in seven games since coming off the disabled list. "We continue to compete, continue to play hard."After going 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA over his previous four starts, Eric Stults (1-3, 5.34) looks to rebound after allowing a season high-tying five runs over 2 2/3 innings -- his shortest start since April 2009 -- in Tuesday's 6-0 loss at San Francisco.The left-hander makes his first career start against the Royals, who have totaled 11 runs while batting .183 with one home run over their last four losses. Billy Butler, though, has batted .343 in his last nine games after going 2 for 4 with a double Sunday.With no designated hitter spot available, manager Ned Yost will have to decide if he'll keep Butler's right-handed bat in the lineup at first base or play left-handed Eric Hosmer there.The Royals have dropped all six visits to Petco Park after getting swept in their most recent trip in June 2011.