Kansas City leads the AL Central this late in a season for the first time in 11 years, playing its best baseball over the last month to capture first place.
The Royals haven't lost much during that span, so they're not about to fret over a single defeat as they head to Arlington for a three-game series with the Texas Rangers on Friday night."We're not going to dwell on this," said Danny Duffy, who took the loss in Wednesday's 5-2 defeat at Colorado. "We're going to go back out there Friday and take care of business in Texas. That's what teams that succeed do."Kansas City (70-56) has won 22 of 28 since being two games under .500 on July 21 to take a 1 1/2-game lead on Detroit in the division. It hasn't led the Central this late since Aug. 29, 2003, finishing third that season.The Royals don't appear to be letting up this time around, though. Their .281 batting average since Aug. 1 is the best in the majors, and Billy Butler is hitting .373 over his last 17 to raise his average 16 points to .280."(Butler has) got it back. He's a threat again, where he wasn't before," manager Ned Yost told MLB's official website. "Driving the gaps, hitting the ball hard."Kansas City starters have a 2.67 ERA over the last eight, and rookie Yordano Ventura will take the mound in the series opener looking to deliver another solid performance.Ventura (9-9, 3.48 ERA) is 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA over his last four starts after giving up three runs in 6 2/3 innings of Saturday's 4-1 loss at Minnesota. He did walk a season-worst six and has issued 10 walks in his last 12 2/3 innings."The thing with him is, he walked the bases loaded with one out, but he's got stuff to get out of it," Yost said.Ventura has never faced the Rangers (49-77), who had lost five of six before Wednesday's 5-4 win over Miami. Alex Rios, who has been fighting through a sprained right ankle and bruised thumb, went 2 for 4 with two RBIs."You just have to go for it," Rios said. "Some of this stuff is going to be there quite a bit the rest of the way, so you have to play through it."Texas has the worst home record in the majors at 23-38, and starter Colby Lewis has contributed plenty to that woeful mark.Lewis (8-10, 5.52) lost his last two starts at home, giving up five runs -- two earned -- in five innings of a 7-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Aug. 11 before allowing five runs and 10 hits in six innings of Saturday's 5-4 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels.The right-hander has given up at least 10 hits four times this season, with three of those instances coming at home. He's 2-7 with a 7.29 ERA in 12 starts in Arlington, marking the worst home ERA of any pitcher in baseball.Lewis is 1-2 with a 6.86 ERA in four career starts against the Royals, whose .274 road batting average is by far the best in the majors."It doesn't matter who I'm facing, I've got a job to do," Lewis said. "I can't get outside of what makes me successful. I'm sure (pitching coach Mike Maddux) will do his work to exploit (Kansas City's) holes. We'll go over that and go from there."The Royals have won 11 of their last 14 on the road.