Preview Oakland at Kansas City
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Oakland Athletics got a glimpse of just how dominant Jon Lester can be his last time out. Now he'll try to win his third straight game in an A's uniform and attempt to slow down the red-hot Kansas City Royals in the second test of a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
Lester was terrific in beating the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, as he fired a three-hit shutout to improve to 12-7 on the year to go along with a 2.44 ERA. He has now won both of his starts since being acquired from Boston and has allowed just three runs in 15 2/3 innings.
"Every once in a while you kind of look over and you're like, 'Holy cow, Jon Lester's pitching,'" said Stephen Vogt. "To have a guy like that with his experience and his ability, it's pretty special to have that every five days. And the other four aren't so bad."
In his last 10 outings, the lefty is 6-0 with a 1.21 ERA.
That run could continue on Tuesday, as he owns an 8-3 lifetime mark versus the Royals with a 1.65 ERA in 12 starts.
Kansas City moved into first place in the AL Central with its eighth straight win on Monday, as Alcides Escobar singled in Nori Aoki with the tie-breaking run in the seventh inning to carry the Royals to a 3-2 victory.
Coupled with Detroit's loss in Pittsburgh, the Royals find themselves in first place this late in a season for the first time since Aug. 29, 2003. They moved a half-game ahead of the Tigers, who not only lost to the Pirates, but may have lost ace Justin Verlander to a shoulder injury.
KC was eight games out of first place on July 21, but is now 11 games over .500 for the first time since July 27, 2003. That season, the Royals finished 83-79 and in third place in their division.
Yordano Ventura gave up two hits and as many runs over the first six innings for the Royals. Kelvin Herrera (3-2) struck out a pair of batters in the seventh and Greg Holland escaped a shaky ninth by getting a huge double-play ball off the bat of Derek Norris. Holland retired Vogt on a fly ball to center to secure his AL-leading 35th save.
"We're capitalizing on just about every opportunity we get right now," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It's fun to watch."
Brandon Moss had a two-run single to center with the bases full in the third inning, but the AL West leaders lost their second straight to open this four- game series.
Sonny Gray (12-6) gave up six hits and three runs -- two earned -- over seven innings to suffer his third consecutive loss.
On Tuesday Kansas City will hand the ball to righty Jeremy Guthrie, who has won his last three starts and is also coming off a complete game win his last time out. Guthrie went the distance to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, holding them to a pair of runs and seven hits to run his record to 8-9 with a 4.35 ERA.
"It's nice," Guthrie said. "I think it's the pitcher's goal every time to get as deep as they can. I haven't done that very well, especially the last couple of months."
Guthrie pitched six scoreless innings to beat the A's two starts ago and is 4-4 in 11 games (10 starts) against them with a 4.29 ERA.
Kansas City took two of three from the A's earlier this month.