Kansas City Royals (44-28) at Houston Astros (44-34), 8:10 p.m. (ET)

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Kansas City Royals try to secure a fifth straight victory on Monday night when they begin a three-game set with the Houston Astros in a matchup of first place clubs.

 

The Royals finished off a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics with Sunday's 5-3 victory, with Salvador Perez homering and driving in three runs.

 

Omar Infante and Alex Rios had an RBI each to help the Royals earn their first sweep in Oakland since July 28-30, 2008 and win for the 10th time in their last 13 games.

 

Jeremy Guthrie did his part on the mound, limiting Oakland's struggling offense to two runs and striking out a season-high seven over six solid innings.

 

"I think the curveball was a pitch we had good success with and the breaking ball in general was a quality pitch today, better than the last couple of outings," Guthrie said. "That was the key to the seven strikeouts, just keeping them off-balance."

 

The Royals lead the AL Central by 5 1/2 games over the Minnesota Twins, while the Astros are four games up on the second-place Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

 

Houston managed a split of its four-game set with the New York Yankees by winning Sunday's finale 3-1. Collin McHugh tossed eight outstanding innings and Evan Gattis delivered a tie-breaking RBI triple in the seventh.

 

Gattis' shot off the left-center field wall plated Carlos Correa and snapped a 1-1 tie, while rewarding McHugh for an effort in which he yielded just two hits and notched eight strikeouts.

 

"It's not just like he logged innings today, he logged innings while using his best stuff," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of McHugh. "That's a tough lineup to get through and a lot of damage that could be done. Just a really, really good pitching performance."

 

Correa doubled twice and a scored pair of runs. He is hitting .314 through his first 20 big league games with five homers and 15 RBI.

 

Rookie Lance McCullers takes the mound for the Astros for his ninth career start and first against the Royals.

 

McCullers has opened his big league career at 3-2 with a 2.33 earned run average and is coming off a tough-luck no-decision against the Angels. He yielded a run on four hits and three walks over six innings in the Wednesday start, striking out six in his club's 2-1 loss.

 

The 21-year-old righty is perfect through his first four career home starts, going 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA. He has fanned 27 batters over 23 innings at Minute Maid Park without allowing a home run.

 

Joe Blanton tries to extend his surprise career resurgence tonight for the Royals with a third victory in as many starts.

 

Blanton did not pitch in the majors last season and posted a 1.80 ERA through seven relief appearances this year before getting a start on June 17 versus Milwaukee. The 34-year-old won that outing with five innings of one-run ball and was even better last time out in Seattle.

 

Facing the Mariners last Monday, Blanton logged six-plus innings and allowed just one run on two hits, one a solo homer in the first inning. He retired 16 in a row after the home run and did not walk a batter while striking out seven, moving to 2-0 with a 1.73 ERA.

 

"Anytime you can go six innings and not pitch out of the stretch, odds are you got a pretty darn good game," Royals manager Ned Yost said about Blanton's performance.

 

The righty is 3-2 lifetime versus the Astros with a 3.29 ERA across nine games with seven starts.

 

This is the first series of the season between these clubs after they traded three-game road sweeps in 2014.

 

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