Red-hot Royals make weekend West Coast trip, playing Oakland, tonight on KTTN

OAKLAND, California (AP) — Mired in an early season slump, perhaps the last team the Oakland Athletics want to see is the Kansas City Royals.

Hoping to halt their recent struggles against the reigning World Series champions, the A’s can avoid a fourth consecutive defeat by keeping the visiting Royals from winning their fourth in a row Friday night.  Pregame is at 8:30, with first pitch at 9:05, on KTTN AM 1600 and KTTN FM 92.3.

Oakland (4-6) is averaging 2.7 runs, and totaled eight while batting .185 in the last four games. The A’s, who were swept by the Los Angeles Angels in a three-game home set this week, have struck out 82 times – nine more than their hit total through 10 games.

“There are no ifs, ands or buts, we’re struggling offensively,” said veteran Chris Coghlan, 4 for 25 with eight strikeouts. “It’s tough when you see the lineup that we have and the potential that we have. It’s such a long year that as long as we stay positive, we’ll be on the right side.”

That might be the case, but there’s a good chance the turnaround won’t happen this weekend.

Including the playoffs, Oakland has lost eight of nine against the Royals (7-2) and scored nine runs while batting .203 during a four-game series skid. The A’s were swept by Kansas City in a three-game 2015 set at home, where they are 1-6 and off to their worst start since losing nine of 10 there in their 102-win 2001 season.

“I think we’re better than this,” Coghlan said. “We can execute in certain situations better.”

While backup catcher Josh Phegley and infielder Danny Valencia are the only Oakland players batting .300 or better, Marcus Semien has hit four of the team’s nine home runs. Semien is 1 for 15 in his last five games against the Royals, and was retired both times he faced scheduled starter Edinson Volquez (1-0, 1.54 ERA).

The right-hander, who gave up a run in seven innings of a 5-2 victory at Oakland on June 26, yielded his first two this season Sunday when he struck out 10 without a walk in 5 2-3 innings of a 4-3, 10-inning win over Minnesota.

“I thought that was the best stuff I’ve seen Eddie have since we’ve had him,” Royals manager Ned Yost told MLB’s official website.

Kansas City pitchers have a 2.78 ERA, and allowed two runs each while winning the final three of a four-game set with Houston. Ian Kennedy gave up a solo homer over seven innings and the Royals scored five times in the sixth of Thursday’s 6-2 win.

“That’s what our offense does,” said first baseman Eric Hosmer, who had two hits with two RBIs. “We kind of hang around there and take advantage of one big inning.”

Hosmer is 9 for 21 in the last five games after going 0 for 10 in the previous three. He’s batting .389 in his last 20 overall contests against the A’s, but is 0 for 3 against scheduled starter Rich Hill (1-1, 3.12).

After giving up four runs – two earned – over 2 2-3 innings of an opening-day loss to the Chicago White Sox, Hill yielded a homer, four other hits and fanned 10 in six innings of Saturday’s 6-1 victory at Seattle.

“When he’s on, he’s unpredictable,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.

The left-hander has faced the Royals 11 times, but none since 2013. His two starts against them both came in 2009.

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