The Royals' brief homestand in the midst of a stretch in which they play 12 of 15 games on the road did not exactly go as planned. After being swept at home by the Yankees over the weekend, the Royals will look to get back on track Monday when they embark on a nine-game road trip, starting in Anaheim against the Angels.
With the sweep, Kansas City has now lost six of its last seven games entering its 10-day West Coast swing. The Angels, meanwhile, took two of three from the White Sox in Chicago but were one-hit by Chris Sale in Sunday night's series finale.
"We had a little bit of momentum going into tonight, but we have a long homestand coming up and we have to take advantage of being at home and playing in front of our fans cheering for us, and we have to get on the right foot tomorrow," Mike Trout said after Sunday's loss. "Tomorrow's a big game for us. We just have to take it one series at a time; try to win a series."
Monday's series opener will feature a battle of starting pitchers each seeking his first victory, as Kansas City's Luis Mendoza (0-2, 6.38 ERA) toes the rubber opposite the Angels' Joe Blanton (0-6, 5.66 ERA).
For Mendoza, the outing will mark the first time this year he has made a start on regular four days' rest. His first two starts came on April 6 and April 12, respectively, then -- due to team off-days -- he didn't pitch again until an April 24 relief appearance against the Tigers. He has since made starts on May 1 and Wednesday.
"The more you pitch, the sharper you're going to be," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He was in so many inconsistent situations -- nine days one time, 12 days another. When you get locked into a five-man rotation, it just helps you. Like a hitter playing every day, that's your rhythm, that's your routine. It makes it a lot easier."
Mendoza made an impressive season debut, allowing just one run on two hits over six innings in that April 6 outing, yet has struggled since. The righty has allowed at least five runs in each of his other three starts, lending credence to Yost's theory. The key to Mendoza picking up his first victory in Monday's series opener, according to Yost, will be the way he utilizes his offspeed pitches.
"He's got to keep his sinker low and command his breaking ball," Yost said. "And when he does that, he's going to be in good shape."
As for Blanton, the Angels are just hoping he can keep doing what he's done in his last three starts -- despite the unfavorable win-loss record. The right-hander has turned in three consecutive quality starts, yet with the Angels managing just four combined runs in those contests, he's been left with three straight losses as well.
"It's a team game," Blanton said after allowing three runs over 6 2/3 innings against the Astros on Wednesday. "Our goal is to win games ... but it does feel better to at least contribute and at least give us a chance when I'm out there. The first couple starts, I wasn't doing that. And now I am at least giving us a chance."
Royals: Dyson to see time as leadoff hitter
Jarrod Dyson made his first start of the season as Kansas City's leadoff hitter on Sunday, something that may become more frequent in the future.
Dyson, who had batted either eighth or ninth in each of his six previous starts, made 39 starts at the top of the Royals' order in 2012. He went 1-for-4 with a double and scored a run on Sunday.
"Right now, we're still kind of fiddling with it," Yost said. "Dyson is probably our most prototypical leadoff guy. And days that he plays, he might move up there. We'll see, we'll just take it day to day."
Typically the Royals' fourth outfielder, Dyson has been getting more playing time recently, in part due to his incredible speed. He's hitting .258 (8-for-31) with one home run, one triple and five stolen bases in 16 games this season.
Angels: Bullpen on a roll
Despite dealing with numerous injuries to its relief corps, the Angels' bullpen has tossed 17 consecutive scoreless innings.
Relievers Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett and Kevin Jepsen are all currently on the disabled list, and setup man Scott Downs, who missed a couple of games earlier this month due to pain in his right side, just returned Saturday after leaving Thursday's game with an injured right foot. Through it all, the Angels have managed to rack up a 10-1 record when leading after seven innings.
"The one thing you can point to is our bullpen," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Our bullpen has really responded to the challenge of getting the outs we need."
• Blanton is 3-1 with a 1.76 ERA in six career starts against the Royals, though he hasn't faced Kansas City since 2007. The 1.76 ERA is Blanton's best against any Major League team.
• Kansas City has been outscored overall in each of the first three innings of games this season. Opponents are outscoring the Royals 60-37 in those three combined frames.