Skidding Happ, Astros open series with Royals
(Sports Network) - Skidding left-hander J.A. Happ tries to end a team-wide slump as well tonight when the Houston Astros host the Kansas City Royals in game one of a three-game interleague series at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros have dropped five of six to fall 11 1/2 games off the pace of the Cincinnati Reds in the National League's Central Division, including three straight in an intrastate matchup with the Texas Rangers.
A seven-run sixth inning propelled the Rangers to a 9-3 win in Sunday's finale.
Houston's Dallas Keuchel avoided trouble throughout much of his major league debut, which earned him a no-decision. In five-plus innings, Keuchel was responsible for one run on four hits and four walks.
Fernando Rodriguez (1-7) took the loss after allowing four runs in two-thirds of an inning. He gave up one hit and walked three in relief of Keuchel.
On Sunday in St. Louis, Yuniesky Betancourt's two-run homer in the 15th inning lifted the Royals over the Cardinals, 5-3, in the rubber match of a three-game set at Busch Stadium.
Betancourt, who replaced an injured Chris Getz in the first, doubled to score Alex Gordon in the 14th to give Kansas City a 3-2 lead. But Yadier Molina tied the game at three in the home half when he singled with two outs to score Allen Craig.
Billy Butler clobbered a pinch-hit homer with two out in the ninth to tie the game at two. Butler fell behind 0-2 but turned on a fastball to help force extra innings.
"Motte throws really hard. I was just trying to get on top of the ball and shortened up and just put the barrel on it," Butler said.
Humberto Quintero drove in a run and Mike Moustakas had three hits and scored a run for the Royals, winners in five of their last six. Gordon was 0-for-3 but walked five times.
After blowing a save in the 14th, Jonathan Broxton (1-1) tossed a perfect 15th to secure the win.
Houston's Happ began the season with four wins in seven decisions but has since fallen below .500 with four losses in four starts since late May.
The Astros have been outscored, 33-4, in the stretch, including a 10-0 loss at San Francisco on June 13 in which Happ gave up eight runs on 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings.
In the four losses as a whole, he's surrendered 18 runs on 30 hits in 21 1/3 innings.
The 29-year-old Illinois native has never faced the Royals.
Kansas City sends southpaw Jonathan Sanchez to the mound for the eighth time this season.
The former San Francisco Giant came to the Royals in a deal for Melky Cabrera and won his April 8 debut, but has since gone 0-2 in six starts around a stint on the 15-day disabled list.
He allowed a run on seven hits in five innings of his most recent outing - on June 13 against Milwaukee - and got a no-decision in Kansas City's 4-3 victory.
Sanchez is 1-2 in four lifetime games against Houston, which leads the overall interleague series, 16-11. The Royals won two of three at home when the teams last played in 2010.