Orioles lefty Brian Matusz and Royals righty Luke Hochevar, lofty Draft selections by their respective teams, were supposed to have figured it out by now, but they'll enter Sunday's rubber game trying to establish themselves as rotation fixtures.
Hochevar, the top pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, went 17-17 over the last two seasons, but notched an ERA over 4.60 in both campaigns. The right-hander has completed six innings in three straight starts, but before that, he allowed a combined 16 runs in back-to-back outings.
"Just had a couple of bad starts. His last two or three starts he's been really, really good," said Kansas City manager Ned Yost of the 28-year-old Hochevar. "It's all about execution anyway. If you execute your pitches you're going to be fine. If they execute they're going to be OK."
Matusz, the fourth overall pick in 2008, has trod his own rocky path in the Majors. The left-hander has reeled off victories in four of his last five starts, though, and he's managed to cut his ERA by nearly a run (from 5.66 to 4.86) over that span. Matusz, in fact, beat the Royals two weeks ago.
The Orioles have won 21 of their last 32 games, and they've played through three consecutive months with at least 10 wins for the first time since 2005. Baltimore has fattened up against Kansas City and its division rivals, going 16-4 in its last 20 games against American League Central teams.
The Royals' 4-3 victory on Saturday snapped a three-game losing skid, and they haven't won a three-game series since taking two of three from the White Sox two weeks ago. It was Kansas City's first win over Baltimore in four meetings this season and snapped a six-game skid against the O's at Camden Yards dating to last year.
Royals: Hosmer vaults above Mendoza Line
It's been a long haul, but Eric Hosmer finally got himself back over the Mendoza Line with a 3-for-4 performance on Saturday. Kansas City's first baseman is now batting .206, marking the first time he's been over .200 since ending the day on April 26 with a .211 average.
Hosmer is batting just .202 (19-for-94) in his last 24 games, and he has zero homers and just five extra-base hits over that span. The former first-round Draft pick also took time to heat up last season, batting .268 with eight homers in the first half and .313 with 11 home runs after the All-Star break.
Orioles: Jones' extension coming Sunday
Adam Jones is on the verge of a huge payday, and he's earning it with one of his hottest stretches at the plate. Baltimore's center fielder has hit in a career-best 17 straight games -- batting .343 (24-for-70) over that span -- and he's had three hitting streaks of at least 10 games this season.
The Orioles have scheduled a news conference for 11:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, at which time they're expected to announce a six-year, $85.5 million contract extension with Jones, making him the second-highest-paid center fielder in the game behind the Dodgers' Matt Kemp. Baltimore is 13-1 when Jones homers this season, and nine of his 14 homers have tied the game or given his team a lead.
Baltimore closer Jim Johnson has successfully converted 24 straight save opportunities, the second-longest streak in franchise history. Randy Myers saved 34 straight games in 1987.
Another Baltimore reliever, Pedro Strop, snapped a streak of 13 straight scoreless appearances on Saturday.
The Royals are 2-3 on their nine-game road trip and will visit the Indians starting on Monday.