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KC@OAK: Santana tosses seven quality frames

The Angels will see a familiar face in Royals starter Ervin Santana on Thursday in the opener of a four-game series in Kansas City.

Santana spent eight seasons in the Angels' rotation following his Major League debut with the club in 2005, starting 233 games for the Halos before being traded to the Royals during the offseason.

Santana is 3-3 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts for Kansas City and will face the Angels for the first time. The right-hander will also get his first look as an opponent at Angels star center fielder Mike Trout.

Trout, 21, became the youngest player in American League history to hit for the cycle on Tuesday night against the Mariners. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year followed his historic performance with a triple and single on Wednesday.

Trout is 28-for-78 (.359) over his last 21 games with five doubles, four triples, seven home runs, five steals and 22 RBIs. He's improved his production since moving from the leadoff spot to the No. 2 hole, where he's hitting .302 in 38 games.

"There's no doubt Mike brings an energy and we saw some of it last year when he came up," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Mike is sort of a lynchpin as he is going to set the table, but you want to set the table for him as well in that two spot and he's responded well."

While the Royals have lost five of their last six games and are coming off a 3-6 road trip that began with two wins in Anaheim, the Angels have won a season-best four straight.

Joe Blanton, who replaced Santana in the Angels' rotation, will be searching for his first win when he takes the mound on Thursday. Blanton is 0-7 with a 6.62 ERA in nine starts. He allowed 15 baserunners in just 4 1/3 innings in his last start against the White Sox.

Angels: Shuck finding rhythm

Outfielder J.B. Shuck has seen his playing increase this season because of injuries to some of the club's regulars, which has helped him find a groove at the plate.

Shuck has started 30 games, a career high. Over his last 18 starts, he is hitting .250 with three doubles, seven runs scored and six RBIs.

"You get into a different type of rhythm than being on the bench," said Shuck, who has at least one hit in seven of his last nine starts. "It has helped me get into my swing and getting some at-bats has helped me get comfortable at the plate. I've always been kind of a small-ball-type player and that's what I'm trying to stick to."

Royals: Gordon swinging hot bat

Outfielder Alex Gordon extended his hitting streak to 10 games on Wednesday with a single in the first inning of a 3-1 loss in Houston.

Gordon reached base nine times in his 14 plate appearances in the three game series against the Astros.

"Some series you're going to do that, some you're not," Gordon said.

Gordon hit .486 (17-for-35) during the nine-game road trip. He is second in the AL with a .352 average and could challenge for the batting championship this season.

"It's early," said Gordon, who led the Majors with 51 doubles last season. "Sometimes you start the season out hot, sometimes you start out cold. The old cliche is 'take one day at a time,' and that's what I'm doing, not worrying about a batting title."

Worth noting

• Royals outfielder Jeff Francouer is 6-for-14 (.429) in his career against Blanton with a double and four RBIs.

• Angels slugger Albert Pujols is hitting .357 (85-for-238) with 17 homers and 58 RBIs in 62 career games vs. Kansas City.

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