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HOU@TOR: Keuchel pitches seven excellent innings

The Astros and Royals have struggled offensively so far, but there's also been some sterling pitching propping up both of them, and they'll tango for the second round of a three-game set on Wednesday in Minute Maid Park.

Help has arrived for the Astros, who called up outfielder George Springer, their No. 3-ranked prospect, on Wednesday. He was hitting .353 with three homers and nine RBIs for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

By the teams' 2014 standards, the six combined runs in the Royals' 4-2 win on Tuesday night was a veritable offensive extravaganza.

If a pitcher's duel breaks out on Wednesday, then it should be a fairly even one. Jeremy Guthrie toes the rubber for Kansas City, squaring off against Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel.

Each has allowed five runs in a pair of starts this season, though Guthrie has the distinction of owning a 2-0 record in his pair of outings.

The veteran righty is just one cog in a Royals rotation that has the second lowest ERA in the American League at 2.58. It doesn't hurt that Kansas City has actually trotted out some run support for Guthrie, with the Royals' matching a season-high with seven runs apiece in his two starts.

"Really, all our guys we run out there, whether it's Jeremy or Bruce [Chen] or the stalwarts like [Jason] Vargas and [James] Shields, they've been getting it done for us," said manager Ned Yost. "I can't ask for much more than we're getting there."

Keuchel is trying to solidify his spot in the rotation, though Lucas Harrell's continued struggles -- he gave up four runs in five innings to the Royals on Tuesday -- bode well for the southpaw on that front.

Keuchel's been steady so far this season but has run into trouble with the long ball. That's not Kansas City's strength, as Omar Infante's first-inning home run Tuesday was just the Royals' second all year. But Keuchel did struggle in 6 2/3 innings against the Royals last season, surrendering a home run and four walks even though he earned a win.

An Astros triumph is an increasing rarity when these two meet, as Kansas City has won five of the last six against Houston dating back to last season.

Astros: Porter unconcerned about slow start
There's few truism in baseball so often trotted out as the phrase, "It's a long season." Astros manager Bo Porter is hoping that's the cure to his team's offensive woes.

It's an offense that has lost two 1-0 games this year and features seven regulars hitting .200 or below through two weeks' worth of games, hardly easy problems to shake off.

"The hitting is going to come around," Porter said. "It's a small sample at this point of the year. The averages are going to start to balance out and we'll start to score runs in bunches as well."

Even though he's somewhat concerned, Porter said the offense isn't his top concern precisely because of its fickle nature.

"I think we all know offense comes and goes. The two main components are pitching and defense. You want to have consistency. I'll take that over everything else because the offense comes and goes."

Royals: Lineup remains consistent for KC
The Royals finally found a few runs on Tuesday night, but it had nothing to do with a batting order shakeup. Just the opposite, in fact, as the Kansas City order against the Astros was the same as eight other games.

It's become a hallmark of Yost's style, as only one spot in the order has featured any sort of variation. Despite his strong night, Infante's actually shared the No. 2 spot with three other spot starters.

At every other position, regulars like Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez have been in the same spot of the lineup for 11 of Kansas City's first 12 games. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon have slotted in at the No. 4 and No. 5 spots, respectively, for all 12.

Though Yost wasn't about to label the lineup as permanent, he said approach is more important than a player's spot in the batting order.

"Our approach, we've worked hard on it since spring training," Yost said. "We're seeing more pitches, striking out less and walking out more. It should be a matter of time before that leads to production, no matter who's hitting."

Worth nothing
• The all-time series between the two teams is almost deadlocked, with Houston owning a slight 19-18 advantage.

• Astros second baseman Jose Altuve hasn't made an error in his last 55 games, dating back to Aug. 16 of last season against the Angels. His .997 fielding percentage since last July is the best in the Major Leagues during that span.

• Kansas City is 5-0 this season when it scores four or more runs. The Royals are 0-7 when they fail to crack the four-run mark. Comments