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Royals look to cool off hot Angels

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Los Angeles Angels have equaled their best 15-game start in franchise history.

They are 12-3, the same as the 1979 club that won the AL West, after coming from behind to beat the Kansas City Royals 5-4 on Friday night for their sixth consecutive victory. They have won nine of their past 10.

The Angels top the majors with 98 runs.

"We're hitting well," said Albert Pujols, who homered and drove in three runs in the Friday victory. "This is professional hitters. They really make the opposing pitcher work. That's what we've been doing.

"If somebody doesn't do the job, we pass the opportunity. We just finish. If one guy doesn't do the job, the next guy comes in and picks us up. It's a great lineup. We're just playing great."

The Angels will send right-hander Garrett Richards (1-0, 4.20 ERA) to the mound on Saturday for his fourth start of the season.

Richards yielded one earned run on four hits in 4 1/3 innings in his previous start on Monday at Texas, a game the Angels won 8-3.

In 10 career games, four of them starts, against Kansas City, Richards is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA. He has not started a game in Kansas City since Aug. 13, 2015.

In six career games, including one start, at Kauffman Stadium, Richards is 0-0 with a 3.18 ERA, allowing four earned runs in 11 1/3 innings.

Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is 3-for-16 (.188) with two RBI off Richards. Mike Moustakas is 3-for-8 (.375) versus Richards. No other Royal has more than five at-bats against Richards.

The Royals will counter with right-hander Jakob Junis (2-0, 0.00). He has allowed only four hits and no runs over 14 innings in his first two starts while striking out nine, walking three and hitting three batters. Opponents are batting .089 off him.

In a 10-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday, Junis allowed just one hit with two walks and three hit batters in seven innings. He is the sixth Kansas City pitcher to begin the season with back-to-back scoreless starts. The last was Zack Greinke, who accomplished the feat in his first three 2009 starts.

In his 10 career starts after a Royals defeat, Junis is 5-1 with a 2.83 ERA. The Royals have gone 8-2 in those contests.

Junis is 4-0 with a 2.96 ERA in 10 career outings, eight of them starts, at Kauffman Stadium. He has struck out 45 and walked 14 in 51 2/3 innings at Kauffman.

His only career start against the Angels came last year, when he gave up eight hits, including two homers, and five runs in 5 1/3 innings. Junis took the loss in that 9-0 defeat.

While the Angels are on a tear, the Royals have stumbled out of the starting blocks, losing nine of 12. Their three victories have been shutouts, two of them by 1-0 scores. They have been outscored 54-24 in the nine losses.

While the starting pitchers are 3-5 with a 3.04 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .219 average, the bullpen has been a weak link. The relievers are 0-4 with three blown saves in five chances.

"I'm sure there is frustration," said right-hander Jason Hammel, who allowed two runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision Friday. "There naturally would be frustration, not just getting it done, a step behind. But it's a very long season. I'm not worried about it and the rest of the guys are not worried about it. We do need to find some rhythm, something to wake us up I guess. It's still like a spring training hangover."
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