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Royals vs. Astros: How Kansas City Can Get Season Back on Track

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Royals vs. Astros: How Kansas City Can Get Season Back on Track
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Billy Butler has a chance to improve his .273 batting average against Houston.

In the midst of a 3-10 skid that has dropped their record to 20-20, the Kansas City Royals have a chance to finally get off the schneid against the Houston Astros this week. 

Two of the last three series for the Royals have been sweeps, as the New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics handed Kansas City three losses apiece. 

While the Yankees are one of baseball's best teams this season, the sweep against the Athletics was particularly bad. Especially considering Games 1 and 2 of the three-game series were 2-1 losses. The Royals' pitching staff also maintained a 2.67 ERA during the series, yet suffered three losses. 

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A three-game series with the Houston Astros, one of baseball's worst teams, is just what the doctor ordered for manager Ned Yost's bunch. 

Despite sitting on a .500 record, the Royals are just four games behind division-leader Cleveland and two games behind the Detroit Tigers for second place in the AL Central. 

The Indians and Tigers have played the Astros a combined 10 times and are a combined 8-2 against Houston. 

However, the Royals have yet to play the Astros this season. Instead they have had to play every team in the AL East, a division that has four of its five teams at 23 or more wins. 

Regardless of the differences in strengths of schedule between the Royals, Indians and Tigers, there are still things that the Royals must improve on going into Houston. 

For starters, Kansas City's bats have to improve their support of pitcher James Shields, the team's ace. The Royals blew yet another great start from Shields in the series-opener against Oakland, where Shields went eight innings and only gave up six hits and two runs but still lost the game. 

James Shields threw a complete game against the Toronto Blue Jays, and lost.

Shields is tied for the lead in the entire AL in quality starts with eight, yet he has just two wins on the season. The Royals absolutely have to fix that and they'll get a chance to in Game 3 against Houston. 

The series against the Astros comes at a historically pivotal point in the season for the Royals. According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, the boys in blue have consistently faltered at the quarter pole of the season, which is where the team is at right now. 

With a record of 20-18 in 2011, the Royals entered a 3-13 skid. In 2009, Kansas City got to 21-18 before losing 15 of the team's next 18 games. Then in 2008, the Royals were 20-21 before going on a 12-game losing streak that started with a no-hitter by Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester. 

The Royals never got to .500 after the quarter pole in those seasons. 

And now it seems like history is starting to repeat itself again in 2013. Alex Gordon and company were red-hot to start the season and at one point were at 17-10 and sitting pretty atop the AL Central standings. 

Now the Royals have started to crumble a bit. If they want to stop the bleeding and stay in contention this season, it starts today in Houston.

The Astros only have 12 wins this season. Kansas City must jump on top of them from the start to get their season back on track. 

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