Jennings Faces KC

Strong pitching carried the Kansas City Royals to a surprising start through the first two weeks of the season, but recent problems on the mound have the team struggling to regain that form.

The Royals hope Brett Tomko can get them back on track as they open a three-game road series against the lowly Texas Rangers on Tuesday.

Oddsmakers from have made Texas -128 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 10.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on Kansas City +118 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

Kansas City (11-14) was 9-6 and boasted an AL-best 3.02 ERA on April 16, but the club has dropped eight of its last 10 games, posting a 6.59 ERA in that stretch.

Tomko (1-3, 5.25 ERA) has contributed to that high number, losing each of his last three starts since winning April 6 at Minnesota.

The right-hander had his worst outing of the season Thursday when he gave up seven runs and a season-high 11 hits in a 9-6 home loss to Cleveland.

"I didn't take control of the count. I didn't take control of the game," said Tomko, who threw 108 pitches in four innings. "I felt I was backed in a corner. They put the heat on me."

Tomko looks to avoid dropping four straight starts for the first time since a five-game skid from May 26-June 16, 2006, when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

His history against the Rangers, though, suggests Tomko might have a tough time avoiding another loss Tuesday. He's 1-3 with a 7.01 ERA in eight appearances - four starts - versus Texas (9-17). Tomko, who's started his last three games against the Rangers, hasn't faced them since pitching one-run ball for five innings to earn the win in Seattle's 16-1 victory Oct. 4, 2001.

While Kansas City's pitching has run into trouble after a strong start, its lineup has had problems all season. The Royals' 82 runs are the fewest in the majors.

Kansas City has scored two runs or fewer in five of its last seven games, including a 5-2 loss to Toronto on Sunday that wrapped up a 2-4 homestand.

David DeJesus drove in both runs for the Royals, who are hitting .223 with 71 strikeouts in their last 10 games.

"You've got to know your zone and be aggressive in your zone," right fielder Mark Teahen told the Royals' official Web site. "Once you start hitting your pitch, you don't have to worry about hitting the other pitches so much."

The Royals, beginning a six-game road trip, are trying to avoid their first five-game losing streak away from Kansas City since Aug. 3-15.

Kansas City went 5-4 versus Texas last season, but 2-4 at Rangers Ballpark.

The Rangers have already set a club record with 16 losses in April, but halted a seven-game skid Friday with a 6-5 victory over Minnesota. They won 10-0 on Sunday to give them a 2-1 start on a six-game homestand.

Jason Botts, Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley homered Sunday for the Rangers, who pounded out 15 hits and scored 10 runs for the first time since April 6.

"This is the first game where we've done everything we needed to do," said Hamilton, who leads Texas with five homers and 27 RBIs. "We pitched, hit and played defense."

The Rangers hope to employ that formula again when Jason Jennings (0-4, 7.46) takes the mound for his first appearance against the Royals. In his most recent outing, the right-hander was reached for five runs and five hits in five innings of an 8-2 loss at Detroit on Thursday.

Jennings, who signed with the Rangers in January following an injury-shortened season with Houston, is 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA in two starts at Rangers Ballpark.

Texas third baseman Hank Blalock missed the last two games with a small tear in his left hamstring and will be put on the disabled list Tuesday. Expected to sit out at least three weeks, Blalock is hitting .299 with three homers and seven RBIs this season after being limited to 58 games last year due to shoulder surgery.

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