By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- The Oakland Athletics are beginning a stretch of nine straight games against the three worst teams in the AL Central, but the Kansas City Royals have proven to be a formidable opponent against them this year.
The Athletics hope they can break out against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game set at Kauffman Stadium.
Oakland (61-53), which is in the hunt for an AL wild-card spot, split six games last week against the Angels and White Sox and now begins this run of contests against Kansas City (49-65), Cleveland and Minnesota.
"It doesn't mean because we're not playing teams above .500 coming up that you're going to play better," manager Bob Melvin told the Athletics' official website. "You have to keep grinding, you have to keep the intensity."
These teams have split six games this year, with the Royals posting shutouts in all of their victories. Oakland is hitting .180 in the season series.
Athletics hitters have produced some ugly numbers against Kansas City this year, including Yoenis Cespedes (5 for 22), Josh Reddick (4 for 18) and Coco Crisp and Cliff Pennington (both 1 for 17).
"That's a team that's played us tough, and I think nothing's changed as far as that goes," Melvin said.
Oakland did enjoy success June 12 against Guthrie (1-3, 5.18 ERA), who allowed seven runs in an 8-5 loss with Colorado. Brandon Moss homered twice and Pennington also went deep to drop the right-hander to 2-4 with a 5.53 ERA in eight career starts against the A's.
Guthrie will make his fifth start for the Royals since being acquired July 19. He earned his first Kansas City victory Wednesday with eight scoreless innings in a 2-1 win over the White Sox.
He'll be matched up against rookie Jarrod Parker (7-6, 3.55), who will face the Royals for the first time as he tries to avoid losing a third straight start. Parker yielded four runs over 6 2-3 innings Aug. 6 his last time out in a 4-0 loss to the Angels.
The right-hander, who has a 5.12 ERA since the All-Star break, is 3-0 with a 3.96 ERA in his last four road starts.
He'll face a Royals club that has matched a season high by homering in eight straight games, with 15 in that span. Alex Gordon homered three times and Billy Butler and Salvador Perez had two apiece in a four-game split at Baltimore.
"We've been showing some signs of pop over here and that's what we need," third baseman Mike Moustakas said. "We got a lot of guys that can swing the bat with some authority."
Gordon was 7 for 18 in the Orioles series and Butler was 6 for 16.
The A's could be without third baseman Brandon Inge for an extended amount of time. Inge, who separated his shoulder in Saturday's 9-7 win at Chicago, traveled to Oakland for an MRI on Monday.
"The only report I want to hear is if there's anything I could damage that could be long-term," Inge said. "If there's nothing on film that shows that I can't hurt anything, it's play through the pain - whatever I can tolerate. I'd rather that than anything else."
Updated August 13, 2012