The first time Royals starter Yordano Ventura faced the Astros, it marked a milestone for the rookie.
Ventura earned his first Major League win at Minute Maid Park on April 15 in a 4-2 Kansas City victory. Now Ventura (2-4, 2.80 ERA) looks for another milestone against Houston on Monday: his first career win at home.
Ventura and Astros starter Scott Feldman (2-2, 3.02 ERA) kick off a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
After pitching to a 1.50 ERA -- including three scoreless outings -- in five April starts, Ventura has come back down to earth in May, posting a 4.38 ERA in four starts. Overall, the rookie features a 2.80 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings. Additionally, opponents are batting .221 against the right-handed flamethrower. According to FanGraphs.com, Ventura's average 96.7-mph fastball ranks first in MLB among starters.
Ventura pitched Tuesday against the White Sox, allowing four runs in six innings for his third straight loss.
"He's got that electric fastball that he can command very well," Royals catcher Brett Hayes said. "He throws his two-seamer with almost as much velocity as his four-seamer. It's all about staying within his mechanics. He's pitching really good, and he makes really quick adjustments [for a young pitcher]."
The Astros, winners in seven of their last 12 games, head into the series riding the hot bat of rookie right fielder George Springer.
Springer has homered in his three straight games for the Astros, who won the final two games in Seattle for a split of the four-game series. Springer has hit seven home runs in his past 15 games after not having a round-tripper in his first 19, following his much-anticipated callup to the big leagues. The club record for rookie homers in a month is eight by Glenn Davis in September 1985.
Springer ripped a pair of two-run homers in a win on Saturday, and on Sunday hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth inning of a 4-1 win. He's batting .287 with 14 runs, seven home runs and 20 RBIs in his 22 games since April 29. He's also hit safely in seven consecutive games.
"I'm just able to slow things down more and staying within myself, I guess, and not trying to go out and do something I can't do. I'm not trying to hit the eight-run home run anymore. I'm just going out and slowing down and trying to help the team win."
Royals: Aoki sits, may return Monday
Leadoff hitter Nori Aoki took Sunday off, after the Royals 13-inning 7-4 win on Saturday. But Royals manager Ned Yost said Aoki was likely to return to the lineup on Monday.
Aoki was banged up in Kansas City's loss Friday to the Angels, when he was drilled by a C.J. Wilson fastball in the arm. The injury was not serious enough to keep Aoki out of the lineup Saturday. He finished the game 2-for-7, extending his multigame hit streak to three.
Jarrod Dyson replaced Aoki in the lineup Sunday and finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a run, and he stole a base and was caught stealing. However, Aoki entered the Royals' 4-3 loss to the Angels as a pinch runner in the ninth.
Astros: Fowler getting on base consistently
Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler entered Sunday tied for first in walks in the American League with 19 in the month of May, which places his on-base percentage for the month among the best in the league. He walked in nine games in a row, May 10-19.
"It's unbelievable strike-zone discipline," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "Some of the pitches he takes, I sit there and go, 'How could he take that pitch?' It looks like a really good pitch to hit, but you look at it and they're balls. Again, you're talking about a player who really understands the strike zone; he's not afraid to hit with two strikes."
Fowler built a reputation as a patient hitter with the Rockies, as he posted on-base percentages of at least .363 four times in his five years as an everyday player.
"It's not like he's going to chase something early in the count that he can't put in play hard, which really helps him in his ability to see the number of pitches in which he takes per at-bat," said Porter. "It's not from a lack of aggression. He's aggressive in the strike zone. He just has a really good, keen eye when it comes to laying off pitches that, in his mind, he couldn't do anything with. He understands the strike zone."
• Jose Altuve has hit safely in 16 of his last 17 games since May 8. He's hitting .440 with 13 runs, seven doubles, one triple, one homer and seven RBIs in that span. He has 70 hits, which leads the Major Leagues.
• The Astros had 11 hits for the 12th time this season on Sunday, which is their season high.
• Kelvin Herrera had his 14 1/3 inning scoreless streak snapped on Sunday. Herrera allowed four hits and two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. On Saturday, the Royals' bullpen tossed seven shutout innings in the team's 7-4 extra innings win.
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.