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OAK@TEX: Kazmir fires five frames of two-run ball

Their eight-game win streak might've been snapped by the A's on Tuesday, but the resurgent Royals have been on a tear since the All-Star break, and they'll look get back into the win column on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium.

After dropping their first four games to begin the second half, the Royals trailed the Tigers by as many as eight games in the American League Central. But a 16-4 run since July 22 has allowed Kansas City to climb atop the division, where it holds a half-game lead over Detroit.

The Royals have so far split the first half of their four-game set against the powerhouse A's, who are a Major League-best 73-46.

"There's just a real confidence right now when they step on that field and in that locker room," Royals manager Ned Yost said of his team. "There's a real sense of belief and a real sense of confidence in them that they're going to get the job done."

They'll have their work cut out for them against A's lefty Scott Kazmir, who became the AL's third 13-game winner after his victory over the Twins on Friday.

Kazmir is 13-4 with a 2.73 ERA over 23 starts this season. The last time he lost came in his only start against the Royals this season, when he was knocked around for four earned runs and 10 hits over six innings on Aug. 3.

Over his last 10 starts, the 30-year-old Kazmir is 6-2 with a 3.45 ERA. He has the highest run support average (6.27) in the Majors Leagues.

Opposing Kazmir will be lefty Jason Vargas, who's 8-5 with a 3.48 ERA. Vargas opened the Royals' seven-game homestand on Friday vs. San Francisco, allowing two earned runs on nine hits over five innings in the club's 4-2 win over the Giants.

Vargas last faced the A's on Aug. 2 and gave up four earned runs over 4 1/3 innings in a losing effort. It will mark his third start since he had an appendectomy.

"He's just still not quite sharp after his surgery," Yost said.

A's: Lowrie playing with fractured finger
An MRI on Tuesday revealed a hairline fracture at the tip of Jed Lowrie's right index finger, but the A's shortstop plans to play through the injury, as dictated by the level of pain on a day-to-day basis.

"It might mean a day off a little more frequently, but he's able to play with it," manager Bob Melvin said. "There's nothing to suggest, unless he gets hit again, that it would worsen, but if there's a day something happens or it's bothering him more than others, then we'll have to give him a day off."

On those days, Eric Sogard will start at shortstop. The A's are already down to three infielders, so if Lowrie ultimately needs more time off than expected, the A's could add an infielder from Triple-A Sacramento. Until then, there are no plans to alter the roster.

Lowrie initially took a grounder to the finger on Aug. 4 and missed each of the club's next three games before returning to the lineup.

Royals: Downs lands on DL
Left-handed pitcher Scott Downs was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, clearing a roster spot for newly acquired outfielder Josh Willingham.

Downs was diagnosed with a cervical facet sprain with spasms; translated, that means he woke up with a stiff neck on Monday.

The affliction made things difficult with Downs' pitching motion, and officials put him on the DL backdated to Aug. 3, the day after he last pitched at Oakland.

Signed as a free agent on July 6, Downs has made 12 relief appearances for the Royals, posting a 3.48 ERA and receiving one loss. He began the season with the White Sox, pitching in 38 games. Willingham was obtained on Monday from the Twins in exchange for Triple-A pitcher Jason Adam.

Worth noting
• Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer will have X-rays taken on his fractured right hand on Thursday.

• A's outfielder Coco Crisp received a routine day off on Tuesday after playing in eight consecutive games following a week-long stretch in which he was held out of the lineup because of an ongoing neck issue.

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