KANSAS CITY -- The Astros just simply keep rolling. Brian McCann belted a two-run homer and the bullpen held the Royals to one run over four innings to secure a 7-3 victory on Monday night, Houston's 11th straight win and club-record 11th in a row on the road.
It's the Astros' longest winning streak since a club-record-tying 12 in a row late in 2004. Houston holds a 14-game lead in the American League West and is now on pace for 117 victories, one more than the 2001 Mariners. The Astros are the first with 42 wins in their first 58 games since that Seattle club.
"It feels like we're just going out there and having fun," Astros starting pitcher Mike Fiers said. "This game should be fun, and it's a lot easier when you're winning."
Fiers (3-2) lasted five-plus innings, giving up seven hits and two runs while walking one and striking out four. First baseman Yuli Gurriel ripped a three-run home run, his sixth, off Kelvin Herrera in the ninth to put the game out of reach.
"We got after them early and then they put on a little bit of a push mid-game, and it got really close," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Obviously, Yuli homering off of Herrera is a big punch for us. It was nice for us to hang in there."
Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy continued his recent struggles, giving up four runs in five innings. In four starts since returning from the disabled list, he has given up 18 runs in 15 innings. Kennedy consistently fell behind batters this time and walked three while throwing just 53 strikes out of 96 pitches.
"That lineup doesn't really give you a break, top to bottom," Kennedy said, "so once you get behind 2-0, you almost rather face the next hitter. Not that you want to walk that many guys. ..."
Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield's 19-game hitting streak ended as he went 0-for-5, while rookie outfielder Jorge Bonifacio belted his eighth home run in the seventh.
"I thought my pitch selection was pretty good," said Merrifield, who hit .409 during the streak. "I just didn't put good swings on it. I still feel good where I'm at."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Stop right there: Trailing 4-2, the Royals had an excellent chance to tie the score or take the lead when they put runners on first and third with none out in the sixth against Fiers. Eric Hosmer singled and went to third on a single by Salvador Perez and an error. But left-hander Reymin Guduan came on in relief and got Mike Moustakas to line out to third. Guduan then got Brandon Moss on strikes. Right-hander James Hoyt finished the job by striking out Alcides Escobar. More >
"You're trying to pitch to the hitter's weakness," McCann said of the heavy use of curveballs. "You stun them with fastballs late, and pitchers did an amazing job of doing that."
B-Mac's back: It's been rough going at the plate for McCann since his return from a weeklong stint on the disabled list following a concussion. He was 1-for-16 in his first six games being activated on May 27, but in the fourth inning on Monday, he walloped his first homer since May 12, a two-run shot to right field that gave the Astros a 4-0 lead. The homer was McCann's 239th of his career as a catcher, tying him with Roy Campanella for 10th all-time at the position.
"I haven't been swinging the bat well since I've come back off the DL," McCann said. "I made some minor adjustments. I was able to drive the ball to left-center, and when I'm doing that it's a good sign."
"They're an aggressive team," Kennedy said, "and I just put a first-pitch fastball up to him."
"Quickest way to get rid of a 19-game streak is to move him to the leadoff spot. Guess I'll take credit for that." -- Royals manager Ned Yost, who moved Merrifield from No. 8 in the order to the top spot for Monday's game
"It got me a little angry, but had to settle down and keep making pitches. Those things are going to happen." -- Fiers, after giving up an RBI bloop double and RBI bunt single in the fourth
Astros third baseman Marwin Gonzalez exited in the eighth inning with what the team called discomfort on the heel of his left hand. He injured the hand against the Orioles about 10 days ago and he aggravated it sliding head-first into third base on a double play in the sixth inning on Monday.
"It feels pretty sore," Gonzalez said. "It's discomfort, and let's see how it feels tomorrow and we'll go from there."
Gonzalez said it bothers him swinging from the right side of the plate because he puts the bat in the middle of his hand and has been choking up to feel better. He doesn't think he'll play on Tuesday.
"How I feel right now, probably not," he said.
Astros: Rookie right-hander David Paulino (0-0, 4.50 ERA) will make his third career start -- second this season -- on Tuesday against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. He made his first appearance of the season on Wednesday in Minnesota, logging eight strikeouts over four innings.
Royals: Rookie right-hander Jake Junis (1-0, 2.70) will start the second game of the series against the Astros at 7:15 p.m. CT. Junis is on the Royals' taxi squad now and is expected to be placed on the 25-man roster on Tuesday, when a corresponding move will be announced.
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