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A's Open Second Half Of Hopeful Playoff Push

(Sports Network) - Two teams trying to climb into contention in the American League start up their post-All Star break schedules this evening at Kauffman Stadium, where the Kansas City Royals open up a six-game homestand with the first of three consecutive meetings with the Oakland Athletics.

Both clubs enter this series on the outside of the AL's playoff picture. The Athletics presently sit in third place in the West Division, eight games behind first-place Texas, while the Royals -- a team which hasn't reached the postseason since 1985 -- are 11 games in back of the Chicago White Sox in the race for the top spot in the AL Central.

Oakland will be heading into the second half carrying a bit of momentum after taking the final two tests of a three-game home set with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this past weekend. In Sunday's rubber match, All-Star selection Trevor Cahill delivered seven outstanding innings to win his ninth game of the year and lead the A's to a 5-2 triumph.

Cahill (9-3) limited the Angels to one unearned run and five hits to close out an excellent first half for the sophomore hurler. He received support from a two-run homer by Jack Cust, with Adam Rosales also knocking in a pair of runs for Oakland with a sixth-inning single.

Cust finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and Kurt Suzuki went 3-for-3 with an RBI single for the Athletics, who had lost four in a row prior to a 15-1 shellacking of the Angels on Saturday.

"Sometimes things go bad in this game, but you have to keep on grinding away," said Suzuki after Sunday's victory. "We're not that far behind. We've got a lot of games left."

Cahill was not eligible to participate in the AL's 3-1 loss to the National League in the All-Star Game because he had started the first-half finale. Teammate Andrew Bailey, a late addition to the AL squad, did work one-third of an inning in Tuesday's Midsummer Classic and picked up a save by throwing a scoreless ninth in Sunday's victory.

Kansas City went into the break on a down note, suffering a three-game sweep by the resurgent White Sox in Chicago over the weekend. The team's pitching was hit hard in Sunday's finale, as the Sox belted five home runs and pounded out 18 total hits en route to a 15-5 rout.

Emergency starter Anthony Lerew (1-3) served up four of Chicago's homers and was rocked for eight runs and nine hits before exiting after only 2 2/3 innings. Relievers Dusty Hughes, Victor Marte and Kyle Farnsworth were each reached for two or more runs in the Royals' worst pitching performance of the season.

"It was just one of those days," manager Ned Yost told Kansas City's official site. "We got balls up and [the White Sox] hammered 'em. They've got good power and they're hot. Put that combination together in this ballpark where the ball flies anyway. When we got the ball up, they didn't miss it."

Jose Guillen went 2-for-3 for the Royals and hit his 15th homer of the season, a two-run shot in the top of the fourth.

Lerew was handed the start when Kansas City scratched ace Zack Greinke prior to the game because of mild discomfort in his throwing shoulder. The move was clearly precautionary, as the 2009 AL Cy Young Award recipient will get the call for the Royals in tonight's opener.

Greinke has been on a roll lately after a frustrating beginning to his 2010 season. After losing eight of his first nine decisions and often being plagued by a lack of offensive support, the standout right-hander has gone 4-0 with a 3.00 earned run average over his last five starts and has lasted at least seven innings in each of those games.

The 26-year-old was last in action on July 6, when Greinke yielded one unearned run and a mere two hits while striking out nine Seattle batters over seven innings to best the Mariners.

Greinke also won his only start against the A's during his Cy Young campaign of 2009, allowing three runs through seven innings last August at Kauffman Stadium, and sports a 4-0 record with a 2.88 ERA in 11 career encounters (seven starts) with Oakland.

Gio Gonzalez will oppose Greinke this evening and aims to build off a solid first 2 1/2 months of the season. The young left-hander produced a 7-6 record and a 3.79 ERA in 18 starts and has held opposing hitters to a .238 average at the plate.

Gonzalez did struggle his last time out, though, surrendering five runs and eight hits while issuing five walks in a four-inning loss to the New York Yankees on July 7. That put an end to an outstanding three-start stretch in which he permitted only two runs -- one earned -- over a span of 19 2/3 innings.

The 24-year-old is 0-1 with a subpar 7.71 ERA in two previous starts against the Royals. That one loss took place at Kauffman Stadium during September of 2008, with Gonzalez giving up four runs (three earned) and a pair of homers in just four innings.

Tonight's matchup marks the first meeting between these teams of 2010. Oakland won six of eight bouts with Kansas City last season, including two of three games held at Kauffman Stadium.