Royals-Athletics Preview

Gil Meche was a disappointment last season, winning nine games in his first year with the Kansas City Royals.

The staff ace looks to match that total much earlier in 2008 while trying to close out July with a third straight victory as the Royals continue their road series with the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.

Meche (8-9, 4.31 ERA) is arguably in the middle of his most successful stretch since signing a five-year, $55 million contract with Kansas City (48-59) prior to last season, when he went 9-13 with a 3.67 ERA.

Despite throwing 31 pitches in the first inning of his most recent outing, Meche allowed five hits in seven scoreless innings of a 4-2 win at Tampa Bay on Thursday to improve to 5-1 with a 2.81 ERA over his last eight starts.

"He didn't start off very good, obviously," Royals manager Trey Hillman said of Meche's last start. "It was really impressive to see him make up for it, getting ahead in the count and staying ahead. He stuck with it once he got it going."

The right-hander, who has allowed a run and seven hits in 13 1-3 innings over his last two starts, is 2-7 with a 4.03 ERA in 16 career starts versus the A's (53-52).

Meche hopes to improve on that mark while trying to help the Royals record a third straight victory after winning 4-2 in Monday's series opener.

Jose Guillen and Alex Gordon each hit two-run homers for Kansas City, which has won 10 of it last 17 in Oakland. It was Guillen's 14th home run and first since June 23 as he returned to the lineup after missing Sunday's victory over Tampa Bay because of a left groin injury.

"I'm just trying to do my best," Guillen said of playing hurt. "It's not easy but sometimes when you're trying to help your team win, it doesn't matter."

Gordon is 5-for-14 in four games versus Oakland this season.

"He looked much better at the plate," Hillman said of Gordon, who had three hits Monday. "The ball got off the bat much better."

Kurt Suzuki had three hits while Ryan Sweeney and Carlos Gonzalez drove in runs for Oakland, which has lost 10 of 12 and is on the verge of falling to .500 for the first time since it was 4-4 on April 8.

Though the team has struggled Suzuki has not, going 13-for-22 in his last six games.

Greg Smith (5-9, 3.90) looks to avoid a fourth consecutive losing decision for Oakland on Tuesday. He allowed four runs -- including three in the fifth inning -- and five hits in six innings of a 4-3 loss at Tampa Bay on Wednesday to fall to 0-3 with a 6.10 ERA in his last four starts.

"It's always disappointing to give up that lead," said the rookie left-hander, who gave up three earned runs in five innings when he didn't factor in the decision of a 6-5 win over the Royals on April 19.