The Chicago White Sox's slim lead in the AL Central could be in jeopardy if their struggles against the Kansas City Royals continue this weekend.
The White Sox open a three-game home set against the Royals on Friday night, looking to end a five-game losing streak in the series.
Chicago is nursing a one-game division lead over Detroit and will host the Tigers for four games next week, but first the White Sox (74-62) are focused on ending their woes against Kansas City.
The Royals have won five straight and eight of 12 in the season series. Most surprising is the lack of production from Chicago, which has scored 11 runs and hit .195 during the five-game skid.
Offense, however, wasn't much of a problem for the White Sox in their last series. They totaled 19 runs in taking two of three from Minnesota, winning for the 23rd time in 29 home games with a 6-2 victory Wednesday.
Alex Rios drove in a career-high six runs with a grand slam and a two-run shot as Chicago bounced back after losing 18-9 the previous night.
"He's been consistent all year long," manager Robin Ventura said of Rios. "It's a good day for him to come in here, especially after last night, you get waxed and come back and get something early."
Rios has an 11-game hitting streak at home, batting .390 (16 for 41). However, he's hitting .250 against the Royals this year, going hitless in his last 12 at_bats.
The White Sox will try to avoid their first six-game skid versus the Royals since 1982 when they face Luis Mendoza (7-9, 4.48 ERA), who is 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA in four appearances - three starts - against them this season.
The right-hander, though, would like to go deeper in games after lasting five innings against Minnesota on Sunday. He allowed two runs and seven hits before leaving without a decision in a 6-4 win.
Mendoza hasn't pitched past the fifth in any of his last three starts.
A.J. Pierzynski is hitting .108 (4 for 37) in his last 11 games, but is 6 for 18 with two doubles and a home run against Mendoza.
This starts a six-game trip for the Royals (61-76), who settled for a 5-5 homestand following a 5-4, 10-inning loss to Texas on Thursday. They dropped three of four to the Rangers after opening the homestand with a three-game sweep of Detroit.
"It's always disappointing when you lose a game," manager Ned Yost said. "We gave it our best shot and I thought we competed well against a good team. ... We've got a little ways to go but we're on the right track."
Salvador Perez extended his hitting streak to 11 games Thursday, and is 10 for 28 with four doubles, a homer and six RBIs against the White Sox this year.
Kansas City will try to bounce back against Francisco Liriano (5-11, 5.11), who takes the mound after tying a career high with seven walks and allowing three runs over four innings in a 5-1 loss at Detroit last Saturday.
The left-hander is making his third start this season against the Royals after going 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA in the first two - both with Minnesota. The Twins supported him with one total run in those outings.
The White Sox will be without Adam Dunn (oblique) and Kevin Youkilis (birth of child) for this game.
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