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MIN@KC: Teaford pitches 5 1/3 innings of great relief

After watching fellow Royals pitchers allow six home runs in their first two games against the Rangers, long relievers Everett Teaford and Vin Mazzaro have the unenviable task of attempting to keep Texas' slugging lineup in Kauffman Stadium the best they can on Wednesday.

The duo will pitch for Kansas City on Ned Yost's "'pen day," a result of a doubleheader last Saturday that would have forced his rotation on short rest if not for a spot start from Teaford. The left-hander made four starts this season, but has had more success out of the bullpen, where he has a 3.09 ERA in 32 innings.

Teaford is 1-1 as a starter with a 6.20 ERA, facing such potent lineups as Toronto and Detroit. But neither is quite as tough as Texas, which has the best batting average and most runs scored in baseball. Many of them come via the long ball, but Yost said Teaford and Mazzaro cannot pitch around home runs against the Rangers.

"No, no, you just try to execute your pitch," Yost said. "If you're thinking about anything else, you're going to be in trouble. You just have to get with your catcher and whatever pitch you both decide upon, your whole focus is on executing it."

Texas will look to support right-hander Ryan Dempster on the mound.

The Rangers average 5.8 runs per game since a quiet July turned to August, led by Josh Hamilton, who is 3-for-8 with a home run and two runs scored through the first two games in Kansas City, which the teams split.

The outfielder hit .223 in June and .177 in July, but he is hitting .302 with nine homers and 30 RBIs in 33 games since, providing a constant threat in the middle of a Texas lineup full of them, especially Adrian Beltre, who is a lifetime .366 hitter at Kauffman Stadium.

"He's not chasing pitches," manager Ron Washington said of Hamilton. "His chase ratio is down and he hasn't missed many mistakes when they make them. He's taking walks. He still has days when he strikes out one or two times, but he's still doing something and having big at-bats. Plus, Beltre is starting to smoke the ball, so the other team has to pick their poison."

Rangers: More hurdles await in Napoli's rehab
Catcher Mike Napoli might take to the Kauffman Stadium field prior to Wednesday's game to test his strained left quad again, but it depends on how he recovers from Tuesday's session.

Napoli ran from home plate to first base several times Tuesday, but has yet to truly test his quad by running full speed, running the bases, and making quick starts, stops or cuts. He could attempt to do so Wednesday if he feels OK a day removed from light running, but when he pushed himself on Texas' last homestand, he aggravated it more.

"I want to push it but I can't," Napoli said. "If I have one more setback, I won't be back the rest of the year. I felt something the other day in Texas and had to shut it down the first time I tried to run the bases. We're trying to progress, I just can't go all-out yet."

Royals: Jeffress returns to bullpen
Jeremy Jeffress returned to Kansas City on Tuesday, eight days after the Royals optioned him to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, whose season ended on Monday and made Jeffress eligible to return.

The right-hander had two previous stints with the big league club, but was not needed on Tuesday, when Jeremy Guthrie threw seven innings before turning it over to the back end of the bullpen. Jeffress allowed two unearned runs in 6 2/3 innings for the Royals over eight appearances, striking out eight and walking six.

He appeared once at Double-A during his reassignment, walking one and striking out three in 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

"He's much more consistent in the strike zone, which has always been something he's needed to work on," Yost said. "He's throwing strikes at a much higher rate with all of his pitches, which is good. His stuff is excellent. It's just been a matter of command and execution, and he's been much more consistent with that."

Worth noting
• David Murphy went hitless on Tuesday to snap his streak at five consecutive multi-hit games.

• Alex Gordon went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer on Tuesday to hit safely in 12 of his past 13 games. The outfielder is hitting .377 (20-for-53) in that time with 14 RBIs.

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