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TEX@OAK: Griffin hurls seven frames of one-run ball

Perfect lineup construction may not statistically win too many games across a 162-game season, but Ned Yost's decision to move Alex Gordon to the three-hole and Billy Butler to cleanup has undoubtedly made an impact.

Since making the move nine games ago, the Royals have scored 40 runs. Gordon is 14-for-35, while Butler is 12-for-37 with two homers and 11 RBIs.

The two accounted for three of the team's five hits Saturday.

"I just think the most important two spots we have in the lineup now should be manned by Gordy and Billy, three and four," Yost said after making the switch. "Everything else is kind of interchangeable, matchups, who's producing."

If the Royals could match their improved offense with similarly productive pitching performances, a return to first place in the American League Central would not seem too far away.

But as Kansas City and Oakland wrap up a three-game series Sunday, neither team has been working with a successful formula lately.

The Royals have lost nine of their last 12, while the A's have lost eight of their last 12.

On the hill for the Royals on Sunday is Luis Mendoza, the 29-year-old who is still trying to prove himself as a Major League starter.

With a 3.64 ERA in 422 1/3 innings over Triple-A from 2008 to 2011, Mendoza has seen his first real chance in the Majors over the past year and a half. Through 196 innings, he has posted a 4.50 ERA.

He is coming off two straight quality starts.

"Every start I'm going to feel better and better, and [last time out] I just felt great," Mendoza said. "My sinker was working good, down in the zone, and my teammates backed me up with some runs, too."

The A's send A.J. Griffin to the mound off of one of his best performances of the season, a seven-inning, one-run gem in which he fanned eight Texas Rangers in a 5-1 win. Griffin has a 3.48 ERA with 39 strikeouts to 13 walks in 51 2/3 inning this season.

But it is the A's bullpen that has been impressing, entering Sunday allowing 47 earned runs in 143 2/3 innings, good for a 2.94 ERA.

Sean Doolittle (3-0) has not allowed a run over his past nine appearances, with a 0.95 ERA on the season.

"We feel that's one of our strengths," manager Bob Melvin said. "Doolittle has been lights out recently. We feel good when we're in close games at home."

Royals: Finding the right combination

Royals right fielders have combined to hit one home run this season, tied for the lowest total in the Majors.

Most of the power outage has come from Jeff Francoeur, who is in a 4-for-37 slump in the month of May.

But with prospect David Lough taking the spot of injured outfielder Jarrod Dyson, the Royals have another left-handed bat they may be able to count on.

Lough is expected to start Sunday with the right-handed Griffin on the mound.

A's: Donaldson in rare form

In a seven-day stretch from May 11-17, Josh Donaldson was in an elite class of American League players who collected more than 10 hits. Donaldson was 11-for-23 with a .478 average, three doubles and two homers. The only other AL hitters with more than 10 hits in that span: Justin Morneau, Manny Machado and Adrian Beltre.

Donaldson, a former catcher who has made a home at third base this season, hit just .241 in 274 at-bats in 2012, though he showed plenty of pop with 16 doubles and nine homers.

Throughout six seasons in the Minor Leagues, Donaldson had shown above-average power and a .365 on-base percentage, but his batting average was never consistent.

With another double Saturday, the 27-year-old's average stood at .323. And while he has hit at five different spots in the lineup, the production continues to be there.

Worth noting

• Since hitting three home runs in his first seven games, Jed Lowrie has not homered. His last long-ball came April 7.

• While Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have yet to get hot at the plate, Yost on Saturday said: "We're nowhere close to bailing on any of these kids."

• Salvador Perez has at least one hit in nine straight contests.

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