Carlos Beltran homered and Jeremy Affeldt struck out a career-high eight batters as the Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 3-2 Monday in the opener of a four-game series between the top two teams in the American League Central
"He's got the ability to be a 20-game winner in the big leagues," Royals manager Tony Pena said. "The more time we give him to develop, the better he will get."
The first-place Royals improved to 17-3 against division opponents and 3-0 against the Twins, who had won 10 of their last 12 games coming in. Kansas City is 3 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota.
"Last year we had good battles with them," Affeldt said. "We knew coming in that all four games are going to be battles."
Raul Ibanez hit a two-run single in the first inning. Beltran added a solo homer in the fifth and finished with three hits.
Torii Hunter homered for the Twins, and Matthew LeCroy had an RBI double.
Affeldt (3-1) pitched six innings, his longest outing of the season, giving up two runs and seven hits. Mike MacDougal got his 11th save in 13 chances.
Lance Berkman hit one of Houston's three solo homers and drove in three runs to lead the Astros over the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-4 Monday.
The Pirates, who trailed 3-2 until the eighth inning, stranded 14 batters and were 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position in their ninth loss in 10 games. They have lost eight of nine at PNC Park.
Cubs 11, Brewers 5
In Milwaukee, Moises Alou and Mark Grudzielanek each had four of Chicago's season-high 19 hits in beating Milwaukee.
Mark Prior (5-1) struck out 11 in six innings. Alou, Damian Miller and Troy O'Leary homered for the Cubs, who have not had any trouble scoring without an injured Sammy Sosa.
Mets 9, Rockies 6
In Denver, Cliff Floyd homered and drove in four runs, and Steve Trachsel (1-2) won for the first time in eight starts as New York beat Colorado for its third straight victory.
Braves 11, Dodgers 4
In Los Angeles, Javy Lopez hit a three-run homer and Gary Sheffield added a two-run double in Atlanta's seven-run ninth inning that sealed a win over Los Angeles.
Vinny Castilla also homered for the National League East-leading Braves, who have won 22 of 26 after a 4-8 start. The Dodgers are only one game over .500 despite entering the game with the lowest ERA in the majors.
South Korean pitcher Jung Keun Bong (4-0) got the win with 2 2-3 scoreless innings.