Astros Depose Royals, 11-3
Bats Pummel Hammel With 8-Run 2nd

Cole: Favorite sign
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
These just aren't the same Royals that made it to the World Series a few years ago and won a heated playoff series against the Astros in 2018. Eric Hosmer is gone. Lorenzo Cain is gone. Kendrys Morales and Ben Zobrist have moved on. That once deadly bullpen is in tatters. For two days, Kansas City put up a good fight but they couldn't hold it together all weekend.

On Sunday, the Astros exploded for eight runs in the second inning, including a grand slam from Yuli Gurriel, as Houston ended this one early by an 11-3 count. With Boston's shutout of Seattle, the Astros have opened up a 4-1/2 game lead in the AL West. At 52-27, Houston is two games shy of the halfway mark in their regular season and on a path to a club-record 105 wins.

With the day off earlier this week, Justin Verlander was pushed back an extra day so Gerrit Cole, on regular rest, took Sunday's start. Cole hit the 100-pitch mark early and lasted just the required five innings to get the victory. Cole struck out eight and walked three but gave up just two hits, one a solo shot by Lucas "Camptown Races" Duda.

Collin McHugh worked the next two innings then Tony Sipp and Ken Giles closed it out. Curious that Manager Hinch saw fit to bring his closer out to protect an eight-run lead.

The Royals are 3-17 in June. You folks who were Astros fans longer than the past five years knows what that feels like. Houston took the season series, 5-to-1.

The Astro hitters were so sharp that slumping Alex Bregman found time to shave off his new moustache between the second and the fourth innings. Kansas City starter Jason Hammel may have wished he could have shaved his head.

Tony Kemp drove in the first Houston run in the second on catcher's interference and Bregman plated the next tally with a walk. Jose Altuve popped a two-run single and Yuli Gurriel, who doubled to start the uprising, smashed a grand slam homer to make it 8-0. Gurriel would finish 3-for-5 and doubled his season home run output in just one weekend.

It was all stat-padding after that although Evan Gattis made a pinch-hit appearance for Altuve in the eighth and yanked his 15th homer of the season for the final Houston score.

The aforementioned Verlander (9-2) will start the home series against Toronto on Monday night against former Astro J.A. Happ (9-3) who is 69-46 in his six years since the Astros traded him away in one of their fire sale moves of 2012. Meanwhile, all Jeff Luhnow received were future trade pieces like Ben Francisco, Carlos Perez, Asher Wojciechowski and Joe Musgrove. The first pitch will be at 7:10 pm Central.

Off the field, reliever Joe Smith threw batting practice for the first time since a sore elbow landed him on the disabled list. There's no timetable yet for his return.

- Bob Hulsey