The Athletics will try to avoid a ninth straight loss Friday night when they open a three-game road series against the Kansas City Royals.Oakland was shut out for the third time during its skid after losing 4-0 to Minnesota on Wednesday. The Athletics (22-29) had three hits, with their No. 3-7 hitters 0 for 16 with six strikeouts."When you get in a little streak like this, guys kind of want to look over their shoulder rather than taking the bull by the horns or grabbing the steering wheel," Johnny Gomes, who is in a 2-for-21 slump, said. "Success and failure is contagious."The losing streak is Oakland's longest since dropping 10 in a row May 30-June 9, 2011, and coincides with the loss of Cespedes to a strained muscle in his left hand.The Athletics were 15-13 with Cespedes in the lineup but have gone 7-15 since he went on the disabled list May 12, hitting .205 and averaging 3.0 runs over that stretch. During their skid, they've been even worse, hitting .172 while averaging 1.5 runs.While Cespedes, batting .245 with five homers and 21 RBIs, is poised to return, the A's remain vague about when Ramirez will be called up from Triple-A Sacramento. He completed a 50-game suspension for a second failed drug test."We want to make sure Manny feels he is 100 percent ready when we pull the trigger on this move," assistant general manager David Forst said Tuesday. "I don't have any time frame other than we're watching it every day."While Oakland comes into Kansas City in a slump, the Royals (21-28) returned home feeling good following a 5-4 road trip. After losing a series to the New York Yankees, they took two of three from Baltimore and Cleveland, capping the latter with back-to-back wins.Alex Gordon had two hits and an RBI, and Bruce Chen settled down after a rocky start for a 6-3 win Wednesday. The victory gave the Royals a winning record in May (15-13) for the first time since 2000."We played three good teams," said Gordon, who is 6 for 17 in his last four games. "Baltimore and Cleveland are at the top of their divisions. We're starting to play a little better. This road trip is definitely a positive."The Royals hit .409 with runners in scoring position during the last five games after batting .176 in such situations over the previous nine.Kansas City looks to keep things going against Bartolo Colon (4-5, 4.52 ERA).Colon has lost three of his last four starts, giving up six or more runs twice. Against the Yankees last Saturday, the right-hander surrendered six runs and two homers in six innings of a 9-2 defeat.Colon is 15-9 in his career against the Royals, but has lost his last two starts against them.Felipe Paulino (2-1, 2.03) will counter for Kansas City. The right-hander has pitched into the sixth in all five of his starts while giving up more than three runs only once.He went 5 2/3 innings against Baltimore on Saturday, allowing a pair of solo homers and three runs overall.The right-hander was rocked in his only start against the Athletics, though, giving up six runs and issuing six walks in 4 1/3 innings last September.Oakland won two of three against Kansas City in April.