Key things to watch for in today's games

Key things to watch for in today's games

June is nearing a close and, when the calendar flips to July, trades and trade rumors will own Major League Baseball.

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Several teams open key series this week with the rumor season nearing. Here are three games to watch for:

First-place teams duel, KC vs. HOU, 8:10 p.m. ET
No one is surprised the Royals -- the reigning American League champions -- sit atop the AL Central after last year's magical postseason run. The Astros, though, still get the raised-eyebrow treatment from the casual fan who sees Houston sitting in first place in the AL West.

The two teams open a three-game series at Minute Maid Park on Monday in a clash of the AL's best. Right-hander Joe Blanton makes his third consecutive start for Kansas City after allowing one run in each of his previous two, while rookie righty Lance McCullers (3-2, 2.33 ERA) takes the ball for the Astros.

Trout, Pujols host Yankees, NYY vs. LAA, 10:05 p.m.
Two of the game's biggest stars, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, host the sport's most storied franchise for a three-game series beginning Monday at Angel Stadium.

Trout is a .330/.426/.626 career hitter in 24 games against the Yankees, while Pujols has a .340/.412/.547 career line in 27 career games against the Bombers.

There also will be dueling lefties on the mound as New York's CC Sabathia (3-7, 5.65) faces the Halos' C.J. Wilson (5-6, 3.92).

Graveman closes strong June, COL vs. OAK, 10:05 p.m.
A's right-hander Kendall Graveman has been on quite a roll this month -- and even before. The 24-year-old has allowed three earned runs or fewer in seven straight starts and his last four have been superb: six earned runs in 29 innings, for a 1.86 ERA. The A's have won just one of his last four starts, however.

Right-hander David Hale starts for Colorado.

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.