Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals, June 29-July 1, 2015
It's a big series for the Astros as they welcome the Royals to town for three games. The last time the Astros played a series with both teams at least ten games over .500 was September 15, 2008 - Houston (80-68) played the Cubs (89-58) at Miller Park following Hurricane Ike.
(Pause a minute or two to get over memories of that series. Okay, everyone ready again?)
Houston comes in after splitting a four-game series with the Yankees. Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh led the Astros to their two wins in the series. The Astros are 4-6 in their last ten games. Houston currently sits four games ahead of the Angels in the AL West standings.
The Royals continue a west-coast road trip, taking five of six from the Athletics and Mariners. Kansas City swept the Athletics over the weekend. The Royals are 7-3 in their last ten games. Kansas City is 5.5 games ahead of the Twins in the AL Central standings.
Game 1 - RHP Lance McCullers (3-2, 2.33 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) vs. RHP Joe Blanton (2-0, 1.73 ERA, 0.92 WHIP)
Game 2 - LHP Dallas Keuchel (9-3, 2.17 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (2-3, 5.44 ERA, 1.70 WHIP)
Game 3 - RHP Vincent Velasquez (0-0, 3.72 ERA, 1.45 WHIP) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (8-4, 3.18 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
Lance McCullers will be tasked with getting the Astros off on the right foot. Thus far, it appears it was the right call to call up McCullers ahead of schedule. He has allowed just 12 earned runs over eight starts. In 23 innings at Minute Maid Park, he has allowed just three runs, nine walks, and has 27 strikeouts. Joe Blanton counters McCullers, the recently retired Blanton returned to baseball after missing all of 2014 season. He started the year in the bullpen, but has made two starts since June 17. In those two starts, he has allowed two runs over 11 innings of work. He hasn't allowed a home run in 26 innings thus far in 2015.
It's the battle of the beards in game two. Dallas Keuchel vs. Danny Duffy. Maybe they would measure length of their beards before the game and award a bonus run? Just a thought. Keuchel has been everything the Astros could have asked for this year. He rebounded after giving up eight runs over two starts with a nine-inning shutout of the Yankees in his most recent start. Duffy pitched 4 2/3 innings in his first start since shoulder surgery on June 24 against Seattle, allowing just one earned run on eight hits.
Finally it's the battle of the V's, Vincent Velasquez vs. Edinson Volquez. Velazquez finally showed he could pitch deep into a game in his last start, pitching 6 1/3 innings against the Yankees. He allowed two runs on five hits in that start. Volquez was the choice to replace James Shields this offseason and he has done the job well -- posting eight quality starts in 15 outings this season. In his most recent start, he allowed one run over seven innings against Oakland.
Looking at the stats for the past seven days for the Astros, Jose Altuve has gotten back on track. The Astros second baseman is batting .333 (9x27) with three doubles and four stolen bases. Carlos Correa is also batting .333 (10x30) during that time with five doubles, two home runs, and eight RBIs.
Three Royals are batting over .300 with at least 23 at-bats in the team's last six games -- Alcides Escobar, Omar Infante, and Kendrys Morales. Escobar is batting .370 (10x27) with four runs scored and two RBIs. Infante is batting .304 (7x23) with two doubles and five RBIs. Morales is batting .304 (7x23) with a double, a homerun, and three RBIs.
Safe to say the Astros win the game with Dallas Keuchel starting. Can they win one of the other two games or both, that is the question? I say Houston wins the series, taking two of three from the Royals.