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Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals, June 24-26, 2016

The Houston Astros return to the place of Game No. 5 of the ALDS with the Royals.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros (37-36) vs. Kansas City Royals (38-33), June 24-26, 2016

The Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals tangle at Kauffman Stadium for the first time since the 2015 ALDS Game No. 5 in which the Royals moved on to ALCS and eventually the 2015 World Series. The current edition of the Astros and Royals are missing a few parts from the playoffs, the Royals are missing greater parts because of free agency including Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist.

Without Cueto the Royals have pedestrian pitching rotation and as such Kansas City has had a rollercoaster start to the season. Kansas City at one point this season the Royals have lost eight games in a row. The Royals were 12-11 in the month of April, 17-11 in May, and 9-11 in June.

The Royals are 7-3 in their last 10 games and were 3-1 against the Astros in the four-game series against Kansas City. The Royals have been stellar at home with a 25-8 record and the Astros are 15-21 on the road in 2016. Let's take a look at how the Astros look to improve their record against the Royals and their record on the road:

Starting pitching

Friday: LHP Dallas Keuchel (3-9, 5.32 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (7-6, 4.12 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)
Saturday: RHP Mike Fiers (5-3, 4.42 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) vs. RHP Chris Young (2-6, 5.61 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)
Sunday: RHP Doug Fister (8-3, 3.21 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (5-6, 4.19 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)

Dallas Keuchel faces the Royals for the first time since he came into relief in Game No. 5 of the ALDS. Keuchel is, one, attempting to wash away that memory of that game, and two, continue to wash away his rough start of the season. Keuchel is coming off one of his best starts of the season, he allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings against the Reds -- one of the worst teams in baseball.

The longball has stung Keuchel this season, he has allowed 11 home runs in just 15 starts this season. He gave up only 17 in 33 regular season starts in 2015.

Keuchel is 2-1 with a 3.62 ERA in four career starts against the Royals and 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in 6 2/3 career innings at Kauffman stadium. Current Royals are batting .311 (28x90) with a .362 BABIP, 4.09 FIP, 18.9 K%, and a 5.3 BB%.

Edinson Volquez is the Royals defacto 'ace' for the time being. Volquez is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA with 14 strikeouts in his last three starts. He allowed five runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 inning in his last start, June 18 against the Tigers.

In Volquez's career, he is 6-0 with a 2.70 ERA in nine starts against the Astros. Current Astros are batting .265 (30x113) against Volquez with a .320 BABIP, 4.63 FIP, 26.4 K%, and a 7.2 BB%.

In the month of June, Mike Fiers has posted three quality starts for the Astros, by the strict definition he has only posted two quality starts. I would like to give him one more as he didn't allow a run over 5 2/3 innings in his last start -- June 19 against the Reds.

Fiers faces Chris Young, who was only good enough to be the Royals bullpen last season. Young is coming off his best start of the season, allowing one run on three hits over six innings against the Tigers.

Doug Fister has pitched like the Astros ace since the start of May. He is coming off back-to-back seven innings, quality starts against the Cardinals and Angels.

Ian Kennedy, the Royals' key acquisition this offseason, started the season strong with a 2.77 ERA in April and a 3.24 ERA in May. But Kennedy has struggled in June with a 7.25 ERA in four starts. Kennedy only lasted four innings in his last start against the Mets on June 21, allowing two runs on four hits.

Lineup

It's no surprise that the Astros are on a five-game winning streak as the bats have heated up. Luis Valbuena is batting .375 (6x16) with a home run and three RBIs in his last five games. Carlos Gomez is batting .348 (8x23) with three RBIs in his last six games. Carlos Correa is batting .318 (8x23) with two doubles, three home runs, and eight RBIs.

The main source of a slump at the moment for the Astros is George Springer. Springer is batting .182 (4x22) with five runs scored in his last six games. He has though reached five times via the walk. Jose Altuve is still out of this world, he is batting .300 (6x20) with two home runs, four runs scored, three RBIs, and six walks.

Designated hitter Kendrys Morales has been swinging a hot bat. He is batting .417 (10x24) with a six runs scored, a home run, and eight RBIs in his last seven games. Paulo Orlando is batting .476 (10x21) with three doubles and four RBIs in his last four games.

Catcher Salvador Perez is batting .345 (10x29) with a seven runs scored, two home runs, and six RBIs in his last seven games. Eric Hosmer is batting .238 (5x21) with four runs scored, three RBIs, and seven strikeouts in his last five games.

Prediction

Dallas Keuchel picks up the win in game one and the Astros take two of three.

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