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Series Preview #25: Kansas City Royals @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (50-26, 1st in AL West) welcome the spiraling Royals (22-52, 5th in AL Central) to Houston for a rematch of last week’s 3 game set

Kansas City Royals v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Recency Bias

Royals

Unfortunately for the Royals, things have not improved since last we saw our weary foes. They come skidding in on 8 straight losses and have gone 2-17 for all of June. They’ve been swept 4 times and have plated 3 runs or more only three times on the month, but one was against the Astros. Whit Merrifield has been their best player during that stretch, slashing .290/.380/.403, with 18 hits, 6 walks, and 7 doubles in 62 ABs. Beyond that things tend to nosedive a little lately, with no one hitting over .650 OPS on the month. Moustakas has been their biggest power threat on the year, and does seem to be coming a little more alive in the last couple of series. Gordon has also been respectable at the plate this week, getting on base at a healthy .417 clip. After that the stats are not too pretty, with Ryan Goins, Hunter Dozier, and Rosell Herrera the most dangerous of the remaining hitters, but not by much. Lucas Duda remains on the DL with Dozier replacing him and the Royals have already begun the dismantling with the Jon Jay trade.

As for their bullpen, their brightest spot Kelvin Herrera has been traded to the Nationals, further distancing the team from its World Series incarnation. What’s left are some recent call ups to fill gaps and some arms that are getting some serious mileage lately. With rookie Brad Keller getting stretched out in the rotation, the pen has had to do double duty in recent weeks, and has not looked too good. Justin Grimm has done well in very limited appearances within the last few weeks, but has also been lit up a couple of times this year. In the last week Brian Flynn and Kevin McCarthy have been able to keep runs off the board in their outings, but have allowed a few base runners each. After that the arms in the pen become much more hittable, with the Royals bullpen easily in the top 3 for worst in the league. They are second worst in MLB for both ERA and WHIP at 5.53 and 1.50, respectively, and tied for most home runs at 39. Brandon Flynn is their only current reliever with an ERA under 4.50 who has pitched more than 9 innings in the last month.

At this point there is a very large sale sign on the windows, so Kansas City will hope to showcase some players and boost trade value as they face the champs.

Astros

The Astros have been rolling over the soft part of their schedule, playing to a 12-1 record against 3rd-or-worst teams. In that time, the offense has been cranking, with at least 5 runs plated in all but 2 of the 13 games and slashing .311/.373/.542 as a unit. Altuve has been especially potent with a .426/.509/.723 slash line along with 20 hits, 8 walks, 5 doubles, and 3 homers. Gattis has continued his assault on opposing pitching with 5 homers and 19 RBI with a grand slam, but only a couple of hits since returning to MMP. The recent run against soft teams has also seen excellent numbers from Bregman, Gonzalez and Correa, who are all sporting OPS’s just north of 1.000. Bregman is currently on a 31 game on base streak and was the hero in Monday night’s walk off. Stassi continues his strong case for All Star write in, Gurriel has been steady at the plate, and Reddick has been getting on base at a decent enough clip but with no power. Special mention to Tony Kemp, who gets some credit for jump starting the offense with consistent production out of the 9 spot, something the Astros had been missing. Unfortunately, Springer has been in a deep funk, though he did serve up a bomb in his last game.

The Bullpen has also been excellent during the 12-1 stretch, with Devo, McHugh, and Tony Sipp all leading the pack. None of them have surrendered an earned run during that time frame, though McHugh did allow one unearned. Devo has been especially dominant out of the pen, going 5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER with 5 K’s. Peacock continues to be a work horse, having thrown 7.1 quality innings. Harris has been having some struggles recently, giving up 6 hits in 5.1 IP, but has been able to wiggle out of traffic with 12 K’s. Rondon and Giles both seem to be holding late inning reliever roles, with Rondon throwing the more high leverage innings. Though Rondon would take the only loss of the last 13 games, he would also log 3 saves and a perfect inning to continue his strong 2018 campaign. Giles has also been looking more to form lately. Even after wobbling slightly in his most recent non save situation and giving up a run to the Rangers, he’s looked much more capable in such outings. The bullpen in general has been a strength since the beginning of June and is looking much more like a weapon lately.

The Astros finally have some breathing room in the division and hope to take advantage of lesser teams to gain more.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Danny Duffy, LHP (3-7, 5.55 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel, LHP (4-8, 4.15 ERA)

Duffy will have to try to collect himself with a quick turnaround against the Astros, who were able to touch him up for 7 runs, 6 earned, just last week. I was the 8th time in 15 starts this season that Duffy has given up at least 4 ER while striking out 6 or less. He’s also walked 3 or more in 6 of his last 7 starts. Duffy has not had much dominance on the mound recently, and most of his advanced stats show that 5.55 ERA is about what you can expect from him.

Keuchel takes the mound after a much needed bounce back game against the Royals in Kansas City where he was able to get his first win since mid May. Dallas had been struggling coming in to that match, having allowed at least 4 ER in 4 of his previous 5 starts. He would go a strong 6 IP where the only hiccup came in the form of 2 unearned runs where the defense did him no favors with a rare Correa error. DK will look to build on that with another crack at KC’s lineup and try to get back in to a good groove on the mound.

I think that Dallas looked much more confident in KC and has a chance to find his feel again and take the advantage over Duffy.

Game 2: Ian Kennedy, RHP (1-7, 5.31 ERA) vs. Lance McCullers Jr., RHP (8-3, 3.77 ERA)

Kennedy has been very up and down this year where he’ll fire off 1 or 2 good starts and then get hit hard in the next few games. He recently had his best game of the year with 8.0 shutout innings and 3 hits and walks against Cincinnati. His next start he would get slapped around by the Rangers with a couple of home runs and 5 ER across 6 IP. Kennedy’s BABIP and ERA are a little high when compared to his FIP, but he doesn’t look like a strong challenge against a good lineup with power. However, he has had success against the Astros in the past.

Houston counters with McCullers, who was able to sustain a steady string of 4 quality starts since giving up 7 in Cleveland, though he hasn’t garnered a win in his previous three. His last outing was also against these same Royals, where he would go 6 IP and give up 4 runs, 2 unearned. He would give up 6 hits, but was able to buckle down and strike out 9, the first time he’s done that since April 17th. Lance’s command is still a little less fine than it was to start the season, but he’s been able to make it work with his secondary stuff.

I think LMJ can keep up the pace and take the edge from the inconsistent Kennedy.

Game 3: Jason Hammel, RHP (2-8, 4.88 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (9-2, 1.60 ERA)

Hammel, like Kennedy, has had success against the Astros in the past, but unlike Kennedy is having a more steady season. He’s been rocked in a few games, but has turned in mostly good to excellent starts in 2018. His K/9 rate is low at 5.88 and a 2.48 BB/9 would seem to suggest he’s walking a bit of a tight rope, but his higher than average BABIP and 4.01 FIP seem to suggest that he he could be performing slightly better than what we’ve seen.

Verlander will get the ball for Houston and has continued his storied pace so far in 2018. His last start against Tampa was a 6.2 IP game of 1 run ball where he came close to getting out of the 7th before having to turn things over. It was also his third double digit strikeout game of the season and 45th of his career. Unfortunately, the Astros have lost all three of those games this year, scoring only 2 runs in them. Verlander now has 15 quality starts out of 16 on the year and has yet to give up more than 3 ER.

As per usual, Verlander has the advantage until he doesn’t.

Fun Fact

Josh Reddick is officially off the market.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, June 22nd @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Royals - KCSP 610 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Royals - FSKC / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 2: Saturday, June 23rd @ 7:15 pm CDT
Listen: Royals - KCSP 610 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: FOX

Game 3: Sunday, June 24th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Royals - KCSP 610 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Royals - FSKC / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (131 votes)
  • 24%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (43 votes)
  • 0%
    Royals Win 2-1
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Royals Sweep 3-0
    (1 vote)
176 votes total Vote Now