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2019 Series Preview #12: Kansas City Royals @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (20-14, 1st in AL West) kick off a 7-game homestand with 3 against the Royals (12-23, 5th in AL Central)

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Royals

The Royals will arrive in Houston after a week that would see them split four with the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays before losing 2 of 3 against their division rival, the Tigers. The Royals have been on a steady downward slope since the beginning of the season as the team has the worst record in the AL and is just 2 games better than the laughable Marlins. Speaking of, they join the Marlins as the only two teams who are already 10 games back from their division leader.

Of Bats and Men

MLB: Game Two-Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The big bat in the Royals’ lineup this past week has been Jorge Soler, who managed to slash .357/.345/.679 with a couple of homers and 7 RBI this week. Soler has been a mainstay in the lineup this season, having played in all 35 games along with Whit Merrifield, and has generally done alright with an .804 OPS. Offseason acquisition Hunter Dozier also had a solid week for KC, and has easily been their best player this season with a .343/.446/.667 OPS so far in 2019.

Adalberto Mondesi has also been on a bit of a tear this week, having clubbed three doubles and a homer in the last two series. The aforementioned Merrifieild has also been a steady on-base threat this entire season, as has homegrown rookie Kelvin Gutierrez, who made his debut just this past Opening Day. The rest of the lineup hasn’t exactly been tearing the cover off the ball this week, but Alex Gordon has at least been decent-enough, and has also been a steady producer so far in 2019.

As an offense the Royals are pretty much about middle of the road in almost every major category when compared with the rest of the league. Where they separate themselves is really in the speed department, and they flex that muscle there when they can. They lead the league with 35 stolen bases so far in 2019, 9 better than the second-place Mariners and Rangers. They also are in front of everyone else with 19 triples, but oddly fall back closer to league average where doubles are concerned.

On the Pen

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals’ bullpen hierarchy has been a little bit in flux this season. While it initially appeared as though former Diamondbacks closer Brad Boxberger might be in line for save opportunities, he’s struggled in his new uniform and now sports a 6.28 ERA. It then seemed as though converted starter Ian Kennedy would take over the 9th inning role as one of the better arms in the Royals’ pen, but instead became more of a fireman in other high-leverage situations.

Wily Peralta would get the majority of the saves in late April and was seemingly confirmed as closer by manager Ned Yost, but has struggled recently and is also over 6 on his ERA now. One person who hasn’t had a shot at closing yet is Jake Diekman, who is serving in a setup role but has easily been KC’s best reliever this year. Expect to see him in high leverage situations for this series.

After that Scott Barlow has probably had the best season so far, but the Royals’ bullpen isn’t exactly going to promote confidence in the Royals’ faithful. In fact, pitching as a whole has been the biggest issue for Kansas City during their putrid start to the season.

Astros

The Astros return home after a mini-sweep of the Angels would help to salvage a 3-3 road trip and bring the boys home on a high note. Mexico was good to the Astros, warming up the bats to the tune of 24 runs slapped on Angels’ pitching in those two games. This was good to see after the offense would go very cold in Minnesota except for an 11-run effort in the second game. The Astros would at least gain ground on the division and go up 2 games on the struggling Mariners.

Of Bats and Men

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The big hero this week has been Michael Brantley, who has quietly put together one of the best weeks of anyone in the lineup this season. In the past 7 games he has slashed a sexy .455/.478/.864 with 2 home runs and 3 doubles. This comes after what’s been a mostly steady season for Brantley, making him easily one of the top 3 hitters in the Astros’ lineup. Of course, Bregman also gets some honors this week, going on a rampage with 5 home runs, with 3 in the Mexico series alone including a grand slam.

Springer has also been on a hot streak this week, adding to his team-leading home run and RBI totals. Carlos Correa has seemingly returned to form, delivering several clutch hits and staring to find his power stroke in recent games. Yuli Gurriel also deserves praise for finishing strong this week after coming out of one of the worst slumps of his MLB career.

After that the biggest story is Altuve, who continued to struggle on the road but has started to flash signs of life at the plate. Reddick, Stassi, and Chirinos also had decent weeks, with each of them managing to get on base at a decent clip. In fact, of the 14 Astros batters this week, only three do not have an OBP above .300 during that time.

On the Pen

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros’ pen continued its excellent run this week with 16 innings across the last two series that would only see 3 runs surrendered. Osuna was perfect across 2 innings of work, as was Will Harris in one. Ryan Pressly would also continue his scoreless streak dating back to the last season, as he still sits on a 0.00 ERA for the year.

Really, the worst pitching performance came from Devo, unfortunately, who continues to struggle in 2019, but has been relegated to mop-up duty due to it. After that only Framber Valdez gave up a run. Josh James would also see some time out of the pen and has had a couple of encouraging outings after an absolutely dreadful start to the season.

The Astros’ pen continues to remain one of the best in the league and a strength for the club. They’ve helped to shorten games, especially with Pressly and Osuna covering the 8th and 9th inning duties. Will Harris and Héctor Rondón have also emerged as strong options for Hinch to tap when it comes to middle-inning relief.

Pitching Match Ups

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1: Jakob Junis, RHP (3-2, 5.14 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole, RHP (2-4, 3.95 ERA)

Junis will make this start for the Royals after two good ones in a row. His most recent game would see him get into the 7th inning and only surrender 2 earned runs while scattering 6 hits against the Rays. This came in back to back starts against Tampa, with his first only going 5 innings, but with just 1 run allowed. Of course, all of that comes after a decent-enough start to the season was undone by three pretty forgettable ones in a row. His peripherals suggest some bad luck for him, but he should still be ripe for the Astros to attack.

Cole takes the mound for Houston after a masterful showing against the Twins where he would hurl 7 innings of shutout ball. Before that he would go 7 strong against the Indians where he would only give up 2 runs. Cole has managed a quality start in 6 of his 7 games so far this season, though the one he would fall short in was easily his worst start in an Astros uniform. He continues his strikeout barrage this season, clocking in at an intimidating 13.50 K’s per 9 IP.

Game 2: Danny Duffy, LHP (0-1, 3.27 ERA) vs. Collin McHugh, RHP (3-3, 4.97 ERA)

This will be Duffy’s third start of the season after making his return from a shoulder injury. Duffy looked really good in his last outing against the Rays, giving up just one run in 6 innings, but was a little shaky in first game against the Angels. He would take the loss in that one after giving up 3 runs in 5 innings of work. Duffy has been a mainstay in the Royals pen since they were in back-to-back World Series, but has declined somewhat since then.

Houston counters with McHugh, who had a somewhat pedestrian outing his last time out against the Twins. He would give up 4 runs in 6 innings, but it was an improvement over the disaster of an outing he had in Arlington against the Rangers. He has yet to regain the form that he was showing at the beginning of the season, but his match against the Indians seemed to show some of that even with the 3 runs surrendered.

Game 3: Jorge López, RHP (0-3, 5.09 ERA) vs. Brad Peacock, RHP (2-2, 5.28 ERA)

López will toe the slab for KC after a somewhat disappointing start to the season. Though he would fight back to go seven innings after giving up 3 runs in the first during his last outing, that was also the 5th time this season he’s surrendered at least 4 runs. He has had a couple of good showings this season, but for the most part he has looked fairly shaky on the mound this season.

Unfortunately Houston starter Peacock hasn’t looked much better after suffering a complete meltdown against the Twins in last week’s game. He would get chased in the 4th after giving up 7 runs. This did come after a couple of good starts since he returned to the rotation, but Peacock has yet to really show the dominant starter form he had the last time he was a rotation regular.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, May 6th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Royals - KCSP 610 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Royals - FSKC / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 2: Tuesday, May 7th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Royals - KCSP 610 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Royals - FSKC / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 3: Wednesday, May 8th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Royals - KCSP 610 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Royals - FSKC / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (77 votes)
  • 33%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (41 votes)
  • 1%
    Royals Win 2-1
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Royals Sweep 3-0
    (2 votes)
122 votes total Vote Now