clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2019 Series Preview #48: Houston Astros @ Kansas City Royals

New, 3 comments

The Astros (95-53, 1st in AL West) take a quick weekend road trip to Kansas City for three against the Royals (55-92, 4th in AL Central)

Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Snapshot

Astros

The Astros head to Kansas City after a rather disappointing series loss against the A’s at home. It was only their second such loss at home this whole, but it came at a rather inopportune time. The Astros’ magic number is at a manageable 8, but it could have been much lower if Houston had been able to take care of a business. While the pitching was probably the bigger culprit in most of the losses, the offense also had difficulty finding the big hit to bring home wins against a good Oakland team. The Astros will have a chance to regroup and possibly build some confidence as they head towards the postseason though, and this final stretch will be the time to do it. Houston is not scheduled to face any opponents with a current record over .500. This series will also be the last time the Astros face an opponent outside of the AL West.

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

While the pitching has left something to be desired, the offense has been clicking well in the last week. Though there have been a couple of anemic nights and the big hit has remained elusive at times, the Astros have done a good job of putting runs on the board. They put up 68 runs during the 8 game homestand, with most of those coming in back-to-back games against the Mariners and A’s.

A big part of that has actually been the catching platoon of Maldonado and Chirinos, who have 5 home runs and 2 doubles between them this week. They’re hardly the only ones though as Springer, Altuve, Alvarez, and Bregman all had an OPS over 1.000 during the homestand. Bregman in particular has been drawing some attention as a possible late-season MVP candidate thanks to his torrid play in the past month or so.

Meanwhile, the bullpen has been a little exposed as of late, with some of the relievers looking absolutely awful during their outings. Joe Biagini and Josh James would both struggle mightily on the mound this week with outings where they just weren’t fooling anyone. to be fair, the pen is missing a couple of key pieces thanks to injury.

That’s not to say it was all bad. Harris once more looked stellar during his appearances and Osuna managed to lock down a save without any drama. Rondon also had had a couple of good outings and seems to be pitching much better in recent days.

Another bright spot is September call up Bryan Abreu, who has opened his MLB career with 3 straight scoreless appearances. He’s looked good during that time and ready for more testing at the MLB level, so don’t be surprised to see him get some higher leverage auditions as the Astros move forward.

Royals

There’s not much good to say about the Royals’ 2019 season except that at least it’s better than their 2018 one. KC has spent most of the season entrenched firmly in 4th place in their division as they see what is hopefully their rebuilding past in the form of Tigers and future in the White Sox. The Royals are pretty far removed from their 2015 WS run at this point as most of the relevant players from that era have either moved on or were traded to fuel a rebuild. The Astros will face the Royals during a bit of a hot stretch for the team. They’ve won each of their last four series, though all of those came against teams with losing records.

Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As one would expect from a 4th place team, there’s not a whole lot of length in the Royals’ lineup. That doesn’t mean it’s devoid of talent, but most of it is clustered near the top of the order. Jorge Soler is the big power threat in KC’s lineup and leads the team in home runs with a rather impressive 44 on the year. Not surprisingly, he also leads the team in RBI’s.

Hunter Dozier might also be considered in the hunt for their best overall hitter in 2019 with a .291/.363/.554 slash line, but doesn’t lead the team in too many traditional stats even with his excellent season. The same goes for Whit Merrifield, who leads the team with a .305 batting average and is certainly one of the more consistent bats in the lineup.

Unfortunately for the Royals, things start to thin out for them after those three. Veteran Alex Gordon is always a threat but has certainly lost a step from previous years’ campaigns. While you can never discount an MLB team, no one who has played more than 5 games has OPS higher than .750 for the Royals this season.

What Kansas City does best, of course, is speed. They are currently tied for second in the league for both stolen bases (109) and triples (35), though some of those triples numbers comes from playing in Kauffman Stadium, which has a pretty expansive outfield.

On the bullpen, the back end of games are currently anchored by converted starter Ian Kennedy, who took over the job from Wily Peralta in early May. While his closer career got off to a rough start, he has been pretty consistent with 29 of 33 saves successfully converted.

Scott Barlow and Tim Hill are the set up men in the pen, though Hill was only recently promoted after the trade of Jake Diekman to the A’s. Hill has already managed to snag a save of his own, while Barlow has been a workhorse for the Royals. Expect to see both in this series at some point. The numbers aren’t great after that for the Royals, though second-year reliever Jake Newberry is having a good season too.

Pitching Match Ups

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Game 1: Gerrit Cole, RHP (16-5, 2.73 ERA) vs Danny Duffy, LHP (6-6, 4.71 ERA)

Cole is coming off of a masterful performance against the Mariners where he twirled an 8 inning, 1-hit gem. Unfortunately that one hit was a home run, but beyond that Cole was perfect. He also struck out 15, his fifth double digit strikeout game in a row and 17th for the year. Cole’s K/9 rate now sits at a ridiculous 13.72 and he leads the league with 281 punch outs. This is Cole’s second start against the Royals and his first wasn’t exactly great. He went 6.1 innings in that one but gave up four runs and “only” struck out 9.

Danny Duffy gets the ball for the Royals after a couple of quality starts in a row, including a 6 inning, 2-hit performance against the Marlins. Duffy spent a majority of the month of August on the IL with a hamstring strain before those two starts. His 4.71 ERA pretty much tells the story of his season, which has been average to forgettable. Duffy’s biggest bugaboo is a pretty high walk rate of 3.28 per 9. He did have a good game the last time he faced Houston though, going 6.2 innings and only giving up 2 runs in that one.

Game 2: Zack Greinke, RHP (15-5, 2.99 ERA) vs Mike Montgomery, LHP (3-8, 4.77 ERA)

Greinke faces the club he made his MLB debut with after a rather nice bounce back outing against the A’s on Monday. He threw six shutout innings and is now 5-1 with a 3.32 ERA since joining the Astros. This will be just Greinke’s fifth start against his old team and his first since 2017. He’s mostly done well against them except for one stinker he threw back in 2014, but that was the year that they were a World Series bound team.

KC counters with Mike Montgomery, who got slapped around a little his last time out, surrendering five runs to the Marlins in just 4 innings. It was the second time in his last 4 starts that he’s given up 5 runs. Like Duffy, Montgomery has had a pretty unspectacular season for the Royals and is prone to coughing up big innings from time to time. This will be just the third time he’s started a game against Houston, though he has seen them as a reliever a few other times. Montgomery has generally fared well against the Astros in the past, but hasn’t faced them since 2016.

Game 3: Wade Miley, LHP (13-5, 3.74 ERA) vs Jakob Junis, RHP (9-13, 5.06 ERA)

Miley has had a couple of nightmare outings in a row that saw him leave both in the first inning, only pitching 0.1 innings total in those games. Miley has been struggling somewhat since mid-August, with a 9.50 ERA and 38 hits in 18 IP since the 14th. He’ll need to right the ship here quickly as the team plans for October with him penciled in for the #4 starter. This will be the first time Miley has faced the Royals since 2016, but he did pitch a complete game shutout against them that season as a member of the Mariners.

Junis has had a rough go of it as of late, giving up at least 4 runs in each of his last 4 outings. His most recent performance was a 5-run, 5-inning clunker where he would give up a grand slam in the first inning to Eloy Jimenez of the White Sox. Junis did not fair any better in his other start against the Astros this season as they walloped him for 5 runs in just 5.1 innings of work. This is Junis’ third season in the bigs and he has steadily gotten just a little worse each year.

(Sort of) Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, September 13th @ 7:15 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Royals - KCSP 610
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Royals - FSKC

Game 2: Saturday, September 14th @ 6:15 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Royals - KCSP 610
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Royals - FSKC

Game 3: Sunday, September 15th @ 1:15 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Royals - KCSP 610, KYYS - 1250 AM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Royals - FSKC

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (31 votes)
  • 48%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (36 votes)
  • 5%
    Royals Win 2-1
    (4 votes)
  • 4%
    Royals Sweep 3-0
    (3 votes)
74 votes total Vote Now