ASTROS @ ROYALS
June 5-8, 2017
It’s been a hell of a week.
What happened in the last series?
The Astros are 41-16. This enchubbens me. (NOTE: Google Docs spellcheck has no problem with the word “enchubbens”. This, too, enchubbens me.)
As much as the Astros have done this season, the Royals (24-31) have something the Astros don’t: a winning record against the Indians. KC has taken four of six from the Tribe in their last nine games and are the only other team besides the Indians to win a series against the Astros this year. Of course, that was back before the Houston offense really got out of first gear. The Royals have one of the most anemic offenses in baseball: they are the only team that has scored fewer than 200 runs and are rock bottom in the AL in average, OBP, slugging, and walks. The pitching has been a little better, mostly thanks to the 8th-best rotation ERA in baseball. That’s no small feat considering they’ve had to deal with injuries (Danny Duffy and Nate Karns are on the DL; Ian Kennedy had some DL time in May) and the death of Yordano Ventura.
Monday, June 5 – 7:15pm CDT
Mike Fiers (2-2, 4.96) vs. Ian Kennedy (0-5, 5.12)
Fiers tossed his second of two May quality starts against the Twins, striking out eight and allowing NO HOME RUNS for the first time this season. He also pitched a quality start against the Royals in April but got no run support.
That could change this time around. Kennedy closed the month of April with a 2.30 ERA but sported an 11.30 ERA in May, allowing 4+ earned runs in each start and a DL stint sandwiched in between. He did really well against the Astros in two starts last year (2-0, 1.29). However, Altuve, Aoki, Beltran, Gattis, and McCann all have a .900+ OPS against Kennedy.
Tuesday, June 6 – 7:15pm CDT
David Paulino (0-0, 4.50) vs. TBD/Jake Junis (1-0, 2.70)
Paulino did an admirable job filling in for Musgrove in Minneapolis, allowing two runs in four innings while punching out eight.
The Royals haven’t yet announced a starter for Tuesday’s game, and it looks like they’re using their off day last Thursday to rearrange their rotation a bit. As such it’s been hard to nail down who they might use, but the best guess I’ve seen so far may be Jake Junis. Junis made his MLB debut in April and made a couple of relief appearances before a spot start against the Twins. Consensus seems to have his ceiling as a back-of-rotation guy, with low-90s velocity and decent command of his offspeed stuff.
I suppose there’s also a chance that Nate Karns comes off the DL and pitches this game, but I haven’t seen any speculation to that effect – only that he was eligible to come off the DL on 5/31 and wouldn’t miss more than 1-2 starts.
Wednesday, June 7 – 7:15pm CDT
Dallas Keuchel (9-0, 1.67) vs. Jason Vargas (7-3, 2.08)
Keuchel’s seven-inning, one-run performance against the Royals in April is one of his two no-decisions for the year. Thanks Gerry Obama Gregerson.
Duffy may be considered the Royals’ ace but Vargas has been their best starter this season. After making just 12 starts in 2015 and 2016 combined he’s having the best season of his career. Nearly half of his 11 starts were shutouts and he routinely works into the 6th inning and beyond (including a complete game shutout of the Indians last week). One of his many quality starts came against the Astros in April, allowing one run over six innings.
Thursday, June 8 – 7:15pm CDT
Lance McCullers Jr. (6-1, 2.71) vs. Jason Hammel (2-6, 5.93)
The Rangers (and the Astros defense) made McCullers work too hard to qualify for the win on Saturday, but he still racked up eight strikeouts. His seven-inning, three-run game against the Royals prevented a sweep and was the first of two 10 K games for him this year.
The Royals are 2-9 when Hammel is on the hill. The two wins came in quality starts against the Indians. The losses are a combination of a lack of run support (losing 2-1 to the Giants, 3-0 to the Yankees) and some less-than-good pitching (e.g. 6 ER on 13 hits allowed to the Rays). He has little meaningful experience against the modern-day Astros: just a 5.50 ERA in three starts against them when he was with the A’s in 2014.