Game 34 Preview - Let's not get swept by the Yankees edition

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

A battle of veteran starers who have both pitched spectacularly this season.

After last night's loss to the New York Yankees, the Kansas City Royals moved into third place in the AL Central. Of course, they are only 1.5 games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers, so third place isn't nearly as bad as it sounds.

Hiroki Kuroda will pitch for the Yankees Sunday as they look to finish off a three-game sweep of the Royals in Kauffman Stadium. The 38 year-old righthander has pitched quite well this season, as he owns a 2.30 ERA after seven starts in 43 innings pitched.

Kuroda's peripherals have not changed, but he currently has a BABIP 30 points lower than his career average and is stranding 12 percent more runners. The starters is basically the same pitcher he has always been (which is remarkable in it's own right), and we should expect him to start allowing more runs to cross the plate moving forward.

Whether the Royals can actually cause the regression remains to be seen. Kuroda currently has 3.34 FIP and 3.75 xFIP, so he is still a quality pitcher. The team looked feeble against Andy Pettitte, especially the left-handed hitters. It's hard to tell what we should expect from the team's offense, but it's probably a safe bet that they struggle to put runs on the board again.

Kansas City shouldn't need to score too many runs if Ervin Santana continues to pitch like he has through his first six starts. I continue to be amazed that Santana has issued so few free passes this season. Even thought it's still early in the season, his current 3.6% walk percentage is extremely encouraging for his chances at continued success. His previous lowest walk percentage was 5.2%, which came in 2008, the best season of his career.

Santana has a shiny 2.36 ERA, but even his 3.06 FIP and 3.27 xFIP reveal a pitcher who looks to be much improved over last season. The Royals will need him to be at his best on Sunday to avoid the sweep.

This projects to be a lower scoring affair, so hopefully the game will not eat into too much of your Mother's Day. Better yet, your mother asked to watch the game with you on Mother's Day, making her the best ever.

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