The Kansas City Royals hope to put Friday night's disappointing loss behind them, as the team plays their second game of the series Saturday against the Oakland Athletics. The Royals offense, however, will likely need to score more than one run to get the job done.
That isn't to say that Kansas City starting pitcher Ervin Santana doesn't have the ability to shutout Oakland in him. Santana has pitched quite well in 2013, as he owns a 2.79 ERA after his first seven starts of the season. The right-hander has a 20% K%, which is exactly league average, but owns an absurdly low 3.1% BB%, which is 5% below league average. Santana continues to pound the strike zone at an above-average rate, and is also getting hitters to chase his slider outside of the strike zone.
In his last start, however, the New York Yankees utilized an optimal approach against the starter. New York, a patient team at the plate, did not attempt to work walks against Santana, since the starter has shown the ability to consistently throw strikes this season. The Yankees did avoid chasing his slider in two-strike counts, as they took numerous sliders in the dirt during the game; Santana only fanned four Yankees hitters in 6 1/3 innings pitched,
The Yankees were able to put Santana's fastball in play, tagging the starter for eight hits and four runs. They also smacked a pair of home runs, an always worrisome sign given Santana's struggles with homers in the past.
If the Athletics hitters are well prepared, they will have watched the Yankees approach at the plate and attempt to emulate it. Santana could still give the Royals some quality starts even if teams avoid chasing his slider, but he is unlikely to dominate like he did earlier in the season.
Tommy Milone will start for the Athletics. The southpaw has also started the season strong, as he owns a 3.71 ERA through his first 8 starts of the season. Milone peripheral stats resembles Santana's, as he owns a 21.1% K% and a 4.2% BB%. The 26-year-old is also a flyball pitcher; his career GB% is 36.7%.
Milone appears to be a poor matchup for the Royals, since he does a good job limiting walks and keeps his homeruns in check despite the high number of flyballs; his career HR/FB% is 9.8%. Kansas City hitters have drawn the fewest walks in the league and have hit the second fewest number of home runs. Milone should be able to exploit these weaknesses in the Royals offense, so the team will either need to bunch some hits together or hope Milone is off his game.
This game will likely be another low-scoring affair, so it's time to get in the mood for another pitcher's duel. Hopefully, the Royals will emerge on top this time.