The Royals are in first place in June and we've all had our fun, but there are 90 games left on the schedule and our lead on the Detroit Tigers is razor thin at half a game. If the Royals want to stay ahead of them and prolong this fun a bit more, they need to keep the momentum going. Winning your home games against beatable teams in front of large crowds is part of that equation.
The Mariners started out strong but have stumbled lately, dropping seven of their last ten. The Royals will miss Felix Hernandez in this series, but Hisashi Iwakuma is just as good recently. The 33-year old right hander has allowed just four runs over his last three starts and has walked just six hitters all year, the second best walk ratio in all of baseball (behind only Phil Hughes).
Iwakuma has a deep repertoire, throwing a four-seam fastball in the high 80s, a sinking fastball (called a shuuto in Japan), a split-fingered fastball, a slider, and a curveball. And he has excellent command of them. With a 56.3% groundball rate, he will challenge Dale Sveum's philosophy of "elevation."
A full house is expected at the K tonight with celebrities in the crowd for the Big Slick KC charity event for Children's Mercy, and first place still on the line. That would constitute a big game. "Big Game" James Shields has pitched better his last two outings - allowing just three earned runs total - after some rough patches in May. Shields will have to keep it going against a Mariners lineup that is missing three of its better hitters - Corey Hart, Justin Smoak, and Michael Saunders, and features pop-gun ex-Royals hitters like Endy Chavez, John Buck, and Wee Willie Bloomquist. Ah, but there is one guy that can still hit, and that man is...