Luis Mendoza takes the mound tonight for Kansas City, making just his fourth appearance of the year and third start (the first since April 12th). It will be interesting to see what type of control Mendoza has as he has seen just 2.1 innings of work in the past 18 days due to a quirky early season schedule exacerbated by postponements. With 9 walks and 2 wild pitches in just 14 innings this season, it could be a bit of a wild ride.
The Rays will send out a bit of a wild-card themselves tonight in 26 year right-hander Jeremy Hellickson. He has allowed just 24 hits in 31.1 innings and struck out 25 batters. While Jeremy currently has the best walk and strikeout rates of his career since a 36 inning stint in 2010, he has also given up 5 home runs (12th worst in the American League, but better than that of Jeremy Guthrie and Wade Davis!). Hellickson has surrendered five runs in two of his five starts, including his most recent, but he also has two seven inning starts where the Rays' hurler has allowed just three hits.
Some Random Stuff:
-- After having only 3 of their first 20 games decided by four or more runs (and one of those being the 10th inning Gordon grand slam game), the Royals' last four games have all ended up lopsided affairs.
-- Hellickson walks over 15% of the hitters he throws a first pitch ball to, but walks less than 5% of those to whom he throws a first pitch strike.
-- The Twins just beat Detroit this afternoon, so the Royals could retake first place with a win this evening.
-- I put the odds of these two teams playing tomorrow afternoon at right around 50%. A high temp of 42 degrees with a 20 mph North wind and a 70% chance of rain? I pity those who venture out for this and, as I write this and note that this series is the only trip into Kaufmann for the Rays this year, I pity the players who may well have to gut the game out. The weather, by the way, is suppose to worsen as the afternoon wears on.
And the lineup:
Alex Gordon, LF
Alcides Escobar, SS
Billy Butler, DH
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Salvador Perez, C
Elliot Johnson, 2B
Given the options, or lack thereof, at second, I don't mind going with the 'hot' hand at that position. Do I expect Johnson to have two hits, a walk and a steal again tonight? Hell, yes! Not really, but it seems like a decent roll of the dice by Ned.
Game Thread will be up prior to game time.