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Santana leads Royals into Tampa

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The American League's top pitching staff heads to The Trop.

Ed Zurga

Before I get to the preview of tonight's tilt, a few moments about yesterday's contest.

First, I love the fact they finally poured Billy Butler's bbq sauce over someone's head. Second, I love that everyone thought Eric Hosmer was scalped in the dogpile. It was if for a moment, Jeff Francoeur, frustrated at his lack of playing time, decided to move from celebratory nut punches to celebratory machette attacks. I was listening to the game on the radio and hearing Steve Physioc sound more confused than usual was absolutely priceless. He honestly thought someone split Hosmer's skull.

Second, the Royals are doing a lot of this winning in their final at bat thing. It was their third walkoff, but their 11th win in their final turn at the plate this year. Overall, they have 20 come from behind wins, tied for the most in the major with Baltimore.

About tonight:

If you catch the game on TV this evening, I suspect you'll hear about how the Royals 3.45 ERA is the best in the league. And how their 1.62 ERA since June 1 is amazing. Just know they sport a 4.15 FIP, which is good only for 11th in the league. And their 3.97 xFIP is seventh. Sure, this has been a nice little run, but there's no way I'm sold this will continue.

One of our top candidates for regression, Ervin Santana, takes the mound for the Royals tonight. He sports a strand rate of 85 percent and his 4.14 FIP is over a full run higher than his current 2.99 ERA.

Santana's peripherals looks strong, with a 7.3 SO/9 and a career best 1.4 BB/9, but his .255 BABIP is about 30 points lower than his career average. Then there's that strand rate. I just can't get over that. But if he can continue to keep his walks under control maybe he can dodge absolute regression for another couple of months. At least until the trade deadline.

Meanwhile, the Royals offense is sputtering along. Back when the Royals and Rays met for a rain-shortened series in early May, the home team hung 17 runs on Tampa. Seventeen runs. In two games. Nowadays, 17 runs is about a week's worth of games.

There's smoke. And there's mirrors. And there's what the Royals have been doing since the calendar flipped to June.

Of course this wouldn't be a Royals/Rays preview if I didn't pay mention of The Trade. Wil Myers has been crushing the ball of late in Triple-A. (No, I don't have his stats. I can't bear to look.) There have been rumblings he could get called to the majors within the next week. This makes me feel conflicted. And confused. And all strange inside.