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Game 77 Preview - Royals vs. Twins

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James Shields versus a below-average pitcher. Get prepared for a game that is way closer than it should be.

Hannah Foslien

The Kansas City Royals will look to rebound Friday after last night's frustrating game against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

James Shields will take the mound for the Royals. Wade Davis was originally scheduled to pitch, but Ned Yost switched the two pitchers to give Shields another start before the All-Star break. This seems like a good idea to me.

Shields has been awesome this season, as he has posted a 2.92 ERA over 111 innings. The starter did not look sharp in his last outing, allowing four runs over five innings against the Chicago White Sox, but he's allowed to shoulder the burden of dragging this team to a mediocre record with the offense every once in awhile.

This will be Shields first start against the Twins this season. Barring something completely unexpected, I imagine Shields will rack up another quality start tonight.

P.J. Walters will start for the Minnesota Twins. Walters is bad, as his 4.88 ERA, 4.96 xFIP and 5.11 SIERA all clearly indicate. Walters owns a 12.4% strikeout percentage, making him right at home in the Twins starting rotation.

Fellow Royals fan Rob Neyer discussed the Minnesota pitching staff at Baseball Nation today, and included this interesting tidbit about the futility of their starters:

This year, the Twins' starters are on pace for 462 strikeouts. Here are the only five teams since 2000 that got fewer than 500 strikeouts from their starters. Just for fun, see if you can spot a couple of running themes ...

2006 Royals: 463 strikeouts, 5.85 ERA
2005 Royals: 470 strikeouts, 6.00 ERA
2003 Royals: 478 strikeouts, 4.79 ERA
2003 Tigers: 422 strikeouts, 5.71 ERA
2000 Angels: 488 strikeouts, 5.54 ERA

Theme #1 - The Royals were terrible and drove me to drink.
Theme #2 - It's hard to pitch well if you don't strike anybody out.

Oh 2003, how I totally didn't understand you were a complete mirage at the time.

So the Royals will send their best pitcher to the mound, and he will face a guy that probably shouldn't be pitching in the big leagues. I'll go out on a limb, and say the Royals offense frustrates everyone by swinging at too many pitches to early in the count and not scoring nearly as many runs as they should be.