Luis Mendoza and his beautiful mane will take the mound for Kansas City. Mendoza has pitched at a similar level this season than he did last season, but it does look like he has slipped up a bit.
His walk rate is up nearly 2%, and his groundball percentage has fallen 4.2% His BB% is nearly 2% higher this season, while his GB% is 4% lower (h/t BeauJackson). Those don't seem like huge numbers, but a pitcher like Mendoza has little margin for error. His 4.76 ERA, 4.68 FIP and and 4.74 SIERA are all around a half-run worse this season than they were last season. Unless Mendoza increases his GB rate or cuts down on his walks, he profiles as a #5 starter instead of the #4 starter he pitched like last season.
Alex Gordon returns to the lineup for Kansas City, with Lorenzo Cain getting a day off instead. Joel Goldberg of Fox Sports Kansas City brings us today's lineup:
#Royals vs RHP Harrell: Gordon 7 Hosmer 3 Perez 2 Butler DH Moose 5 Lough 8 Frenchy 9 Johnson 6 Getz 4 Mendoza 1— Joel Goldberg (@goldbergkc) June 9, 2013
Alcides Escobar will also ride the pine for nine. The bottom third of the Royals lineup is more of an anchor than usual, so today would be a good day for one of the top-four guys to hit a homer with runners on base.
Lucas Harrell will start the game for Houston. Harrell has pitched terribly this year, indicated by his 4.97 ERA, 5.30 FIP and 5.09 SIERA. The right-hander owns a 12.7% K%, which is well below-average, and a 11.5% BB%, which is above-average.
The starter survives by forcing a large amount of groundballs. He has a 52.1% GB% this season, and a 55.3% career GB%.
Harrell actually had a strong season for the Astros last season, as he posted a 3.76 ERA and 3.75 FIP over 32 starts. The 28-year-old struck out 4.2% more hitters, walked 2.1% less and forced 5.1% more groundballs in 2012. Given the Astros complete lack of pitching, the team has to hope that Harrel can fix whatever problems have bothered him in 2013 and regain some of that success.
Houston will field a slightly different lineup. Brandon Barnes is out with an injury, so Jose Altuve will hit leadoff. Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle brings us the Astros lineup:
Astros lineup vs: RoyalsAltuve 4, Castro DH Corporan 2Pena 3Martinez 9Carter 7Crowe 8Dominguez 5Cedeno 6Harrell 1— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) June 9, 2013
I still don't know who most of these players are even though this will be the sixth time I have watched the Astros this season.
Song of the Day: Infected Mushroom - Cities of the Future
Some pyschedelic trance for your Sunday afternoon from Israel's finest. I actually have no idea if Infected Mushroom is the best band to come out of Israel, because I'm not sure I could name another. Anyways, go Royals.