The Royals have already ensured themselves of a winning road-trip, and have now had winning road-trips in five of their last journeys, with the debacle in Boston after the All-Star break being the only exception. But the expectations are much higher now with a first place club against some of the worst teams in baseball, and the Royals really should be looking for a sweep this weekend.
The Rangers have their most favorable pitching matchup of the series tonight as they start Blue Springs High School grad Nick Tepesch against Jeremy Guthrie. Tepesch was a 14th round pick out of Mizzou in 2010, although he was considered a third-round talent that fell largely due to bonus demands. Now in his second Major League season, he has a career 4.51 ERA in 35 career games, mostly starts. Tepesch was called up in May and has made 15 starts this year for the Rangers, with a 4.15 ERA, although with a 4.84 FIP. His strikeout rate has mysteriously plummeted this year, from 7.4 per nine innings last year to 4.6 per nine innings this year.
Tepesch has a large frame at 6'4'', but barely hits 90 m.p.h. on the radar gun. The 25-year-old right-hander throws a cutter/slider, curveball and changeup, with the cutter being his most effective pitch this year. His upside is considered to be mid-rotation starter, and the results thus far bear that out. He was known for being a strike-thrower in the minor leagues, but has walked 2.8 per nine innings in the majors. He has faced his hometown team once, allowing no runs over six plus innings in a game the Royals would win 4-1 in extra innings back in 2013.
Jeremy Guthrie goes for the Royals tonight. His overall numbers don't look so hot, and he seems to struggle initially every time out, but almost every time you look up, he's somehow gotten through six innings with the Royals still in the game. He is a wizard of mediocrity.
The Tigers have a doubleheader today after burning through seven pitchers (not including position player Andrew Romine, who pitched in the ninth) in last night's 20-6 loss. The Tigers are in a bad place right now. Now is the time to create enough distance from them that we can withstand our inevitable bad stretch.