After dropping two in New York against their World Series foes, the Royals return to the friendly confines of Kauffman Stadium to try to get back to their winning ways. Their opponents in this three game tilt will be the Houston Astros, who they faced and demoralized in the American League Division Series last year.
Game One - Friday, 7:15 PM CDT
|Dallas Keuchel (L)||15||94.2||87||29||5.32||3.78||3.32||3.53|
Dallas Keuchel has had a woeful start to his season, judging by traditional means. A groundball/strikeout pitcher, Keuchel has somehow seen a marked increase in homers allowed while stranding significantly fewer batters than he has become accustomed to stranding. Looking at his pitch selection, it appears as though he is implementing his pitches at roughly the same frequency as in his 2015 Cy Young campaign. Though his velo is down a little, it's hard to see how he is broken and nut just unlucky.
Edison Volquez has struggled mightily on the road, but has been fantastic at home with a 2.61 ERA in nine starts with 7.4 strikeouts and 2.1 walks-per-nine innings. Volquez has gone at least six innings in 11 of his 15 starts this year. He gave up 10 runs in 10 2/3 innings in one regular season and one post-season start against Houston last year, with the Royals losing both games.
Game Two - Saturday, 6:15 PM CDT
For some odd reason, Mike Fiers seems to have decided to become a control freak, halving his walk rates this year from last year. Of course, his strikeouts have dipped as well, leaving him with less than desirable results. He is inducing grounders at career-best rates, but that hasn't meant that he isn't yielding more home runs than ever. Throwing his four-seamer less than ever, he has begun to increasingly rely upon a cutter and change-up to attempt to coax out weak contact. So far that hasn't worked so well.
Chris Young has had the same long-ball problems as Fiers only amplified significantly. However, since he returned from a stint on the disabled list caused by forearm tightness, he has looked more like his 2014-2015 self, only with a much more impressive K-rate. He struck out seven Astros in four innings in a relief appearance in Game One of the ALDS last year, giving up just a solo home run, but he gave up six runs in less than five innings of work in a start in Houston back in April. This game will be broadcast on FOX.
Game Three - Sunday, 1:15 PM CDT
After a disappointing 2015 campaign in Washington which was riddled with injuries, Fister has gotten back to his DIPS-outperforming ways. Of course, his .250 BABIP (career mark .291) and 80.8 LOB% both scream regression to the mean in a death-metally yowl, but it hasn't happened quite yet.
Remember that guy who was great to start the season and had everybody buzzing about Dayton Moore doing it again by grabbing a down-on-his-luck player only to have him rebound as a Royal? Yeah, not hearing much of that talk now about Ian Kennedy. Kennedy has a 7.25 ERA in four June starts thus far, giving up ten home runs. The only June game he won was at home against the Indians so perhaps being back in the friendly confines of Kauffman Stadium will do Ian good.
|Marwin Gonzalez (S)||1B||214||5||24||17||8||.259||.315||.406||.313||95|
|Colby Rasmus (L)||LF||271||9||23||37||4||.233||.319||.390||.310||92|
|Luis Valbuena (L)||3B||234||8||24||22||0||.249||.346||.428||.337||111|
|Jason Castro (L)||C||189||6||25||18||2||.209||.339||.392||.324||102|
|Tony Kemp (L)||IF||50||0||4||3||1||.238||.327||.357||.299||85|
Stats through Thursday, June 23
The Astros offense has dropped off since last year, and they are averaging 4.25 runs-per-game, fifth in the American League. They still lead the league in walks and stolen bases, but their power has dropped off from last year, when they were second in the league in dingers. Poor production from first base and designated hitter, and a disastrous performance from Carlso Gomez has hurt the lineup. Defensively, the Astros are average, although their outfield has been outstanding this year, with George Springer worthy of Gold Glove recognition.
The Astros are a red-hot team, having won 20 of their last 28. Many expected them to be serious contenders for the AL pennant, and now that they are back above .500, they look poised to make a run. Still, they have enough flaws on this team that the Royals can take them at home.
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