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Game LIV: Royals v. Twins

A huge four-game series starts tonight

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Kansas City Royals Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 Royals were an interesting bunch. Fresh off a World Series title, they got off to a hot start in April but struggled after. They weren’t healthy, with Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alex Gordon all missing significant time. The rotation more or less imploded, with Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura, and Chris Young all taking massive steps backward.

But somehow, despite being outscored by 37 runs on the season and having a Pythagorean W-L of 77-85, they finished the season at exactly .500. And that was pretty much thanks to the 2016 Minnesota Twins. Against the rest of the league, the Royals finished the season 66-77. Against the Twins, though, they finished 15-4.

The 2021 Royals are alarmingly average. They aren’t the team that we saw in April, but they also aren’t similar to the 2018-19 squads. And for alarmingly average teams, like the 2016 squad, beating up on bad teams can make you look a little better than you actually are.

Headed into this season, nobody anticipated that Minnesota would be one of those bad teams, but here we are. Kansas City has really struggled against Cleveland and the White Sox, combining to go 4-11 against them so far this season.

But they haven’t made up ground against the Tigers and Twins like they did in 2016, going just 9-7 against them. Minnesota isn’t as bad as their record suggests. The roster is too talented to be this bad. However, as the saying goes, you are what your record is. And for a Royals team that just got back above .500, they have a pretty good opportunity at home to stay on the rise with four games against the Twins.

Minnesota has lost four of their last six games, including series losses to the Royals and Orioles. Meanwhile, Kansas City enter the series as winners in seven of their last 11 games. They’ll send red-hot Kris Bubic to the mound, who enters the night with the 4th highest rWAR on the team. He has given up just five earned runs in 29.2 innings this season, giving the Royals at least five innings in each of his last five appearances, going six innings twice during that span. And he has yet to throw 100 pitches in an outing, so he has more in the take still.

Where Singer has discouraged this season, Bubic has certainly encouraged, which included a brilliant outing last week against these very Twins. In that performance, he gave up just a single run on four hits across six innings, striking out five in the process. He’ll be opposed by a fellow left-hander in J.A. Happ, who struggled mightily in May.

After posting a 1.91 ERA in his first five starts, Happ quickly spiraled his way to a 10.50 ERA across his last four starts. On a positive note, his best start of the month came last week against the Royals, when he gave the Twins five solid innings and held a hot Royals offense to just two runs.

In other news, Adalberto Mondesi is out once again. Here are your lineups for tonight’s game: