After a miserable home stand that at least didn’t feature any sweeps, the Royals hit the road and head to Texas to face the Rangers again. Not much has changed since their last meeting days ago. The Rangers are still in first place and the Royals appear to be in a free fall. The Rangers are also a fantastic 30-17 at home while the Royals on the road are, well, something different than that. As you might recall, the Royals just lost two of three to the Rangers in Kansas City this past weekend. If there’s one last gasp in the Royals, it pretty much has to start here, which is a tough task.
Not much has changed in the three games between these two teams doing battle, but there are a couple top prospects now in the big leagues for each side. Raul Mondesi, of course, was called up by the Royals, but the Rangers made a move of their own in calling up slugger Joey Gallo. You want power? This guy has maybe as much as anyone in the game. He’ll strike out his fair share, but the ball goes a long way when he connects.
Here’s what Rangers hitters have done recently:
The Rangers have made another move, this one in their rotation, since the weekend, and that was sending out Kyle Lohse to open a rotation spot for Nick Martinez. Then they acquired Lucas Harrell from the Braves for some reason, so now he’ll be the fifth starter. It’s a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but it probably gives the Rangers a better chance to win every fifth day. They could still use another starter, so there’s every chance in the world they have one and it might be the guy scheduled to start against them in game two of the series.
Here’s what the Rangers current starting staff has done of late:
The Rangers bullpen sure looks better with Koene Kela throwing the way he did in the Royals series. If he can get back on track, they may not need any help in that area. This is a pretty solid unit when everyone is performing up to their expectations.
Here’s a peak at their recent results:
Game 1, Thursday: Yordano Ventura vs. Cole Hamels
The Royals face the lefty for the second time in a week after scoring just an unearned run off him in their loss to the Rangers on Saturday. He wasn’t great, though, so that could be a good sign for the Royals. He gave up five hits and walked three and only was able to go 5.1 innings while throwing 105 pitches. The way the Royals offense is going, I wouldn’t expect much, but at the same time, they did seem to have some answers for him, even if they weren’t the right ones. With that start, he’s now 1-1 with a 6.55 ERA in two career starts against the Royals.
Three things to watch for against Hamels:
- He sits about 93-94 MPH with his four-seam fastball that he throws roughly 25 percent of the time. He throw a sinker at a similar velocity about 20 percent of the time. His real number two pitch is his cutter that gives a bit of a different look and is a few miles per hour slower. He also throws a very good changeup and a curve that has been okay, but not as good as it’s been throughout the rest of his career.
- Hamels has been outstanding on the road this year, putting up an 8-1 record with a 1.71 ERA in 11 starts. He’s allowed way less hits than innings pitched, walked less than three per nine and struck out enough to make a difference. At home, he’s not as good. He’s 3-1 with a 4.53 ERA in nine starts with more hits than innings pitched, about 4.5 walks per nine and lots of home runs. Luckily for the Royals, this game is played in Texas, so hopefully his struggles continue.
- He’s had a huge platoon split this year, holding lefties to a .178/.245/.297 line compared to a .249/.336/.397 line against righties. It would be nice if Lorenzo Cain could be back for this one, but I don’t see that happening, unfortunately. Alex Gordon and Kendrys Morales have hit him well in very limited plate appearances, and Cheslor Cuthbert went 2 for 2 with a walk against him on Saturday in Kansas City. Paulo Orlando had two hits of his own, so there’s been some success against him.
Ventura was electric on Saturday, until he wasn’t. He was perfect through three and then struggled in the middle innings before taking a liner off his ribs and having to leave the game. It’s kind of a microcosm of his season, I guess. The concerning thing is that the walks came back for him in this one. After walking just eight batters in his previous nine starts, he let up four free passes in his five innings of work. Hopefully that’s just a blip, but that’s something to watch out for with him. He’s now 2-3 with a 4.94 ERA in five career starts against the Rangers. Mazara has a home run off him now and quite a few Rangers have hit him well including DeShields, Beltre and Moreland. Most of it is a very small sample, but it’s what we have.
First Pitch Temperature: 93° F
Wind: SSE at 5-10 mph
Cloud Cover: Mostly Sunny/Clear
Precipitation: 15% chance of showers/thunderstorms
Game 2, Friday: Edinson Volquez vs. A.J. Griffin
This is another rematch from the weekend, and Griffin sort of stymied Royals hitters with that big curve of his. He only went five innings and gave up a run on four hits with two walks, so he wasn’t great, but he was very good. I wonder if he would have gone longer if not for the heat that day. Of course, he hasn’t gone more than five innings in a start since his return from the disabled list, so maybe that’s just who he is at this point. He’s now 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA against the Royals in three career starts, though he probably hasn’t been as good as that ERA would indicate.
Three things to watch for against Griffin:
- He’s a four-seam fastball and a cutter guy these days, and neither pitch gives much in the way of velocity, but the fastball moves pretty well. He’ll occasionally get into the low-90s, but mostly works in the upper-80s. His curve is the big and slow one that we saw a lot of on Sunday. It averages under 70 MPH this year, so that’s the usual for him. His changeup is kind of there, but it’s been absolutely mauled this season.
- This will be an interesting challenge for Griffin because he does very well when seeing a lineup one time before struggling a second time through. Making two straight starts against a team could kind of make it difficult for a guy like him to have his usual success the first time through the order. I mean, the team did just see him five days prior, so the Royals might have some luck there. The first time through, Griffin allows a .622 OPS and then it jumps to .873 the second time.
- The issue, as we discussed last week, is that Griffin destroys righties, and the Royals count on a few of those. He’s allowed a .559 OPS to righties compared to .885 to lefties. Mondesi tilting the lineup left a little more should help in this one. He retired Gordon once last week, so his line fell to .857/.875/1.429 against Griffin. Morales also hit a homer against him, so those two have done the serious damage in very limited plate appearances.
I’m not honestly sure if Volquez makes this start. He’s going to be in demand at the deadline, and the Royals might have either traded him by this point (maybe to the Rangers) or want to hold him out as they’re working through a deal. He was good, not great against Texas on Sunday, giving up just one run in six innings but laboring with tons of base runners. I know you can’t do this, but if you remove his aberration of a start against Houston, Volquez has a 3.79 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. The numbers are what they are, but I think those numbers better illustrate the type of pitcher he is than his overall numbers that are inflated from that one game. Even after a solid game against them, he’s still 0-2 with a 6.33 ERA in four career starts against his original team. DeShields destroyed him on Sunday and Odor has two hits in two at bats against him, but he’s held down the big hitters in the Rangers lineup pretty well.
First Pitch Temperature: 94° F
Wind: SSE at 5-10 mph
Cloud Cover: Mostly Sunny/Clear
Game 3, Saturday: Ian Kennedy vs. Martin Perez
If you like lefties with iffy command and low strikeout rates who are hittable but somehow put up decent numbers, Perez is your guy. He has a 4.38 ERA, but has only struck out 4.2 per nine innings and he’s walked 3.7. Those are not good peripherals. He’s also allowed 132 hits in 125.1 innings and just seems to be in trouble all the time. He gets a ton of grounders, though, with his sinker, so he’s able to keep the ball in the yard pretty well, which helps him to be quality. He’s a pretty good back of the rotation option, so I shouldn’t scoff at him. He’d be a huge help on the current Royals squad, if we’re being honest. He’s made one career start against the Royals, in 2013, and he went 5.2 innings and gave up 11 runners, but just one run. So pretty much a vintage Perez start.
Three things to watch for against Perez:
- He’s not a soft-tosser. He throws a four-seam fastball occasionally at nearly 94 MPH. His sinker comes in at a similar velocity, and he throws that a bit less than half the time. He also throws a changeup, slider and a curve. The curve has been destroyed and the changeup has been really hit or miss this year. Unfortunately, the Royals seem to struggle with even bad versions of those pitches, so this could be a long game.
- Perez has been shelled early. On his first 25 pitches, he’s allowed a .301/.392/.460 line with four homers. After that, it’s mostly smooth sailing until he gets a little deeper into the game past 75 pitches. After that, it’s bombs away again. So basically, you’re either going to get him early or get him late before the Rangers can get to the bullpen.
- He’s really held down lefties to the tune of a .519 OPS, but righties have hit him well with an OPS of .827 and 12 of the 13 homers he’s allowed. In this one, I could see Cain back, so that will be a good thing. Very few Royals have experience against him with Eric Hosmer’s 2 for 3 the best anybody on the team has done against him.
Kennedy in Arlington concerns me, given his struggles with the home run ball. His last start against the Angels was a disaster in the first, but it turned into something a bit less than that as he was able to hold the Angels down for a bit to get into the sixth inning. It didn’t mean the Royals could win the game, but that was nice to see. Kennedy has been a disappointment in that he hasn’t given the innings anyone was expecting from him, but he has a league average ERA, has struck out plenty of hitters and generally has kept the team in the game. You want more than that for $14 million per year, but at the same time, that’s kind of the going rate for a mid-rotation starter, which is what Kennedy is and has been this year. He’s 0-2 with a 5.82 ERA in three career starts against the Rangers, but had a 3.97 ERA against them in two starts last year. He’s allowed a homer to Beltre and a couple hits to Odor, but it’s been a mixed bag overall.
First Pitch Temperature: 96° F
Wind: SE at 5-10 mph
Cloud Cover: Mostly Sunny/Clear
Game 4, Sunday:
TBD Dillon Gee vs. Lucas Harrell
The Braves picked up Harrell off the scrap heap and were able to turn him into a legitimate prospect when they traded him to the Rangers this week. Now, Harrell will get the start against the Royals in the series finale. To give you an idea of what kind of ride it’s been for him, he posted a 4.93 ERA in Korea last year before coming back stateside. His last two seasons in the United States with the Astros did not go well at all. He’s 0-1 with a 5.87 ERA in three career starts against the Royals.
Three things to watch for against Harrell:
- Harrell throws way less sinkers than he used to. Now it’s about 30 percent four-seam fastballs and a few more sinkers. Both come in at around 92-93. He also throws a cutter at 87-88 along with a change, slider and curve. The fastball and the changeup have been hit pretty hard this season, but he hasn’t had any other problems with his other pitches so far this year in his five starts.
- Harrell has allowed an unreal .404 OPS the first time through the order. Yes, that’s OPS. It’s pretty incredible. The second time through, though, it skyrockets to .882, which is the Harrell we grew to love with the Astros a couple years ago. He settles down again when he gets to the third time through the order, but it’s a pretty big struggle for him to get there, even with his success this year.
- He’s really held lefties down this year with a .575 OPS compared to .716 against right-handed batters. Perez has three hits in five at bats against him, and while there is limited data, other Royals hitters have not done so well against him.
Here we are again, talking about TBD, the pitcher nobody knows anything about. Dillon Gee actually pitched okay against the Angels, he was just in an inning too long, which isn’t his fault, so he seems like a safe bet to make this start. If not him, it could be Chris Young, Brian Flynn, Alec Mills, Drew Butera or someone acquired between now and then.
Dillon Gee will make this start. As I mentioned above in the crossed out section, he wasn’t that bad against the Angels in his last start. He also wasn’t that good.
First Pitch Temperature: 96° F
Wind: SSW at 5-10 mph
Cloud Cover: Mostly Sunny
Pain? I don’t know. The Rangers are good, and right now, the Royals are not. I’d love to tell you that I think they’re about to explode, but I just don’t see it. I think they squeak out a win, but ultimately lose three of four.