After two in Kansas City, the Royals and Cardinals take their series about 241 miles east on I-70 to St. Louis for the final two games. The return of Dexter Fowler seemed to invigorate the Cardinals as they were able to get the offense rolling in Kansas City, so now Royals pitching will be faced with the task of stopping the bleeding as the series concludes.
For all Royals vs. Cardinals information, click here for the series preview from the Kansas City games.
I was sure the Royals were going to sign Mike Leake when he hit free agency after the 2015 season, given the interest they’d had in him in the past. But the Cardinals swooped in and gave him a five-year deal for more than the Ian Kennedy contract and included a Dayton Moore special mutual option. It didn’t go well last year, but the surface numbers are much better this year, though he’s largely been the same pitcher.
Leake’s game is weak contact and ground balls, which is kind of the game of many in the Royals lineup, so that’s probably not great news. To get that weak contact, he throws a sinker and a cutter an awful lot. Neither is overpowering, averaging around 90 mph for each. He also mixes in a slider, changeup and curve ball, but the two fastballs are his bread and butter. While he doesn’t feature a huge platoon split, he’s definitely has different results against righties and lefties. Against righties, he throws tons of strikes and gets a fair amount of strikeouts (62 in 276 plate appearances). Against lefties, he walks more and strikes out WAY less (28 in 284 plate appearances). But at the same time, lefties don’t hit for nearly as much power against him with an ISO of just .125 compared to .160 for righties. Nobody on the Royals has seen much of him, but Brandon Moss and Melky Cabrera both have hit him well in their very limited playing time, and given his struggle with throwing strikes to lefties, both should probably play in this one.
Cahill gets a start back in a National League park after two lackluster performances to begin his Royals career. I don’t think he was actually that bad against Seattle, but he’ll need to be better moving forward to be the rotation upgrade the Royals thought they were getting. He’s been decent against the Cardinals in his career, though he’s been mostly a reliever against them the last three seasons. Dexter Fowler and Yadier Molina have hit him very hard in somewhat limited exposure, so he’ll need to be careful with them.
Weather: 81°, Wind ESE 3-6 MPH, Partly Sunny/Clear, 10% Precipitation
I thought the Royals might sign Leake in the 2015/2016 offseason and I thought they might trade for Lynn just a little more than a week ago. In his first year back from Tommy John, he’s put up some really nice numbers, though there are some concerning stats as well. His strikeout rate has dropped by a fair margin and his home runs are up considerably. Still, he’s been very difficult to hit, and if he can hold up, will end up having one of his better seasons.
Lynn is heavy with his fastball, throwing his four-seamer about 41 percent of the time and his two-seamer about 37 percent. Both are around 91-93 mph with some decent movement. He supplements them with another fastball, a cutter that’s a few miles per hour down. He’ll mix in a very occasional change and curve. Lynn has a heavy platoon split with lefties hitting .236/.335/.454 against him compared with righties coming in at just .181/.245/.333. Like Leake, Lynn walks more lefties and strikes out way less with 40 strikeouts to lefties compared with 74 against righties in a similar number of plate appearances. Lynn has some of his opponent in him as he’s dynamite the first two times through the order, but then has allowed a .250/.344/.481 line the third time through. And it’s a safe bet that that he won’t be pitching deep into the game. He’s pitched into the seventh just five times and into the eighth once.
I think Hammel gets a bad rap for the way his season started. The numbers are the numbers, but since the start of June, he’s allowed three runs or less in 11 of his 12 starts and he’s gone six or more innings in eight of the 12, pitching into the sixth in three of the four others. In all, he’s lowered his ERA nearly a run and a half and has a 3.74 ERA in those 12 starts with just 14 walks in 74.2 innings. He’s not flashy and he probably shouldn’t be counted on much past the sixth, but as number four starters go, he’s done the job well.
Weather: 82°, Wind S 3-6 MPH, Mostly Sunny, 20% Precipitation
The Royals don’t look especially good right now, but I think they can win one of these two games, and I have a weird hunch that they actually take both of them and get to head out to Chicago on a high note.