The Kansas City Royals look to right the ship tonight when the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers come to Kaufmann Stadium for a three-game series. After winning the season’s opening series in Anaheim, Kansas City has stumbled, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians this past weekend. At 3-6, the Royals don’t want to let a potentially promising season get away from them too quickly.
It’s unlikely that the recovery will start tonight when Justin Verlander takes the mound. The Royals send Danny Duffy, who threw six shutout innings at Oakland last week, although putting him against the reigning Cy Young and MVP winner is more than anyone can handle. The next two nights offer more favorable pitching situations though. Bruce Chen, with a 1.64 ERA in his first two outings takes on Detroit’s young Drew Smyly. If Chen can hold serve, it sets up a Wednesday night rubber match between Luke Hochevar and Max Scherzer. Hochevar is currently listed as questionable, due to the line drive he took off the leg Friday night in Cleveland, but as of now he’s still listed on ESPN.com as the likely starter.
Kansas City manager Ned Yost has to be pretty happy with his pitching so far. While the Royals’ staff isn’t going to make anyone forget Bret Saberhagen and 1985 anytime soon, the 9th-place ranking in American League ERA is up from 12th, where the staff finished a year ago. And starts like the one Duffy had in Oakland further bolster confidence that the young talent can come around.
Offensively, the Royals would benefit from drawing more walks. They’re 10th in the AL in runs scored, and it isn’t because they don’t hit for average and drive the ball in the gaps. The team is in the top half of the league in the former category and hitting for doubles. What drags the run totals down are low numbers of walks and home runs. If they work too hard at the latter it will just create more problems, but better plate discipline can make an immediate impact, and can ultimately increase the home run numbers, as pitchers realize they have to come in the strike zone.
That’s the team-wide outlook. On an individual basis, Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas are each driving the ball well, and one player who doesn’t need a talk about patience is Eric Hosmer. Even though his average is off to a slow start, his OBP is a tolerable .310, keeping him a functionable part of the offense. And naturally once Hosmer’s bat starts clicking, the OBP shoots up exponentially. Yuniesky Betancourt is hitting very well, with a .389 average and a .611 slugging. He’s the reverse of Hosmer, with not a single walk to his credit.
Ultimately though, the one thing this offense needs most is for Alex Gordon to find his rhythm. Whether it’s walks, doubles or power doesn’t matter. Gordon is off to a slow start, hitting just .118. A big series from him these next three nights would be a nice early pick-me-up for the Royals.