It’s time to head north for the Kansas City Royals (24-28) who after getting swept by Houston begin their toughest stretch of the 2014 season. They embark on a six-game road trip that begins at Rogers Centre versus the red hot Toronto Blue Jays (32-22).
Since this will conclude the season series between both teams, it seemed appropriate and talk with Senior Editor of Jays Journal Kyle Franzoni. Here’s a Q&A we conducted prior to this four-game series beginning.
Kings of Kauffman – What’s been fueling this recent run by the Blue Jays?
Jays Journal – The Blue Jays offense is one of the deepest and most explosive in baseball. While the performance of Edwin Encarnacion in May (14 HR, 27 RBI, 1.111 OPS) is well documented, it is the contributions of the bottom of the order that has helped keep the offense chugging. Role players like Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar, Steve Tolleson, and Juan Francisco have stepped up and keep the line-up turning over so that the top of the order can get more chances to inflict damage.
KOK – Follow-up, do you think they can sustain it and end the 20-year playoff drought?
JJ – The Jays are lucky to play in what is a decidedly weaker AL East this season. Still, this team will only go as far as the pitching takes them. Thus far, Mark Buehrle is way over-performing and due for regression of some sort and Drew Hutchison appears to be tiring out. They really need to acquire another arm if they have any intention of making a serious run at the post season.
KOK – Who are the four pitchers the Royals will see this weekend in Toronto?
JJ – The Blue Jays will send R.A. Dickey to hill in game one to face James Shields in a battle of aces. He’ll be followed by J.A. Happ, Drew Hutchison, and Mark Buehrle to close out the series. The keys will be getting quality innings out of Happ and Hutchison, both of whom have struggled to go deep in games in their last few outings.
KOK – Does Toronto have the pieces to make the move for pitching say someone like Shields?
JJ – I think they have the pieces to make a move for a guy like Shields, with Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez likely the ones who will be asked for. However, they’ve shown an unwillingness to move any of those pieces, especially after the 2013 trades with the Mets and Marlins cost them so much of that depth in their system.
KOK – Series prediction
JJ – I think you have a case of two clubs going in opposite directions right now. I think the Jays carry on with their big bats and take 3 of 4 in the series.
Probably Pitching Match-ups:
Thursday, 6:07 pm – James Shields/RHP (6-3, 2.95) v. R.A. Dickey/RHP (5-4, 3.95)
Friday, 6:07 pm – Jason Vargas/LHP (4-2, 3.55) v. J.A. Happ/LHP (4-1, 3.34)
Saturday, 12:07 pm – TBA v. Drew Hutchison/RHP (4-3, 3.88)
Sunday, 12:07 pm – Jeremy Guthrie/RHP (2-4, 4.14) v. Mark Buehrle/LHP (9-1, 2.33)
Comments on Pitching Match-ups – The Royals will see the best Toronto has in their rotation getting to see Dickey, Happ, Hutchison and Buehrle this weekend. KC counters with their top pitchers of Shields, Vargas and Guthrie with Yordano Ventura missing this start. In the first series the Royals saw Dustin McGowan in addition to who they’ll see Saturday/Sunday. The team has yet to announce who’ll start the second game of this series.
Series Predictions – Even with Ventura being able to start Friday this was going to be a tough series with how the Jays have been playing recently. Rogers Centre is a hitters friendly park which might help Kansas City but with a couple pitchers known for the fly ball could also hurt. My prediction is that Toronto takes three of four this weekend.
It was a month ago today these franchises meet at Kauffman Stadium with the Royals winning two of three games. Game one it was a high scoring 10-7 victory by KC followed up by a 4-2 win before losing the series finale 7-3 on May Day.
Toronto holds a 188-180 all-time advantage which includes a 100-83 record north of the border against Kansas City. At Rogers Centre the Blue Jays are 63-48 against the Royals.
Fans can tune into FOX Sports Kansas City for all four games with Ryan Lefebvre and Rex Hudler on TV. Joel Goldberg hosts Royals Live before and after from Toronto. Royals Hall of Famer/2007 Ford C. Frick Award winner Denny Matthews is joined in the booth by Steve Physioc and Steve Stewart will be on the Royals Radio Network (610 Sports Radio in KC) describing the action from Rogers Centre.
AL Central Standings (May 29):
Detroit Tigers (29-20)
Chicago White Sox (28-27, 4 GB)
Minnesota Twins (24-26, 5.5 GB)
Kansas City Royals (24-28, 6.5 GB)
Cleveland Indians (24-30, 7.5 GB)
2014 Series Schedule/Results v. Blue Jays (KC 2-1)
April 29-30 and May 1, Kauffman Stadium – W 10-7, W 4-2, L 7-3
May 29-31 and June 1, Rogers Centre