KC Royals Series Breakdown and Prediction: Texas Rangers
After a 5-3 homestand, the KC Royals head back on the road to keep their hot streak going. Struggling on offense, but pitching well, the KC Royals find themselves at .500 heading into their first four game series of the year.
In this series, the KC Royals will be facing the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are coming off of a sloppy series against the Oakland Athletics, in which they lost 2 of 3, including a 9-1 loss Wednesday, in which they collected only 3 hits.
The Rangers will be looking to start racking up some wins after a disappointing start.
Game 1 – LHP Danny Duffy (2-0, 1.80 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) vs. RHP Andrew Cashner (0-1, 5.06 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
The KC Royals starter for the first game of the series is lefty ace Danny Duffy. He takes the hill looking to go 4 for 4 in allowing 2 runs or less this year.
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Duffy was pounding the zone in his last start with 68 of his 103 pitches being strikes. This was all set up by his changeup too. As a matter of fact, Duffy’s last start might have been the best I’ve ever seen his changeup.
If Duffy can keep commanding his fastball, throw his changeup well, you might see a lot strikeouts by this Rangers lineups
Andrew Cashner is touching the rubber in the first game of this series for the Rangers. He hasn’t faced the Royals much, as the lineup only has 35 at bats against him.
This will be Cashner’s second start of the year. In his first start, he had a stressful 5.1 innings, giving up 4 runs
Batter to Watch – Nomar Mazara: He is off to a scorching start. He already has 17 RBIs and 4 homers this year. Facing Danny Duffy three times before, he has 2 hits.
Game 2 – RHP Nate Karns (0-0, 4.38 ERA, 1.46 WHIP) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (0-0, 3.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP)
After two impressive starts to get his KC Royals career kicked off, Nate Karns is looking to stay hot. He still is yet to win a game this year.
Like A.J. Griffin, Nate Karns is also throwing his curveball a lot. He’ll look to get his high-spin pitch going Friday night. This could result in a high amount of flyballs.
But what is driving the success for Karns is his refined changeup. His two starts this year have been 2 of the best 4 games for his changeup, according to Fangraphs pitch values.
Like Duffy, I would expect a big strikeout game for Karns.
Pitching for the Rangers is one of the best left-handed pitchers in all of baseball. Cole Hamels.
Since coming over to the American League during the 2015 Trade Deadline, going 22-6 with the Rangers. He did pitch twice against the KC Royals last year, going 2-0 in 13.1 innings pitched, giving up 3 runs.
Batter to Watch – Cheslor Cuthbert : I’d expect Cuthbert to be in the lineup against a lefty. Cuthbert is also 4 for 6 off Hamels with 2 doubles.
Game 3 – RHP Ian Kennedy (0-2, 2.37 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) vs. RHP A.J. Griffin (2-0, 4.11 ERA, 0.85 WHIP)
What a performance it was for Ian Kennedy on Sunday. It may have been his best game in a Royals uniform. Kennedy, also still looking to get his first win of the season, will return to a ballpark in which he pitched 7 innings of 1 run ball. He really had his curveball working that night, as he posted his best curveball value of 2016.
It might be different this time around though, as his fastball has been terrific this year. He’s commanding it well and generating swing and misses in the zone, which could possibly set up his offspeed stuff to be nasty.
For the third straight game, expect a lot of strikeouts.
A.J. Griffin obviously isn’t his old self anymore. After dealing with multiple injuries the past few years, Griffin has gone from being one of the more promising starters in the majors to an end of the rotation pitcher.
Griffin has never really been a hard thrower. His fastball sits around 88-89 MPH, but this doesn’t mean he can’t bring the strikeouts. In his career, he generates 7.7 K/9 and in a small sample size this year, he’s getting 9.4 K/9.
One interesting thing about Griffin this year has been his slider usage. An issue similar to Jason Hammel earlier, Griffin has been throwing his slider noticeably less, (down from 18.2% to 8.4%) which could be a red flag.
Batter to Watch – Mike Moustakas: High 80s to low 90s is the ideal speed for Mike Moustakas to go yard. Put that with A.J. Griffin and his signature curveball (13th in the majors in curveball usage) and Moustakas being the KC Royals best curveball hitter, don’t be surprised if he hits his third career homer in Rangers Ballpark.
Game 4 – RHP Jason Hammel (0-1, 4.60 ERA, 1.66 WHIP) vs. RHP Yu Darvish (1-2, 3.28 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
After a rough start to his KC Royals career, Jason Hammel pitched terrifically in his third start of the year, pitching 6 innings of 1 run ball against the San Francisco Giants.
Like I just mentioned, Hammel wasn’t trusting his slider, throwing it noticeably less. I was majority concerned. Those concerns were put to rest when he threw it a season high 41.4% of the time. Let’s hope he can keep up that.
The Rangers final starter in this series will be another one of the great starting pitchers in baseball, Yu Darvish. Though the KC Royals lineup shouldn’t be intimidated. The lineup as a whole has posted a slashline of .261/.311/.536 against Darvish.
Again, expect strikeouts. But also expect some power.
Batter to Watch – Brandon Moss: Moss has straight punished Darvish in his career. He’s 7 for 23, with 4(!) homers and a double. That’s good for a OPS of 1.254.
Royals take 3 of 4
I say the KC Royals stay hot and keep a depleted Texas Rangers down. Adrian Beltre is out, Sam Dyson is out (sadly), and the bullpen is banged up.
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I think the Royals can get to one of the Rangers two aces. Then after that, I like where the rest of the matches stand. Taking 3 of 4 could be huge for this team.