KC Royals at Cleveland’s Professional Baseball Team (May 26-28)
By Colby Wilson
Old rivals renew acquaintances as the KC Royals and Cleveland’s Professional Baseball Team do battle at Progressive Field—ironic stadium name, given that the team’s nickname is anything but progressive. Can the Royals find some balance on the road?
By record, the KC Royals are the third-worst road team in baseball. In practice, they probably haven’t even been that good.
Consider, if you will, the three teams that enter Friday night with fewer than eight road wins on the season: Philadelphia, Oakland and our beloved KC Royals.
Phillies road opponents: Reds, Nationals twice (NL East leaders), Mets, Dodgers, Cubs (NL Central leaders), Rangers, Pirates. Combined home record: 85-59 (.590)
A’s road opponents: Rangers twice, Royals, Angels, Astros (AL West leaders), Twins (AL Central leaders, just 11-13 at home), Mariners. Combined home records: 84-59 (.587)
KC Royals road opponents: Twins twice (AL Central leaders, just 11-13 at home), Astros (AL West leaders), Rangers, White Sox, Rays, Yankees (AL East leaders). Combined home records: 83-59 (.585)
So the Royals have played three division leaders, the others have played two—but KC has the benefit of twice visiting a Twins team that can’t get out of its own way at Target Field. Maybe it’s a wash.
(It’s not, the Royals have been worse.)
Anyway, here’s a series preview.
Game One: Ian Kennedy (0-4, 4.06 ERA) vs. Mike Clevinger (2-1, 1.56 ERA); 6:10 p.m. (CT); FSKC/MLBN
One has to assume IK was just a little rusty in his first start off the disabled list on Sunday, lasting just two innings against the Twins. He’ll be better, because to be worse either his arm will have to fly off his body or he’ll have to kick the ball toward the plate instead of throwing it and I don’t see either of those things happening.
Watch If: You’re intrigued by Mike Clevinger. I am intrigued by Mike Clevinger in an, “Oh, God, he might dominate the Central for the next five years,” kind of way.
Game Two: Jason Vargas (5-3, 2.30 ERA) vs. Danny Salazar (3-4, 5.55 ERA); 3:10 p.m. (CT); FS1
Vargy has regressed to the mean, delighting FanGraphs Jeff Sullivan, who declared Vargy’s hot start not worthy of an article on the podcast Effectively Wild earlier this year and has gleefully taken pride in pointing out Vargas’ last two rough outings.
Salazar has no mean to regress to, because he’s been a tire fire all season. Hopefully the KC Royals can knock his FIP (4.73) into the fives along with his ERA.
While Vargas (good this year) and Salazar (long rumored to be the Next Big Thing™) make for a juicy pitching matchup, it may not turn out that way. Lineup stalwarts like Michael Brantley (.438) and Jason Kipnis (.346) have had success against Vargy, while Lorenzo Cain (.346) and Eric Hosmer (.400 with three homers) have kicked Salazar around pretty good.
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Watch If: Like me, you’re expecting Vargas to shove it in Jeff Sullivan’s face this week.
(Kidding, for the most part. I really like Jeff Sullivan. I just think Vargas’ work this season has been particularly good, especially after battling back from two lost seasons. It deserves more than a passing, “Meh, who cares, it’s Jason Vargas!” response.)
Game Three: Danny Duffy (4-3, 2.92 ERA) vs. Josh Tomlin (2-6, 6.70 ERA); 12:10 p.m. (CT); FSKC/MLBN
As always, there’s the reliable Duff Man. He’s gonna go at least six, he’s gonna strike out seven or so and unless the bullpen pees the bed or the offense decides to stay at the hotel, he’s going to give the KC Royals a good chance to win.
Conversely, there’s Josh Tomlin, who has never been particularly good but has graduated to being abjectly terrible by nearly any metric—except for the fact that he doesn’t walk anyone. With that as background, expect as patient KC Royals lineup that Tomlin will pick to death on the corners.
(Exception: Mike Moustakas, who is hitting .350 with a couple of homers against Tomlin for his career. Moose will save us.)
Watch If: You love seeing Danny Duffy pitch. I mean, who doesn’t?
Predictions Sure to Be Wrong
In Game One: Ugh. Mike Clevinger is good, and he’s going to be good for a little while. That really bothers me.
Game Two: Vargas’ postgame interview is just a carefully curated selection of all the times Jeff Sullivan was ever wrong about something.
Next: Maybe the 2018 KC Royals?
Game Three: Danny Duffy wins.