KC Royals vs. Pittsburgh: 3 keys to another sweep

(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals, Jakob Junis
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals have two games with Pittsburgh. What will it take to win both?

In any other recent season, the two-game series between the KC Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates opening tonight wouldn’t draw much interest. So far, however, 2021 doesn’t look much like the past few campaigns for the Royals and Bucs.

Kansas City, 14-7, has won five in a row, just swept four from Detroit, leads the American League Central, and owns the best winning percentage in baseball. The Pirates, 11-11, just missed a sweep of the Twins, have won five of their last seven, and are tied for second in the NL East. The clubs are far cries from the teams that have one winning record between them since both last made the postseason in 2015.

So it is these two games, set for 5:35 p.m. CDT tonight and Wednesday at PNC Park, should be good. And the Royals, who march to the beat of winning series, would relish two straight sweeps, especially considering they next play a struggling Minnesota club ripe for a picking.

What will it take? Thumbs, for one thing.

Salvador Perez left Monday’s game with a jammed right thumb that appears to have him on day-to-day status. The Royals need Perez in the lineup—although an uncharacteristic 2-for-17 against the Tigers dropped his average to .247, he’s tied for the club lead in homers and doubles (five each), is second in OPS (.771) and third in RBIs with 12. There’s no better catcher in the organization; simply put, he’s KC’s driving force.

But Perez’s isn’t the only thumb of concern. The swelling digit that’s come and gone at least twice for Hunter Dozier appears to have steadied, but because he’s struggling at the plate and needs at-bats, has power the club needs, and is the preferred third baseman, that thumb needs to stay healthy.

But sweeping Pittsburgh will take more than thumbs.