The KC Royals, fresh from a weekend series win over the White Sox, open a four-game visit to Baltimore this afternoon. It is, in every sense, a series the Royals should sweep, and they should be sorely disappointed if they don’t.
The primary reason the Royals ought to have four wins in the bag before heading for Minnesota, the final stop stop on their one-week road trip, is the Orioles themselves. Baltimore’s 43-92, .319 record is the worst in the majors, inferior to even Arizona’s. The O’s finished April just two games under .500, but a dreadful 5-23 May ended their season with four months still left to play. Their ugly and infamous 19-game losing streak, which ended just two weeks ago, would have been catastrophic had the season not been lost so long before.
Baltimore’s team 5.79 ERA is the majors’ worst. So is the team’s .269 BAA and its 1.47 WHIP. And the Orioles have surrendered the second most home runs.
The KC Royals, on the other hand, aren’t good, but they’re not as bad as the Orioles. Kansas City is 61-75 and, only three games behind Detroit with 26 games left, has a good chance to finish third in the American League Central.
So, these four games in Baltimore should belong to the visiting Royals. But will they?
The KC Royals can’t forget what the Orioles did to them earlier this season.
Baltimore was 28-61, Kansas City 36-53 when they opened a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium to end the All-Star Break. In Danny Duffy’s last start as a Royal (at least for now), KC won handily, jumping out to a 6-0 lead after three innings and cruising 9-2.
But despite their deep flaws, the Orioles took the final two games 8-4 and 5-0. That former Royal Matt Harvey beat them in the finale was disconcerting: Harvey, who entered the contest 3-10 with a 7.70 ERA, shut the Royals out for six innings to earn his fourth win.
The O’s are a dismal 13-30 since then while much-improved Kansas City, which finished the season’s first half 36-53, is 25-22. The Royals are the better team and should handle Baltimore easily…but they better remember what happened the last time the clubs met.
The O’s starting pitching isn’t as good as the KC Royals’ rotation, but…
That Kansas City recently adopted a six-man rotation is clear; what isn’t, though, especially after Brad Keller went on the Injured List Aug. 27 with a lat strain, is who the six starters are at any given moment, and in what order they’ll pitch. The Orioles, however, have been working with a five-man rotation—Harvey (6-14, 6.28), John Means (5-6, 3.47), Spenser Watkins (2-7, 7.47), Chris Ellis (0-0, 2.84), and Keegan Akin (2-8, 6.90). Akin pitched Sunday, leaving Harvey today’s presumed starter against the Royals.
Instead, it appears O’s rookie Zac Lowther might get that nod and face Kris Bubic (4-6, 5.16). Lowther, who’s been out with a left shoulder strain, is 0-0, 10.80 with only one start in five appearances. Whether Baltimore is skipping Harvey, or he’ll pitch later in the week, remains to be seen. Jackson Kowar (0-2, 9.82), Mike Minor (8-12, 5.25), and emerging staff leader Carlos Hernandez (5-1, 3.57) will follow Bubic.
The bottom line? No O’s starter is particularly good this season, but one—Harvey—dominated Kansas City earlier in the campaign. The Royals have the better rotation; if they can beat Harvey (assuming he pitches), Bubic settles in and avoids early trouble, Kowar pitches like he did last week against Cleveland (two runs and six strikeouts in six innings), Minor avoids home runs (he’s surrendered nine in his last six starts), and Hernandez performs like he has since joining the rotation in July (4-1, 2.94), a sweep is definitely possible.
But if the inconsistency that’s troubled the rotation all season returns, it could be a long visit to Baltimore.
Baltimore is in trouble if Salvador Perez hits like he did against Chicago.
The Royals scored 20 runs on 26 hits in their 2-1 weekend series win over the White Sox, and were 10-for-24 (.416) with runners in scoring position. Catcher Salvador Perez led the way with a 5-for-10, three-homer, eight-RBI effort. His 41 homers and 102 RBIs are career-bests.
To win, the Orioles must quiet Perez. It’s that simple. The finest season of his career is only getting better: his second-half .281/.349/.649 slash surpasses his first-half .275/.300/.501, and he’s clubbed 11 home runs in his last 16 games.
As Perez goes, so go the Royals. If he keeps going against Baltimore, a Kansas City sweep is realistic.
Game time today is set for 12:05 p.m. CDT at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Royals and Baltimore then play 6:05 p.m. CDT games Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.