4 KC Royals questions heading into the Colorado series

The KC Royals, a consistently disappointing team this season, open a three-game weekend series at Colorado tonight.

Fresh from dropping two of three to Texas, and seven of their last 10, they’ll arrive at Coors Field 10-19, and in fourth place in the American League Central only because the Tigers, even more disappointing than themselves, are 9-23.

And the Royals have only two more wins than Cincinnati, which is still the worst team in the majors.

Ironically, the trio of games at Coors will pit KC against the worst team in the supercharged National League West—the Rockies, though, are still a respectable 16-15.

What, then, might happen this weekend?

Will KC Royals starter Zack Greinke win for the first time this season?

Scheduled to start tonight’s series opener for Kansas City is Zack Greinke, the 19-year big league veteran who returned to the Royals in March after a too-long 12-year absence. He’s been earning every penny of the minimum $13 million the reunion is reportedly costing the Royals—he owns an excellent 2.67 ERA in six starts.

But he remains winless at 0-2, an oddity best and wholly explained by an awful Royals’ offense that averages 2.33 runs when he pitches—and that’s a number skewed by the six they plated in his last start.

Whether Greinke gets his first win of 2022, and 220th of his career, tonight remains to be seen. Colorado’s .256 team average is the best in the NL and its .721 OPS ranks third; the Rockies average 4.29 runs per game, more than a run better than the Royals’ 3.17.

Greinke, then, will win if two things happen: he’ll have to pitch quite well again and KC’s bats need to be as good as they were in Texas Wednesday night.

Will KC Royals fans see much of Ryan O’Hearn at Coors Field this weekend?

Because O’Hearn isn’t hitting and really hasn’t since 2018, they shouldn’t. But that probably won’t stop manager Mike Matheny from finding some way and somewhere for him to play. Despite O’Hearn’s .125 average, Matheny has been deploying him in the cleanup spot recently, where he’s hitless in 11 plate appearances.

His single against the Rangers Thursday night was his third hit of the season.

But because Matheny doesn’t seem to like letting O’Hearn face lefthanders—only six of his 28 PA’s have come against lefties this season—O’Hearn may not get many cuts this weekend. Southpaws Kyle Freeland (tonight) and Austin Gomber (Sunday afternoon) are slated to pitch for Colorado manager and former Royal hurler Bud Black.

How important is Saturday night for KC Royals starter Carlos Hernández?

Much could be on the line for Hernández when he faces the Rockies Saturday evening. The season has been unkind to him—he’s 0-2 with an unacceptable 7.15 ERA (54 ERA+), is walking almost five batters every nine innings (4.8 BB9), and has a 1.897 WHIP.

It is, for Hernández and the Royals, a surprising downturn from 2021, when a superb 5-2, 3.23 second half secured his 2022 starting rotation spot.

But he hasn’t pitched at all well this season which, considering the Royals’ recent willingness to farm out struggling pitchers—they sent rotation mainstay Brady Singer to Omaha late last month, and Kris Bubic followed him there Thursday—could mean Hernández’s Saturday start is more critical than most. After all, Singer’s mandatory 15-day stay in the minors is almost up.

Is it too early for the Royals to think Whit Merrifield is turning a corner?

Until Kansas City’s series in Texas, Merrifield’s May looked much like his season. He was hitting .115 (3-for-26) for the month, which differed not so significantly from his overall mediocre .135.

But Tuesday, he collected his first hit in a week. He went 3-for-4 Wednesday, a performance that was his best of the year and included his first home run of the campaign. He had a single in five at-bats Thursday night.

Merrifield finished the Texas trip 5-for-13 and raised his average 29 points to .164.

Has he found himself at the plate? It’s definitely too early to tell, but he looked much better against the Rangers.

And Merrifield likes Colorado pitching—he’s 6-for-13 (.462) lifetime against the Rockies.

We’ll know more Sunday night after the Royals conclude their road trip and head home for five games with the White Sox and three with Minnesota.

Tonight’s game gets underway at 7:40 p.m. CDT. The Royals and Rockies play Saturday at 7:10 p.m. CDT and Sunday at 2:10 p.m. CDT.