The KC Royals need an immediate jolt from Michael Wacha

Kansas City tries to even its road series with Texas today.
William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

The KC Royals are, without question, stunningly better than they were last season. And the season before that. And the one before that. Not since the short 2020 campaign, when they went 26-34, and 2021, when they were 74-88, have they even approached respectability.

This year, though, the club, 42-35 and above .500 since beating the White Sox April 6, has pushed the possibility of losing 100 games for a second straight year out of the conversation, and replaced it with serious talk of a playoff spot. The Royals are in second place in the American League Central, the pleasant place they've occupied most of this season, as they prepare for Saturday's 3:10 p.m. CDT road game against Texas.

All is not well with this team, though. It's lost 18 of its most recent 24 games and seven of its last 10, including Friday night's defeat at the Rangers' hands. The club's lead over third-place Minnesota has dwindled to a mere half-game and, combined with first-place Cleveland's Friday night victory over Toronto, the Royals have fallen seven games behind the Guardians.

KC's offense is suddenly tepid, its rotation a bit unsteady, its bullpen a mess. The Royals need a jolt. Quickly.

Can they get it from Michael Wacha this afternoon?

Michael Wacha returns to start for Kansas City

Wacha, one of general manager J.J. Picollo's striking offseason additions, goes to the mound for the Royals today. Save for the excellent rehab assignment start he made in the Arizona Complex League Monday, Wacha hasn't pitched in a game since May 31 when he limited San Diego to two runs in 5.1 innings before leaving with the fractured foot he suffered earlier in the contest.

The Royals hope the 12th-year right-hander will provide the pick-me-up they need. His 4-5, 4.24 record isn't overwhelmingly good, but he's bolstered a starting rotation that's been maddeningly inconsistent and inadequate for too many seasons. Wacha was 3-2 in June, and his 4.24 ERA for the month is skewed upward by the seven runs he gave Texas May 4. Since then, he's 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA and four of his six quality starts.

Who will start against Michael Wacha and the Royals this afternoon?

Right-hander Jon Gray, 2-3, 3.31, starts for Texas. The Mets pummeled him for nine runs in just three innings five days ago, but he held the Royals scoreless and struck out seven in seven innings May 5.

Gray pitched seven seasons for the Rockies before signing a free agent deal with the Rangers after the 2021 campaign. He's 1-1, 2.18 in three career starts against Kansas City.

Who's in manager Matt Quatraro's Kansas City lineup?

Here's how the Royals' skipper is deploying his club today:

Who's starting for Texas?

Here's manager Bruce Bochy's lineup:

How can KC Royals fans follow this afternoon's contest?

Televising today's game are Bally Sports Kansas City, Bally Sports Southwest and, subject to blackout, MLBN. ESPN+ is streaming the contest; fans can find other streaming options here. KCSP-AM 610 Sports Radio and the other Royals Radio Network stations have the broadcast.

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