Series preview: KC Royals, Minnesota kick off AL Central race

Let's look at this season's opening series as Kansas City host the Twins.
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KC Royals fans, the wait is finally over! Opening Day is a momentous occasion any season, but 2024's iteration feels more important after Kansas City's historic offseason. Spring training has come and gone, with some players falling off the roster and others surprising fans with strong springs. None of that matters as of Thursday morning.

There is genuine excitement around the 2024 Royals. While the impending April 2 vote in Kansas City may bring some gloom to baseball's opening week, you can be confident that Kauffman Stadium will be filled with devoted fans. The Royals kick off the season against last year's AL Central winner, the Minnesota Twins.

The first three games are critical for the KC Royals AL Central hopes.

Let's not delay any further. Here is what Royals fans need to know for the opening series, including what to watch for.

Game 1 - March 28 at 3:10 PM CDT

2. March 28. 0-0. 7. 0-0. Game 1 KC Minn. KC Royals: +100. 3:10 PM CDT. Bally Sports Kansas City

Probable starters

Kansas City: Cole Ragans
Minnesota: Pablo López

Cole Ragans starts on the mound for Kansas City opposite Minnesota’s Pablo López in Kauffman Stadium. Ragans will be the second-youngest lefty starter on Opening Day in Royals history, only older than 25-year-old Danny Jackson in 1987. Ragans’ 21 career starts are the fourth fewest by any Opening Day starter in Kansas City history as well. Brad Keller had only 20 career starts when he started on Opening Day back in 2019.

What to watch for in Game 1

I can't lie: all eyes will be on the starting pitchers Thursday. Royals fans and national analysts are hoping and betting on a breakout season from Ragans. But Kansas City struggled mightily against Lopez in 2023. One of the AL's premiere starters, López struck out 27 Royals in 20 1/3 innings last year, with only four walks and six earned runs. 

Plus, the Royals went through a historic offensive drought to start last season. Kansas City's lineup needs to produce against López, proving they are both better than the 2023 team and can produce against top-tier opponents.

Game 2 - March 30 at 3:10 CDT

0-0. 2. March 30. 7. Bally Sports Kansas City. game 2 kc minn. 0-0. . 3:10 pm CDT

Probable starters

Kansas City: Seth Lugo
Minnesota: Joe Ryan

Kansas City fans will have their first look at offseason addition Seth Lugo on Saturday. This is the 34-year-old Louisiana native's first foray into the AL, having spent his eight-year career with the New York Mets and San Diego Padres. People are scared of the age, but Lugo has plenty of tread on the pitching tires. He served as a reliever for much of his MLB career, only amassing 641 career innings pitched.

What to watch for in Game 2

I will be watching to see what lineup Kansas City rolls out against Joe Ryan. The righty is a reliable starter in his own right but saw his home runs allowed spike last season. He wasn't exactly dominant this past spring, either.

The weather is not conducive to a power-first lineup, with 10 MPH winds coming in from center field forecasted. But players like Salvador Perez and Hunter Renfroe have good track records against Ryan. Manager Matt Quatraro might take a risk and aim to dominate Minnesota.

Game 3 - March 31 at 1:10 PM CDT

Bally Sports Kansas City. March 31. 0-0. 0-0. 2. 1:10 PM EDT. game 3 kc minn. 7.

Probable starters

Kansas City: Brady Singer
Minnesota: Bailey Ober

This could have been the Opening Day pitching matchup following the 2022 season. Both Brady Singer and Bailey Ober posted electric 2022 seasons but took different turns in 2023. Singer floundered in the Royals rotation, albeit with poor luck regarding FIP and BABIP. Meanwhile, Ober took another step forward in Minnesota. He had two terrible showings in the postseason and took some lumps in spring training as well. All in all, this is a very good series finale pitching matchup.

What to watch for in Game 3

My eyes will be firmly on what Singer deploys against the Twins lineup. The righty notably used some different pitches this spring after years of unwillingness to evolve, something his past critics latch on to. Can Singer add the four-seam and sweeper to his arsenal effectively outside of Arizona? If so, does it raise his ceiling in Kansas City's rotation? It is just one start. but this is an important one for Singer.

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