Kansas City and Houston take Minute Maid Park field with a scheduled first pitch at 7:15 p.m. ET tonight. The Royals throw Ian Kennedy (1-7, 5.31 ERA) to the hill to start the event. The KC veteran righty opposed Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (8-3, 3.77). American League Preview and Free Pick: Royals at Astros.
Offensive has been the Astros (-315, 8) calling card in June. However, the lack of production turned Kansas City’s southpaw Danny Duffy into a winner on Friday night in a 1-0 victory for the Royals. The shutout last night was Houston’s first scoreless outing since May 11.
Kennedy hasn’t recorded a win in his last 13 turns. His last start against a Texas offense that ranks 13th in the league in OPS vs right-handers resulted in another loss for Kennedy. The veteran starter was hit hard surrendering five runs on four hits over six innings of work. Kennedy walked three in the six innings.
Kennedy is a mixed bag across the first two-plus months of the 2018 campaign. He has walked a trio or more in four of his last five starts. And despite allowing two runs or fewer in 3 of his last 5 starts the veteran can’t earn a win for himself or assist his teammates.
Kennedy simply isn’t the same pitcher he has been over the prior three seasons and his 4-1 career mark with a 1.99 ERA in five lifetime turns against Houston is no longer numbers that are relevant to what he is capable of doing today. At this point in his career, Kennedy isn’t capable of taking his ‘mates deep in games. He no longer has the offensive support that his Kansas City teammates once provided and this Royals team is pedestrian defensively, as well.
McCullers has tossed four straight quality outings. His last start saw him allowed four runs (two earned) while striking out nine across six innings versus this same Kansas City team. The right-hander was a victim of some shoddy defense behind him in that Sunday start versus the Royals. McCullers is 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA in six outings at Minute Maid this season. In addition McCullers has struck out 33 in 27 frames while going 1-0 with a 2.33 ERA in four career starts versus KC.
McCullers has in truth been better than his surface numbers, which include eight wins against three losses and an ERA south of 3.75. The Houston righty has struck out 26 percent of the hitters he has faced this season. He has a stellar 13 percent SwStr rate. Over fifty percent of his outs come via the ground ball all of which mitigate his 10 percent bases on ball rate.
Veteran umpire Bill Welke is slated to call balls and strikes tonight at Minute Maid. The hitter-friendly umpire isn’t favorable for either starting pitcher. Welke won’t give McCullers the low portion of the K-zone that he needs to be uber effective. The over has cashed in six of his last eight when Welke is behind the plate and the total has closed north of the oddsmakers over-under at a 51-17 clip in Welke’s last 68 Saturday contests wearing the vest.
The Astros use the Kennedy platform to rebound from a recent offensive scuffle and exceed the oddsmakers total by themselves in this Saturday night affair in Houston.
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American League Preview and Free Pick: Royals at Astros