Series Preview: Athletics vs. Royals

Gearing up for the second half

The A’s and the Royals have had similar seasons to this point. Both teams are currently in fourth place in their respective divisions. The Royals ended the first half of the season by dropping three straight games to the rivals, the Chicago White Sox. The A’s took two out of three from the All-Star hosting Angels.

Game 1: Zack Greinke vs. Gio Gonzalez

Greinke missed his last start this past Sunday but with nine days between starts he should be good to go for the series opener on Friday night. Career-wise versus the A’s he is undefeated with an ERA of 2.88 and 49 strikeouts. In his lone start last year, he gave up three runs on seven hits while getting the win by a score of 12-6.

Gonzalez struggled right before the break. His previous three starts he has been struggling with his control. He has issued thirteen walks, including five in four innings against the Yankees on July 7th. Despite his recent control issues he is above .500 with a record of 7-6 going into the second half. He is 0-1 in career starts versus the Royals with an ERA of 7.79 in 9.1 innings. This includes the one outing he had against the Royals in 2009 when he gave up four walks, six hits and five runs in 5.1 innings of work.

Game 2: Bruce Chen vs. Trevor Cahill

If you were to just look at this season’s stats on this pitching matchup, you would have to expect Cahill to be successful. He has been labeled the ace of their pitching staff while Bruce Chen is a mid-season call up. Bruce however has faced the A’s before and has had some success. He is 1-2 with a 3.68 ERA and 18 Ks in 36.2 innings pitched. Last year the A’s only managed a .231 batting average against him.

Cahill has been an unhittable at times during the first half of the season and his All-Star nod was a confirmation of that fact. He enters the second half with a 9-3 record and a 2.94 ERA. He has performed far beyond his other teammates in the rotation to this point. ON the other hand, he does have recent struggles against the Royals. Despite having a 2-0 record against the boys in blue, he has an ERA over four.

Game 3: Brian Bannister vs. Vin Mazzaro

Bannister has had success in day time pitching. However, when pitching against the A’s he has struggled. He is 1-4 with a 5.02 ERA and only 23 Ks in 43 innings pitched. His last start against the Chicago White Sox he gave up five runs including three jacks. Coach Yost has emphasized quality starting pitching. If the Royals are going to have success in the second half, Bannister is one of the veteran starters to have to be consistent. He has two starts against Oakland last year and was shelled. The A’s managed a .341 batting average in those two games.

Mazzaro has a 1-0 career mark versus the Royals even though he has a 5.40 ERA. The Royals did hit him well last year and managed a .364 average. This young hurler has performed well as of late winning two of his last three starts and has his ERA down to 3.81.

Offense

The Royals need to pick up right where they left off at the end of the 1st half, the best hitting team in baseball. They may not hit it out a lot but 2-3 singles and the occasional double is enough to score with the speed they have at the top of their lineup.

The A’s finished right in the middle of the American League with a .262 team batting average. If they are patient they can pick apart the Royals staff that has at times struggled against them.

Defense

The Royals currently are ranked tenth in the AL with .982 fielding percentage. This is still a really good number considering that they have had fluctuations in their lineup. Callaspo finished the first half with errors in back to back losses versus the White Sox. I’m not saying his errors were the reasons for the losses but errors extend innings and give extra outs to the offense.

The A’s are right in the middle in this category as well. They have a fielding percentage of .984.

Pitching

Regardless of what he might think, Zack is a veteran leader on this team. How he performs on the field directly influences the other eight. The Royals need “Zack Attack” to make a statement on Friday night. It needs to translate into something like this:

“I won the Cy Young last year and here’s why.”

Bannister and Chen need to also have solid performances.

The A’s have some sleepers on their staff and they can be very effective.

X-Factor

The Royals are throwing their best three starters and are playing at home after some extended time off. Their recent success against Oakland should provide a much needed boost to the boys in blue.

The A’s are coming off the break strong after winning a series against the Angels. The Royals lost their three games before the break. If they can get some timely hitting against Greinke on Friday, it will provide the momentum they need to win the series.

Both teams have called Kansas City home at one point in their respective franchise’s history. It will be fun to watch who takes the series.

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