Series Preview: Kansas City Royals @ New York Yankees
Toronto hit the Royals hard in game two with a thirteen run barrage. Thirteen runs in a three game series is the Major League average for this season. So the “Canadian Bombers” struck Kansas City early and often in the series. However, the boys in blue etched out a series win against the Blue Jays with a solid performance by Zach Greinke in the afternoon series closer. The offense also did their part, giving Greinke a cushion to work with after a first half filled with little to no run support.
If the Royals want to continue their momentum, they will have to do it against one of the best if not the best starting rotation in the entire league. It’s possible for KC to go into “the house that Jeter built” and split the series, maybe even win it if the offense can get some assistance from their pitching staff. More good news is that they miss one of the best Yankee pitchers ever, Andy Pettitte, in this series due to an injury.
Game 1: Chen (5-3) vs. Sabathia (12-3)
This game features two left-handed hurlers who are polar opposites. Sabathia, a Cy Young candidate again this year, throws heat and is among the league leaders in most major pitching categories. Last year against Kansas City he pitched a 6-hit shutout. The Royals need to work counts when they can and not take the fastball down the middle. His off-speed stuff is just as effective when he has the command of his fastball.
Chen, a crafty veteran, has a winning record after the break for the first time since 2005 and possesses a good pick-off move if runners get on. By stopping the running of New York and getting some ground balls, he will give the KC offense a chance to keep it close while trying to take advantage of the short porch in right field.
Game 2: Bannister (7-8) vs. Burnett (7-8)
Both pitchers hold identical records and extremely high ERAs around or above five. The Royals may be coming against Burnett at the right time in the season as he has only one winning decision since the beginning of June. Burnett took out some frustration on the clubhouse door last week and caused lacerations to both hands, however, he is currently scheduled to make the start.
Bannister did not face the Yankees last year. However, in his two starts in 2008, the Yankees combined for a .489 batting average and scored 17 runs. Some of those players who dinged him up are now gone but plenty remain who did damage. To win against the “Bronx Bombers” he’s going to need to keep the ball down in the zone and that will keep the ball inside the fences.
Game 3: Davies (4-6) vs. Mitre (0-1)
Mitre’s only decision is a single loss, but he does have an impressive 2.88 ERA in 25 innings pitched. Last year against the Royals he only faced two batters and the one that got a hit (John Buck) is no longer with the team.
Davies has not faced the Yankees since the 2008 season. In his single appearance against them he was very effective, giving up only one run on seven hits. Five of those hits were to Cano, Jeter and A-Rod. He shouldn’t feel too bad; they have hit almost everybody in the past few seasons.
Game 4: Lerew (1-4) vs. Hughes (11-3)
Hughes has been nearly as tough as Sabathia despite dropping two of his last three decisions. He has nearly a three to one strikeout to walk ratio this season. In 2009 against the Royals he faced three batters and all three were sent back to the dugout. However in his appearance in 2008 against the “Boys in Blue” he got shelled to the tune of six hits, three runs, and four walks while facing only fourteen batters.
Lerew is coming off a traumatizing start. The four runs he gave up in 1.1 innings of work were only the beginning. He took a line drive to his midsection in the second inning and scared the entire stadium. The good news for Kansas City is that he is young and has recovered quickly enough to not miss his start. This will be a gutsy performance by the young hurler and hopefully one that will pay dividends on the scoreboard.
What can I say? The Yankees have one of the best lead-off hitters of all time in Jeter and have at least a handful of all-star talent to back him up. The Royals do have some numbers on their side, just not the home runs that the Yankees can shell out in their home park. Kansas City needs to build off the Toronto series and catch Burnett and Hughes while they are struggling.
If you play mistake free defense, get the sure out, and make the occasional outstanding play you give your pitcher confidence and a chance for your offense to win. The Yankees are currently ranked second behind Minnesota in terms of fielding percentage. They also have turned more double plays in two less games than the Royals.
The starting pitching of Kansas City simply does not match up well against the starting rotation of the Yankees. The good news for the Royals is that they most likely have to face Burnett following a game against Sabathia. The bullpen, when called upon, must hold the lead until Soria comes in. It would be a fun series to watch if we could see Soria and Rivera go at it in two or three late inning match ups. Rivera has experience and intimidation on his side but Soria is just as effective at getting people out.
With the rotation set and healthy, Kansas City needs to take care of business. The Yankees are still up in the air about their starters after Sabathia. New York has the best record in baseball and has won two out of every three at home this year. The Royals success will rely upon if they can get timely hits and score enough to avoid facing Rivera in front of the New York crowd.