The Royals were primed to win a series against the Athletics this week. They had won three straight road games but their offense must have been part of their lost luggage because the Royals failed to show any offensive spark in game one. In game two they played solid and scored enough to win. They were ahead 2-0 going into the middle part of game three before it all fell apart. After the sixth inning they were down 4-2. Then one run came across for the boys in blue but that is all she wrote.
The Royals are 4-3 on this current road trip heading into a town that has treated them well already this season. The Royals made a three game stop in Seattle before the break and came away with a series sweep. The Royals could use another series sweep to gain some momentum before traveling back to California to play the Angels.
Game 1: Zack Greinke (7-10) vs. Luke French (0-2)
In his last start Greinke did what he is capable of doing, going strong for eight innings. He got win number seven while the Royals provided him with enough offense so that he didn’t have to be perfect. He has Pitched twice this year against the Mariners and has allowed only one run and eight hits. The only current Mariner who has had success against him has been Ichiro. In his career, Ichiro is batting .385 against Greinke. Ichiro is by far one of the best leadoff hitters, if not the best in the game, so Zack isn’t the only pitcher Ichiro has had success against. In Greinke’s career he is 4-0 with a 1.64 ERA in 60+ innings pitched.
Luke French may be a new comer to the Mariners rotation but is no stranger to the Royals. He started the 2009 season with Detroit before being traded mid-season to Seattle. He has two wins already against them in his young career with an ERA of 3.97. Both Billy Butler and Alex Gordon have had success against him, which is good for the Royals because both of them are swinging well right now. He pitched strong in his last performance against the hot Twins, but took the loss due to another case of lack of run support.
Game 2: Bruce Chen (6-5) vs. David Pauley (0-3)
Bruce Chen was effective enough and long enough to go five innings in his last start. He got the win thanks largely to the bullpen holding the Orioles offense in check. He has not made a start against Seattle this season; however he does have a fair amount of experience pitching against them. He has a record of 2-0 with a 3.58 ERA in 37.1 innings pitched. His ability to change release points from pitch to pitch has given him an edge against several current Seattle hitters. There is one exception again, Ichiro. Ichiro has seventeen at-bats against Chen and has nine hits.
David Pauley has fluctuated between the AAA or big league levels for the past three seasons. He has seen big league time in Boston (2006 & 2008) and now with Seattle in 2010. His ERA and opponents batting average has the look of an above average major league starter (3.38 and .258). However, he still doesn’t have a win under his belt. In one of his losses he only gave up one run while working five innings against the Yankees.
Game 3: Brian Bannister (7-11) vs. Jason Vargas (7-5)
Brian Bannister is probably pitching for his major league life for the rest of the season. Win or take no decisions the rest of the season and he has a way better chance of continuing as a Royal at the big league level. Lose this game and you will most like see him demoted or benched and one of the Royals prospects make the move from Omaha for the remainder of the season. With pressure like this a player shows what he is made of or lack thereof. If he loses this game, it will be his third straight year with twelve or more losses. He has no one else to blame except himself. The only thing he can do is try and find the man who won twelve games, finished third in Rookie of the Year voting and start throwing aspirin tablets instead of beach balls.
This season Jason Vargas can be described as a hometown pitcher. Six of his seven wins this year have come at home. His ERA is 3.19, which would indicate he should have a better winning percentage. And you would be right of course. In two of his quality starts in July, he went seven or more innings and gave up only one earned run each time. Both of these starts ended up being no decisions even though he had the lead when he left the game. One of these games was against the Yankees and the other was against the Angels. He could easily be 9-3 or even 10-2.
The Royals offense has shown back up during this road trip except for the one hiccup in game one of the Oakland Series. Timely hitting, especially late in the game, is something the Royals have been getting lately. Seattle is dead last in the American League in team batting average and homeruns. If the Royals can prevent Ichiro from starting an inning off with a hit or a walk, it will bring Seattle’s offense to a halt really quickly.
In terms of team defense, the Royals and the Mariners occupy the bottom two spots in the American League. This is one of the huge reasons why both teams are almost if not completely out of the playoff picture with nearly two months of season left. Whichever team plays error free, will most likely win the series.
The last time the Royals were in Seattle their pitching staff performed extremely well. They will need another solid performance by Greinke to get things kicked off this weekend. The Mariners pitchers have had previous success against the Royals, but not recently. Team-wise the Mariners have a one-run ERA advantage on the Royals. The Royals have also given up 16 more home runs as well. The good news for the Royals staff is that Seattle’s offense has been worse off than they have.
The Royals will again need the pitching staff to bring their A-game into Seattle. The fact that Seattle’s offense almost solely rests on Ichiro getting on base makes it easy for the Royals pitchers to have to focus on getting one guy out. The Royals have the better season record and versus record this season. In the end the “home-field advantage” really doesn’t apply here.