The Royals get ready for round two of interleague play

It’s that time of year, interleague play, where some National League fans are annoyed having to play American League teams during the regular season. American League teams don’t let their pitchers hit. And they have this “player” called a designated hitter to bat for the pitcher. A baseball blasphemy! Ok, maybe only a few National League fans think this way. But some N.L. fans do get worked up over not having an automatic out when the pitcher is up to bat.

Last month, the Kansas City Royals played the Arizona Diamondbacks at Kauffman Stadium and lost two out of three games. Tomorrow night, the Royals have five three game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Milwaukee Brewers, a home and away series with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros, all National League Central teams.

Last year, the Royals went 5-13 in interleague play against the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies. How will the Royals fare this year?

At the Pittsburgh Pirates, June 8-10: The National League version of the Royals aren’t playing like this year’s Royals. The Pirates are 28-27 and three games back of the N.L. Central leading Cincinnati Reds. With star center fielder Andrew McCutchen and a starting rotation headed by James McDonald and A.J. Burnett, the Pirates are a better team than in years past.

The Pirates won’t be pushovers and with Luke Hochevar on the mound Friday night, who knows what will happen. I’m hoping the Royals take two out of three games, but they could as easily get swept or only win one game against the Pirates.

At home against the Milwaukee Brewers, June 12-14: The Royals go back home for a three game set with the 24-31 Brewers, who are fourth in the N.L. Central. There’s a chance the Royals will see former Royal Zack Greinke, who leads the team with six wins. With the loss of Prince Fielder, the Brewers aren’t playing up to expectations. But this series could go either way. I look for two out of three wins for the Royals.

At the St. Louis Cardinals (June 15-17) and at Kauffman Stadium (June 22-24): It’s time for Cardinal fans to remember there is a Major League team on the west side of the state. As of Wednesday, the Cardinals were 28-28, third in the N.L. Central behind the Pirates. The Redbirds are going through a rough stretch, going 3-7 in their last 10 games. They’ve had injuries to key players and the bullpen isn’t pitching well. But the Cardinals offense is being led by the good play of Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and David Freese. The Royals play the Cardinals six times, three at St. Louis and three at home. I’m predicting a 3-3 record against the Cardinals.

At the Houston Astros, June 18-20: The Royals conclude interleague play against the Astros, who as of Wednesday were 24-31 and fourth place in the N.L. Central. The Astros are playing better than expected, but they’re still in rebuilding mode. The Royals should sweep, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Royals win only one out of three games either.

In the National League ballparks, the Royals will have Jeff Franceour in center, Eric Hosmer in right field and Billy Butler at first. Hosmer has practiced in right field and it will be interesting to see how he plays in the outfield. But Butler’s bat is too hot and valuable to keep on the bench, so the Royals will go with Hosmer in right. And with the possible loss of Felipe Paulino due to a groin injury, the Royals already shaky starting rotation will be severely tested the next couple of weeks. The good news? The Royals will have have more opportunities to make sacrifice bunts. I’m sure National League fans will appreciate that.

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