Birds Eye View Preview: The Battle for I-70, Part 1

Once again, the battle for I-70 is about to get underway. However, this season, it’s going Hatfield’s and McCoy’s style, as the week will be literally a trek up and down the highway for one of the few back-to-back “natural rival” home-and-home interleague series. In the first half of the series, the Cardinals will go to Kansas City to see the Royals, in the final leg of an eight-game road spin.

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The series between the Cardinals and Royals is always an interesting one. It’s a matchup of heavy fan interest, as there are the underlying points of interstate relationships, the perceived “superiority issues” of the Cardinals vs. the long-suffering Royals, and as it will be forever, the aftermath of the 1985 World Series; a storyline that’s just as sore of a subject today as it was 28 years ago.

Here are the stories of the two teams as they face off for the first half of the series. Where they have been, where they are going and what’s at stake currently.

The Cardinals coming in: The Cardinals enter with an MLB best record of 32-17, and 1.5 games ahead in the National League Central. They are coming off of a very competitive series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which capped with a second consecutive win over their ace Clayton Kershaw. Overall, the team has not lost a series, nor recorded consecutive losses, in nearly a month. Their 17 road wins are the best mark in the Majors as well.

Over the past week, the run production load has been diverse, with Daniel Descalso leading the team in runs driven in with six, most coming on his grand slam in San Diego last Tuesday. David Freese and Allen Craig are both tied for second with five RBI….Yadier Molina enters the series third in the NL in hitting with a .339 average…Pete Kozma turned in a 4 for 4 performance on Sunday with three doubles, including one with the bases loaded to pull the club ahead….Seth Maness recorded his first loss of his career on Saturday evening, but rebounded to produce a bases loaded double play on Sunday to get his fourth win of the season, all coming in relief and within the last month.

The Royals coming in: Kansas City enters with a season mark of 21-26 and in fourth place in the American League Central, a disappointing turn for a team that was largely believed to be on the brink of a breakthrough coming into the season. They also enter on the heels of four-game sweep at home from the Los Angeles Angels, and overall are on a five-game losing streak. They have not won a home series since May 3-6 vs. the Chicago White Sox

Alex Gordon is having perhaps his best season to date. The left fielder is hitting .335, with six home runs and 30 RBI. His average is fifth best in the AL….Catcher Salvador Perez is hitting .311, with four multi-hit games in his last 10….overall, the Royals are hitting .262 as club, ninth best in baseball, but have managed only 190 runs as a result, the third worse total in the AL.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (1:10)—James Shields (2-5) vs. Adam Wainwright (6-3): Monday’s matchup is a showdown of both club’s aces and two of the better arms in all of baseball. Shields has pitched in perhaps the toughest luck of any starter in the AL. Despite having surrendering only six runs over his last four starts, he has taken the loss in three of four. Wainwright threw 7.1 innings in his last outing to win his sixth game and lower his ERA to 2.38, sixth best in the NL.

Tuesday (7:10)—Ervin Santana (3-4) vs. Tyler Lyons (1-0): Santana surrendered four home runs in his return start against his former club in Anaheim his last time out. For the season, he has turned in a 3.14 ERA, but is also a loser of his last three outings. Lyons won his Major League debut on Wednesday, filling in for the injured Jaime Garcia. The 25-year-old threw seven innings, allowing only four hits, one walk and a single run.

Injury Impact—St. Louis: Out for Season: Rafeal Furcal (Elbow), Jason Motte (Elbow), Jaime Garcia (Shoulder). 60 Day DL: Chris Carpenter (Shoulder); 15-Day DL: Fernando Salas (Shoulder), Jake Westbrook (Elbow), John Gast (Shoulder). Kansas City: Out for Season: Felipe Paulino (Elbow). 60 Day DL: Danny Duffy (Elbow). 15 Day DL: Jarrod Dyson (Ankle).

A look back: The Cardinals won the season series in 2012, 4-2. They outscored the Royals 45-29. On the season, the Royals finished 72-90, good for third place in the AL Central, while the Cardinals finished in second place in the NL Central with an 88-74 record. All-time, the Cardinals lead the series 48-38, and have met once outside of the regular season, in the 1985 World Series, which the Royals won 4-3.

News and Notes:

–          The series is a two-and-two spin, with two games in Kansas City, followed by two in St. Louis. This will be the first interleague games of the season for both clubs.

–          Monday is “Armed Forces Day” at Kaufmann Stadium, and miniature American flags will be given away. Tuesday is “T-Shirt Tuesday”, with a shirt giveaway for the first 10,000 fans.

 

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