Coming off being swept at home by the Minnesota Twins, the KC Royals welcome the Toronto Blue Jays to town. The Royals used to be one of the best teams in the AL at home, but have now dropped to 19-18 at home. The Blue Jays are 15-15 on the road. The Royals have been sliding and sliding quickly towards last place (just 3.5 games out of last place), as they have dropped seven of their last 10 games. The Blue Jays are 6-4 in their last ten. After this four-game set with the Blue Jays, the Royals play 18 of their next 24 games on the road, where they are a ML worst 6-16.
The Royals continue to struggle with men on base, struggle to collect extra-base hits (ie Billy Butler), and struggle to get the bottom third of the order to hit. Two of the top four hitters in the order (Alex Gordon and rookie Eric Hosmer) have been on a tear over the last week. Gordon is hitting .370 with a .452 OBP, though he has just one extra-base hit. He has hits in 13 of his last 17 games in the leadoff spot. Hosmer is hitting .400 with a .400 OBP. He has 7 RBIs to go with three doubles and a homerun.
The starting pitching has been very inconsistent and Jeff Francis is the only starter to record a victory over the past week. New acquisition Felipe Paulino, who will start game 1 of the series Monday night, has been a pleasant surprise (0.00 ERA). Rookie Danny Duffy has been deserving of his first ML win (he will start Wednesday night), but the bullpen has blown two wins and the offensive was nonexistent in his last start.
Speaking of the bullpen, newly named closer Aaron Crow has pitched just once over the last week and has yet to be involved in a save situation. Joakim Soria has looked good in trying to regain his closer form and could be back in his normal role by the end of the week.
The Blue Jays are in a division where right now, everyone still has a chance. They sit tied for third place with the TB Rays, just four games out, and are one game over .500. The Blue Jays got Adam Lind back from the DL over the weekend (he hit a homerun in his first game back) and Jose Bautista is proving that 2010 was not a fluke (20 homeruns, 40 RBIs and 52 walks). Yunel Escobar has taken over in the leadoff spot and done a nice job (.371 OBP).
The glaring weakness for the Blue Jays may be the bullpen. They have blown 5 of 17 save opportunities and seem to have a revolving door in the closer’s role. Frank Francisco has an ERA close to six. Jon Rauch has an ERA under 4.00, but has put 27 baserunners on via a hit or walk over 23.2 innings.
Starting pitching for the Blue Jays has been inconsistent. None moreso than Monday night’s starter Brandon Morrow. When he’s on, he’s unhittable. When he’s off, well he gets lit up. Morrow has 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Kyle Drabek has struggled with his command so far in his first full ML season, which has been the reason for the quick hook with him (2/3 of an inning in his last start). He has more walks (45) than strikeouts (43) and has allowed 62 hits in 63.1 innings. Carlos Villanueva has been a pleasant surprise in four starts since converting to a starter. Ace Ricky Romero gets the ball in the series finale and nine of his 12 starts have been quality starts. The Royals miss Jo-Jo Reyes, who finally won for the first time in 29 starts (and has now won two straight).
Monday: Felipe Paulino (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Brandon Morrow (2-3, 5.11 ERA)
Tuesday: TBA (as of this post, no starter to replace Sean O’Sullivan has been named) vs. Kyle Drabek (3-4, 4.69 ERA)
Wednesday: Danny Duffy (0-1, 4.43 ERA) vs. Carlos Villanueva (3-0, 2.72 ERA)
Thursday afternoon: Luke Hochevar (3-6, 5.25 ERA) vs. Ricky Romero (5-5, 3.16 ERA)
*For up-to-date Blue Jays coverage, check out The Way of the Jay, run by fellow AerysSports reporter, Amy Swenson.