|June 8: Royals 8, Phillies 4 WP: Scott Elarton (2-1) LP: Freddy Garcia (1-5)|
|June 9: Phillies 4, Royals 0 WP: Jon Lieber (3-4) LP: Gil Meche (3-6)|
|June 10: Royals 17, Phillies 5 WP: Zack Greinke (3-4) LP: Jamie Moyer (5-5)|
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After the pleasant surprise of the midweek sweep at Shea, the Phillies have a chance to gain more ground on their NL East rivals this weekend during a three-game trip to Kansas City, while the Mets visit the loaded Detroit Tigers and the Braves continue their series with the suddenly resurgent Cubs. The Royals are an MLB-worst 9-21 at home, and they're already buried in a very strong AL Central division. For the first time this season, the Phils get to write a DH into the lineup this weekend; we considered some possibilities for Charlie Manuel in this TGP diary yesterday.
Will the Phils capitalize on this latest opportunity? As Marcus Hayes noted this morning, the Phillies have had similar chances against weak-ish AL opponents, and squandered them. Tampa Bay took two of three at Citizens Bank Park last June, though the Phils were already reeling at the time after getting swept at home against the Mets. A more analogous situation came two years ago, when the club followed a 12-1 homestand with two straight losses at Seattle to begin a 4-12 stretch. The winning pitcher in the first game was Gil Meche, who will start for Kansas City Saturday.
If momentum is really only as good as the next game's starter, the Phillies shouldn't be overconfident on Friday: they've got "Five Inning" Freddy Garcia set to go. The big righthander has not fared well against the Royals in his career, with an 8-9 record and 5.66 ERA in 21 starts. In 11 career starts at Kaufman Stadium, Garcia has been even worse: 4-5, with a 6.65 ERA. He'll be opposed by veteran Scott Elarton, whose lifetime numbers against the Phillies are worse still: 1-1, 7.13 ERA in five games (four starts). Jon Lieber faces Meche Saturday, while Jamie Moyer--who does have strong career numbers (14-8, 3.32) against Kansas City--opposes fellow lefty Jorge de la Rosa in the series finale on Sunday.
Managed by Buddy Bell, the Royals boast some good young position talent. Catcher John Buck and OF Mark Teahan, both acquired in the Carlos Beltran trade three years ago, can hit for average and power. Much-hyped rookie 3b Alex Gordon has been a big disappointment thus far (.190/.298/.312), but he's coming off the best game of his young career with a 4-4 performance against the Indians in an 8-3 loss on Thursday. CF David DeJesus is off to a somewhat disappointing start (.256/.332/.378), but has 9 hits in 25 career at-bats against Garcia.
The only Phillie position players with much experience against the Royals are CF Aaron Rowand (.280/.332/.518, with 12 HR in 218 AB) and C Rod Barajas--who's destroyed Kansas City pitching in 49 career at-bats, with 19 hits including 6 home runs for a 1.271 OPS.
Perhaps the visitors will be inspired by what happened the last time a Phillies club came to town, winning Game Five of the 1980 World Series in dramatic fashion with two ninth-inning runs to take control of the series and set the stage for the clinching victory two nights later.