The Phillies have a four-game lead in the National League East. Going against the last place team in the American League Central would seem to be a great opportunity to pick up some wins and add to that lead. And going against the Kansas City Royals should conjure all sorts of good memories for fans old enough to remember the Phillies’ first World Series win.
Kansas City Royals
Record: 13-25, Fifth place in American League Central
Phillies vs. Royals: The rivalry
Like every AL Central team, the Phillies and Royals don’t see each other very often. This is only the fifth (regular season) series between them, and the second time the Phillies have ever visited Kansas City. The series has been evenly matched, with both teams sporting a 6-6 record in head-to-head contests.
As you probably know, these teams once played each other in a postseason series. For those of you too young to remember the 1980 World Series, here’s how it ended:
How about the current Royals?
Unlike the 1980 Royals, the 2019 edition seems unlikely to capture the American League pennant. They are in last place in the underwhelming Central, and their 13 wins are tied for fewest in the American League.
Beware the Hunter
After a poor rookie season, Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier has broken out in 2019. With nine home runs, he’s already close to matching his total from last year. His OPS of 1.088 currently ranks fourth in baseball.
The need for speed
The Royals don’t have the most powerful lineup around, but they do have one of the fastest. In Whit Merrifield (2018 American League leader in stolen bases), Billy Hamilton, and Adalberto Mondesi, the Royals have three threats to steal a base every time they get on. It’s unfortunate for them that the Phillies happen to have J.T. Realmuto behind the plate:
Much like the rest of the team, the Royals’ starting pitching is underwhelming
The Royals don’t have an imposing starting rotation, and the Phillies’ offense should be able to do some damage against the trio the Royals have lined up this weekend.
Phillies fans will remember Homer Bailey from his many years on the Reds. I’m not sure why Bailey still has a job considering the last season when he had a positive WAR value was 2014, and things aren’t looking too promising for 2019 either. The only positive for the Royals is that Bailey isn’t costing them much. The Dodgers are paying the majority of his $22 million (!) contract for him to pitch for another team.
Brad Keller had an encouraging rookie season in 2018, but has taken a step back in 2019. His biggest problem has been the high number of walks issued. His 28 free passes is the most in the AL. That seems like a bad matchup against a Phillies lineup that is very willing to take walks.
Jakob Junis will start the finale. In his third season, Junis has yet to establish himself as anything better than a back-of-the-rotation starter. He was roughed up in his most recent start, giving up five runs in 5.1 innings.
Is that Jake Diekman?
The former Phillies reliever has found his way to Kansas City, and is having a solid season. When he was with the Phillies, the left-handed Diekman was always much better against left-handed hitters, but in recent seasons, he’s actually had more success against righties.
Viva the DH
With the games being played in Kansas City, the Phillies will utilize the designated hitter this series. (I suspect Nick Williams will get the nod.) I know many of you are opposed to the DH, and you’re welcome to your opinion, but in this case, it happens to be wrong. I’d much rather have another good hitter in the lineup instead of watching pitchers futilely attempt to hit.
Big weekend for Franco?
When the Phillies faced the Royals in 2016, Maikel Franco had himself an impressive series. In the three games, Franco went 7-11 with a home run and four RBI. He’s been mired in a bit of a slump lately, so this might be a great chance for him to get hot again.
Three active pitchers on the Phillies roster have earned wins in Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. Name them.
The Royals aren’t a good team, but the Phillies always seem to slip up a bit against American League teams. Still, much like 1980, the Phillies will come out ahead in this series after taking two out of three.