KANSAS CITY ROYALS (26-30)
at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (30-27)
First pitch: Monday, 8:10 p.m. ET
Line: St. Louis -145, Kansas City +135, Total: 7.5
An home-and-home interleague matchup between the Royals and Cardinals begins Monday night with the first of two games at Busch Stadium.
Kansas City sits at the bottom of the AL Central after going 4-9 over its past 13 games. In that time, the club lost a series to the Angels and Astros, while splitting four games against the Blue Jays most recently. The Royals surprisingly took the first two contests of the weekend series against Toronto, but saw their offense falter over the past two, losing by a combined score of 16-2. They were shut out by AL wins leader Mark Buehrle on Sunday, as their lineup managed just six hits and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Power has been an issue for K.C., which ranks dead last in the league with 24 home runs this season, six behind the next worst team, which happens to be Monday's opponent, St. Louis. The biggest Royals power outage has come from DH Billy Butler and 1B Eric Hosmer, who each have just one long-ball this season. The Cardinals had been trying to sneak up on the Brewers for the NL Central lead, but recent series losses to the Yankees and then San Francisco have hurt them. They went 2-5 over the two series, both of which were played at home, and lost 3-of-4 this past weekend to the Giants. St. Louis managed just 11 runs in the four contests with its worst game coming on Sunday, an 8-0 loss in which it collected just four hits. 2B Matt Carpenter (.291 BA) brings a 13-game hitting streak into this contest, and he is 21-for-56 (.375) with six doubles in that time. Getting the start for the visiting Royals will be 25-year-old RHP Danny Duffy (2-5, 3.57 ERA) who has split time between the rotation and bullpen this season. For the Cardinals, 23-year-old RHP Shelby Miller (6-4, 3.94 ERA) will attempt to recover after earning a loss in his past two outings. Kansas City has gone 13-16 this season on the road and despite St. Louis’ recent struggles at home, the club has still managed to put up a 16-12 record there on the year. The two teams have met 10 times over the past three seasons, with the Cardinals holding a strong 7-3 edge, but are just 2-3 in front of their fans. One advantage that the Royals seem to have is that they are 26-8 (.765) with an on-base percentage of .300 or worse over a 20-game span in the past two seasons. Meanwhile, St. Louis is 73-28 (.723) in home games when playing against a team with a losing record since the start of the 2012 season. As far as injuries are concerned, 3B Danny Valencia (hand) was placed on the 15-day DL this weekend for Kansas City while 1B Matt Adams (calf) also hit the DL this weekend for the Cardinals.
Danny Duffy has pitched 11 games this season with his past five being starts. He is just 1-4 in those outings with a 4.00 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, while allowing 16 hits and 11 runs (10 ER) in his past two games. He also gave up two homers in each of those past two starts and earned a loss in his last time out against the Astros, as he lasted just four frames while giving up six runs (5 ER) on seven hits and five walks with three strikeouts. Duffy has always struggled with control, and while he has improved this year, he is still handing away free passes far too often (4.3 BB/9). His strikeouts have decreased as well, and he has whiffed just 24 batters in his first 35.1 IP (6.1 K/9), a much lower rate than his career rate of 7.5 K/9. Duffy has just one start against the Cardinals, and it came back in 2011 when he went just 3.2 frames while allowing two runs on six hits and one walk with nine strikeouts. SS Jhonny Peralta (3-for-9, 2 doubles) and 2B Mark Ellis (2-for-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI) have hit him hard in limited at-bats, while no other player on the roster has faced him more than twice. The left-hander will run into a few batters that are not producing quite as well this year, though, as OF Matt Holliday (.270 BA) has just three home runs this season and newly-acquired OF Peter Bourjos is hitting just .202. Kansas City’s bullpen has been great this year, going 9-8 with a 3.75 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, and is 15-for-21 (71%) in save chances. Royals relievers have been nearly unhittable on the road with a 2.43 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and only three homers allowed in 81.3 IP. Closer Greg Holland (1.74 ERA, 15 saves) has blown just one save this season while having a solid 30:6 K/BB ratio in his 20.2 innings on the mound.
Shelby Miller was putting on a clinic in winning this season, as he had five straight victories from April 25 to May 17. But then he fell off in a big way, giving up 14 hits and 11 runs over his past two outings (10 IP). He earned a loss in each start, including lasting just five innings against the Yankees in his most recent start, while allowing seven runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out only one batter. The right-hander's strikeout rate has dropped to just 6.7 K/9 this year, and his horrendous 4.7 BB/9 is the worst walk rate in the majors among qualified pitchers. Miller has also allowed nine home runs in his first 61.2 innings in 2014. He has yet to face the Royals in his career, but will not be getting much resistance, as he will be getting plenty of cold bats in this one, with players like DH Billy Butler (.249 BA), C Salvador Perez (.254 BA) and just-recalled 3B Mike Moustakas (.148 BA) all hitting well below what is expected from them. OF Alex Gordon (.271 BA) has been their most consistent bat as he leads the team with 29 RBI and has gone 12-for-37 (.324) over his past 10 games. The Cardinals’ bullpen has underperformed this season, going 4-10 with a 3.81 ERA and 1.22 WHIP while converting 16-of-24 (67%) save opportunities. Trevor Rosenthal (4.10 ERA, 16 saves) already has 35 strikeouts in his 26.1 frames, and is 16-for-18 in save chances.