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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Royals series preview

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We’ll see an old friend this week.

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Former Cub Jorge Soler finally had the year Cubs fans had hoped he’d have in blue pinstripes. Largely, this happened because he was finally healthy for a full season — it was the first time in a six-year career he’d played more than 101 games.

For more on the Royals, here’s Max Rieper, manager of our SB Nation Royals site Royals Review.

The Royals continue to go through a rebuild that has caused them to lose 100+ games in back-to-back seasons, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The Royals have already had two pitchers make their MLB debuts this year with impressive results. Former first-round pick Brady Singer has had great composure in two starts with a mid-90s fastball and a sharp slider with good bite, although he will need to develop his change up more to stick as a top-of-the-rotation guy. Lefty Kris Bubic out of Stanford was not quite as heralded as Singer, but he led all minor leaguers in strikeouts last year and held his own against the White Sox in his first start, with a steady diet of change ups and a low 90s fastball. The Royals have had to turn to minor leaguers because their rotation has been decimated - first by positive COVID-19 tests to Brad Keller and Jakob Junis, then to a lat injury to former Cub Mike Montgomery. Junis returned on Sunday, and Keller is expected to back soon, but the Royals may have to continue to be creative - which may include a bullpen game - until their rotation is back to full strength.

The bullpen posted the fourth-worst ERA in baseball over the past two seasons, but has been much improved this year. The Royals took fliers on veterans Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland, who have each struggled since having Tommy John surgery, but have rebounded this year to look like their old selves. They have meshed those veterans with some exciting young arms like Kyle Zimmer, Tyler Zuber, and Josh Staumont. Ian Kennedy had a career rebirth in the pen as the closer last year, and has been called on to pitch whenever he is needed, including jams in the sixth and seventh inning. New manager Mike Matheny has changed his approach greatly since his days in St. Louis, departing from rigid bullpen roles and instead showing great flexibility and creativity in his reliever management.

As for the lineup, they continue to struggle getting on base with an overly aggressive approach, at one point going 29 consecutive innings without a walk. The Royals have been waiting for Adalberto Mondesi to reach his potential, but he has stumbled out of the gate and looked lost at times with mental lapses on the bases and in the field. Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler have continued to be strong hitters as they were last year, and Salvador Perez has picked up where he left off after missing an entire season following Tommy John surgery, but the club is really missing the bat of Hunter Dozier, who is out with COVID-19. That leaves them with a lot of holes in their lineup, as they try to find a combination that can provide more offense. The club has carried their offensive woes out onto the field, committing four errors in a game on Saturday against the White Sox. Defense, which has long been a strength in Kansas City, has become a real weakness, save for veterans Gold Glovers Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez.

Fun fact

Jorge Soler led the American League in home runs in 2019 with 48. He is the only Royals player ever to hit 40 or more home runs, and until 2019 the Royals were the only MLB franchise without a 40-homer man. (Also, until Mike Moustakas hit 38 homers in 2017, the KC franchise record, 36 by Steve Balboni, had stood since 1985.)

Pitching matchups

Monday: Alec Mills, RHP (1-0, 3.00 ERA, 0.667 WHIP, 5.22 FIP) vs. Danny Duffy, LHP (0-1, 5.79 ERA, 0.750 WHIP, 3.26 FIP)

Tuesday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (1-1, 4.05 ERA, 0.900 WHIP, 2.68 FIP) vs. Brady Singer, RHP (0-0, 3.60 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, 4.85 FIP)

Wednesday: Yu Darvish, RHP (1-1, 2.70 ERA, 0.900 WHIP, 1.25 FIP) vs. TBD

Thursday: Tyler Chatwood, RHP (2-0, 0.71 ERA, 0.789 WHIP, 1.00 FIP) vs. TBD

At the time of this post, the Royals did not have starters listed for Wednesday or Thursday.

Times, locations and TV channels

Monday: 7:15 p.m. CT, Wrigley Field, Marquee Sports Network

Tuesday: 7:15 p.m. CT, Wrigley Field, Marquee Sports Network

Wednesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, Kauffman Stadium, Marquee Sports Network

Thursday: 6:05 p.m. CT, Kauffman Stadium, Fox-TV (regional)

Prediction

The Royals are near the bottom of MLB in runs allowed (25th) and home runs allowed (26th). After splitting their first four games, they’ve lost five of their last six. The Cubs seem to be hitting on all cylinders. Predicting sweeps — I’ve learned my lesson on that. But the Cubs should win three of these four games.

Up next

The Cubs head to St. Louis for a three-game series against the Cardinals that begins Friday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Royals?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    4
    (47 votes)
  • 59%
    3
    (131 votes)
  • 15%
    2
    (35 votes)
  • 0%
    1
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    0
    (4 votes)
219 votes total Vote Now