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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Royals series preview

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A weekend visit from an AL Central opponent.

Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Royals had their moments this year; they were in first place in the AL Central most of April. Then, like the 2021 Cubs, they faded into the lower reaches of their division.

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

The Royals have simply been a confounding team this year, looking like a legit playoff contender in April, only for them to go into freefall in May and June. They have righted the ship lately, playing over .500 since the All-Star break, and their better play seems to stem from better starting pitching. Their rotation is now younger and better, with a six-man rotation that includes two rookies who have been brilliant lately - Carlos Hernandez and Daniel Lynch. They join second-year pitchers Brady Singer, who is still trying to develop a change up as a third pitch, and Kris Bubic, who has begun to throw his curve more with good effect. Rounding out the rotation is Brad Keller, who had a terrible start to the season, and veteran Mike Minor.

The bullpen has some interesting pieces in hard-throwing Josh Staumont, Jake Brentz, and Scott Barlow. But they also have a trio of over 35-year old pitchers in Ervin Santana, Greg Holland and former Cub Wade Davis. Despite pitching in mostly low-leverage situations, those three have combined for an ERA over five and a half. Manager Mike Matheny has done a pretty good job handling the bullpen, going with situational matchups rather than adhering to strict bullpen roles, but they still rank near the bottom of the league in bullpen ERA overall.

The offense has been pretty hot and cold, but mostly chilly overall. They were counting on Hunter Dozier emerging as one of the better hitters in baseball, committing to a long-term deal with him before the season, but he has been one of the worst players in baseball. He attributes it to a thumb injury at the start of the year, and he has begun to hit better recently, but not enough to overcome an awful start. Salvador Perez continues to rake as one of the best bad-ball hitters in recent history. The usually dependable Whit Merrifield has really slumped since being named an All-Star, and could perhaps benefit from a day off. Nicky Lopez has emerged as one of their best players, providing great defense and on-base skills despite the absence of any kind of power. The Royals really need to string together hits and move runners, because they are dead last in the league in home runs.

Fun fact

The Cubs are 17-11 all-time vs. the Royals, 10-4 at Wrigley Field. Since May 21, 2015 the Cubs are 7-2 vs. Kansas City.

Probable pitching matchups

Friday: Zach Davies, RHP (6-9, 5.00 ERA, 1.533 WHIP, 5.05 FIP) vs. Brad Keller, RHP (7-12, 5.62 ERA, 1.686 WHIP, 4.67 FIP)

Saturday: TBD vs. Kris Bubic, LHP (3-6, 5.09 ERA, 1.535 WHIP, 6.03 FIP)

Sunday: Alec Mills, RHP (5-5, 4.19 ERA, 1.409 WHIP, 4.17 FIP) vs. Carlos Hernandez, RHP (3-1, 4.33 ERA, 1.346 WHIP, 4.29 FIP)

“TBD” on Saturday appears likely to be Keegan Thompson. I know I’ve said that previously, but this time Thompson’s more stretched out, plus lined up rotation-wise. Nothing’s been announced as of the time of this post.

Times & TV channels

Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network, MLB Network (outside Cubs and Royals market territories)

Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Sunday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Prediction

If this Cubs team can win two of three from the Reds on the road, they should be able to do the same to the Royals at home, especially since the Royals are 20-37 away from Kansas City this year.

Up next

The Cubs host the Rockies at Wrigley Field in a three-game series beginning Monday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Royals?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    3
    (16 votes)
  • 32%
    2
    (57 votes)
  • 43%
    1
    (76 votes)
  • 15%
    0
    (27 votes)
176 votes total Vote Now