The Orioles continue their 7 game road trip Tuesday, travelling to Kansas City for a 3 game series. The Orioles won three out of four in Chicago against the slumping White Sox, scoring 24 runs in the series. They struggled in game four with runners in scoring position, but nonetheless certainly established momentum that hopefully will carry over into Kansas City.
After starting 10-4, the rebuilding Royals hit a rough patch but have recovered of late, sweeping division rival Minnesota over the weekend to move above .500 at 15-13. Offensively, a reborn Jeff “Frenchy” Francoeur has led the way, batting an impressive .308 with 6 home runs and 21 RBI. Joining Francoeur is the former 2nd overall pick in 2005, left fielder Alex Gordon. After a series of disappointing years in the majors, Gordon is starting to look like the top player the Royals thought he would develop into. He had a 19 game hit streak snapped on April 28 but is still producing in a big way a little more than a month into the 2011 season, hitting at a .339 clip with 13 doubles.
Game 1: Tuesday, May 3rd at 8:10 pm – RHP Brad Bergesen vs. LHP Jeff Francis
The Orioles are looking for a repeat performance from Brad Bergesen’s last start when he went 6 innings, only allowing 2 runs. It was a tough luck loss for Bergesen, but for the first time this season he showed encouraging signs in a start.
Royals starter Jeff Francis, who is looking to turn around a series of increasingly bad outings will counter him and get his first win in 2011. He only lasted 3 innings in his last start against the Tigers, surrendering 10 hits and 5 earned runs in the process.
Watch for the new bats in the O’s lineup to have an impact in this game: 1B Derrek Lee has 7 hits in 12 career at bats vs. Francis, including a homerun. 3B Mark Reynolds has also hit Francis hard, racking up 9 hits in 22 at bats.
Game 2: Wednesday, May 4th at 8:10 pm – RHP Jake Arrieta vs. RHP Kyle Davies
Jake Arrieta takes the mound in game two for the Orioles. He kicked off the opening game in the White Sox series and pitched fairly well, but left after 5 innings due to hip soreness. Although he said he doesn’t expect it to be an issue moving forward, it certainly is worth keeping an eye on.
The Royals will send out Kyle Davies who will look to follow the same game plan as game one pitcher Jeff Francis: put a halt to a miserable start to 2011 and turn his numbers around. The Indians rocked him in his last start, knocking him out of the game after 3.1 innings. He allowed 8 earned runs on 9 hits, including 4 home runs.
Game 3: Thursday, May 5th at 8:10 pm – RHP Chris Tillman vs. LHP Bruce Chen
Like Arrieta, Chris Tillman pitched well in the White Sox series earning his first win in 2011 after 5 innings of 1 run baseball in game 2. He’s looking to build some consistency in his outings on the year, and will need to do a better job of pounding the strike zone: in his last start only 48 of his 88 pitches were for strikes.
Former Oriole Bruce Chen counters Tillman in game 3, and the journeyman starter still is finding success with his 10th big league team. He leads the team in wins with 3 and starters ERA at 4.04.
Although the Royals have had a surprising start to the season, the Orioles bats showed a lot of promise in the White Sox series and with the continued production they’ve gotten from their starters of late this should be a winnable road series for the Birds.
By the numbers:
The Royals won the season series last year against the O’s 4 games to 2. However the Orioles have the edge over the Royals over the past 5 seasons compiling a 23-12 record against them.
The Royals are 12-5 at home this season. The Orioles are 6-6 on the road.
Orioles relievers have been rocked this year, currently sporting a 5.34 ERA. However, Royals starters have been almost as bad, compiling a 5.11 ERA to date.