The American League Central is loaded in 2020, with three teams among the five best records in the AL, and among the top nine in all of baseball. That leaves the rest of the division — like the Kansas City Royals — playing a lot of opponents who sport winning records.
Through Thursday’s game with the Cleveland Indians, 37 of the Royals’ 45 games (82.2 percent) this season have been played vs. teams who currently have a winning record. They’re 13-24 in those games after defeating the Indians 11-1 Thursday night.
That trend all but comes to and end when the Pittsburgh Pirates come to town for the start of a three-game series beginning Friday. The Pirates are 14-27 and are one of five teams with fewer wins than the Royals, who are 17-28.
The Pirates will send left-hander Steven Brault (0-2, 4.37 ERA) to the mound. He has done much better as a starter than as a reliever. Both of his losses came as a starter, but his ERA is 2.78 and his WHIP is 1.24 as a starter.
In his last outing, Brault allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked only two, but he allowed a lead-off home run in the fifth inning by Nick Castellanos for his final run.
“I just threw it right down the middle,” Brault said of Castellanos’ homer. “The idea was to get low and in, get a roll-over ground ball. But he did a good job of staying behind it, and I put it over the middle. It happens. It’s the big leagues. You make mistakes, sometimes people take advantage.”
The Royals will counter with lefty Kris Bubic (0-5, 4.89 ERA). Bubic is still looking for his first career win, but he had a good chance in his last start. He allowed five runs (two earned) in his most recent start, which was Saturday against the White Sox. An error by Maikel Franco led to three unearned runs in the fifth. Bubic pitched a career-high seven innings, allowing four hits, striking out four and walking one.
“Great outing,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “You take that fifth away, or we make a play that didn’t get made in the fifth, and that’s a completely different ballgame. But still, he gets through that first and really shows no chink in his armor. He just got better as he went.”
The Pirates have played 22 of their 41 games against teams above .500, and they’re 6-16 in those games. After this series and a four-game set with the Reds, the Pirates’ remaining 12 games are against teams with a winning record.
On the other hand, the toughest part of the schedule should be coming to an end for Kansas City. Of their remaining 15 games, only three (a three-game home series against the 19-18 St. Louis Cardinals) are against teams that currently stand above .500.
But don’t think that the “breather” means anything to Matheny.
“We believe any team can beat any other team on any given night,” he said. “We respect our opponents. We’ve been more than a handful for a number of teams with the kind of records you’re talking about.
“I don’t think the record is fully indicative of the kind of baseball a team is capable of playing,” he said.
–Field Level Media