After a vindicating sweep of the Rangers in Arlington, the Astros head north to face the Royals for a four game set.
The Royals are off to a slow start this season with a 24-31 record, tied for last place in the AL Central.
But the Royals are talented and have a core that's been playing together for years. The Astros know they are capable of capitalizing on mistakes *cough* 2015 ALDS *cough*.
Let's look at the matchups:
Game 1: Mike Fiers (2-2, 4.96) v. Ian Kennedy (0-5, 5.12)
Mike Fiers has undoubtedly been a sore spot on the Astros roster, but he's made significant strides in his last few starts. Fiers has quality starts in two of his last three outings, including a win over the Twins last Tuesday in which he tossed six innings and allowed only two runs.
Ian Kennedy has been horrible this season, allowing four or more runs in each of his last four starts. Ironically, the opposition is hitting only .198 against him, the 4th lowest average amongst AL pitchers with a minimum of nine starts. But the hits he's allowed have come in key situations, as opponents are slashing .267/.371/.367 against him with runners in scoring position.
Game 2: David Paulino (0-0, 4.50) v. Jake Junis (1-0, 2.70 ERA)
David Paulino will make his second start of the season, as Joe Musgrove has yet to fully recover from right shoulder soreness. Paulino was average in his first start, allowing two runs in four innings against the Twins. He did display good movement on his changeup, a pitch we rarely saw in his time with the Astros last season.
Jake Junis will also make his second start of the season after being recalled from AAA earlier today. Junis is ranked the 5th overall Royals prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and the righty has been good in AAA this year, posting a 2.34 ERA in seven starts. Junis features a fastball, slider and sinker.
Game 3: Dallas Keuchel (9-0, 1.67) v. Jason Vargas (7-3, 2.08)
Dallas Keuchel is the early candidate for AL Cy Young, with a league-leading 9 wins and 1.67 ERA. His command has been nearly perfect, and the way he's been playing I fully expect another dominant performance.
But if the Cy Young didn't go to Keuchel it would go to Jason Vargas, who has been a pleasant surprise after recovering from Tommy John Surgery that sidelined him last season. Vargas is 7-3 with a 2.08 ERA, the second lowest ERA in baseball (behind Keuchel of course). He's coming off a complete came shutout against the Indians.
Vargas is similar to Keuchel, a finesse lefty who relies on location and ground balls. He throws a two-seamer, changeup, and curveball.
Game 4: Lance McCullers (6-1, 2.71) v. TBA
McCuller's June got off to a rough start after winning Pitcher of the Month in May, as he allowed four runs on six hits in just 4.1 innings Saturday in Arlington. He cruised through the first four innings but melted down in the fifth, resembling the road Lance we've seen over the past few seasons.
The Royals are yet to announce a starter, but it will most likely be Jason Hammel, who has struggled this season going 2-6 with a 5.93 ERA.
Whit Merrifield has been on fire since being recalled from AAA, hitting .307 with 15 RBIs in 41 starts this season. He's currently riding an 18 game hit streak, the longest streak in the majors this season.
Eric Hosmer is turning in another solid season for the Royals, slashing .305/.358/.438 in 54 starts. He's been perfect in the field, committing no errors in 441 attempts.
Perez has provided great offensive production from the catchers spot, leading all American League catchers with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs.
After a down season last year, Alex Gordon is off to another slow start in 2017 batting only .173 in 49 starts. He is yet to hit a home run and has only five extra-base hits, lowest amongst Royal starters.
Alcides Escobar is also off to an incredibly slow start. His batting average (.179), OBP (.204) and SLG (.430) are lowest amongst major league starting shortstops.
Brandon Moss has struggled, hitting only .186 in 37 starts. He's usually relied on for power, but his low batting average and struggles against righties have led to increased at-bats for Salvy Perez at DH in place of Moss.
Should be a fun test against a talented team. Sure we've won ten in a row, but that means nothing. This team is never satisfied.
Let's keep this train rollin.