Opposite Dugout: After early season slump, Royals hope to keep momentum going

RoyalsLogo.jpgManager: Ned Yost (9th season)

Record: 11-23

Last 10 games: 6-4

Who to watch: OF Jorge Soler (.308 with 4 HR, 12 RBIs), LF Alex Gordon (.288 with 2 HR, 5 RBIs), LHP Ian Kennedy (1-3, 2.92 ERA), RHP Kelvin Herrera (1-0, 0.71 ERA, 7 saves)

Season series vs. Orioles: First meeting (3-3 in 2017)

Pitching probables:

May 8: LHP Danny Duffy (0-4) vs. RHP Dylan Bundy (1-4), 7:05 p.m., MASN
May 9: LHP Eric Skoglund (1-2) vs. RHP Andrew Cashner (1-4), 7:05 p.m., MASN
May 10: RHP Ian Kennedy (1-3) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (2-2), 7:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Royals:

The Royals start their six-game road trip at Camden Yards today, fresh off their first series win of the season, against the Tigers. This year hasn’t gone exactly how the Royals planned during spring training, but their offense and bullpen continue to show signs of life, especially after their most recent homestand, so there may be hope yet for this rebuilding team. This is the first and only time the Royals and Orioles will face off in Baltimore this season. In 2017, the Royals completed a three-game sweep in their first meetup of the year, May 12-14, and the O’s answered back with their own sweep July 31-Aug. 2.

The Royals are finally getting the Jorge Soler they dealt for at the 2016 Winter Meetings. In his inaugural season with the team in 2017, he batted .144 with a .245 on-base percentage and .258 slugging percentage in 110 plate appearances. Many were worried those woes would continue this year when he started off with a 0-for-11 skid, but since then there’s a been a surge in Soler power. The outfielder is currently batting .344 and has reached base safely in 27 of 30 games, including 20 of his last 21. This weekend against the Tigers, he snapped his career-high on-base streak at 19 games (hitting .353 with 12 extra-base hits and 11 RBIs), which was the longest active streak in the American League and the second-longest in the American League this season (behind the Yankees’ Aaron Judge). He also snapped his career-high-tying 10-game hit streak. Overall, he’s slashing a team-leading .308/.425/.510, and his 20 walks rank tied for sixth in the league. Is Alex Gordon back to his old self? Well, he seems to be looking like it after coming back from the disabled list (left hip labral tear) on April 24. Through April 8, Gordon had posted a.174/.208/.217 slash line in 24 plate appearances. But since his return, he’s had six multi-hit games (he had 16 total in 2017) and improved to .372/.426/.558 with two home runs and three doubles. On May 5, Gordon snapped the 15-game on-base streak he started April 6, during which he hit .340 with two home runs, two doubles and five RBIs.

Opening day starter Danny Duffy, now in his eighth year with the Royals, is starting off the series looking for his first win of the season. The frustrated left-hander is 0-4 with a 5.63 ERA over seven starts and is hopeful that he’ll find his stride soon. In his last start against the Red Sox, he went 6 2/3 innings, giving up 10 hits and five runs with one walk and six strikeouts. In nine career games (seven starts) against the Orioles, Duffy is 2-2 with a 2.29 ERA. Wednesday’s starter, Eric Skoglund, has also been struggling with command this season. With a 1-2 record and 6.84 ERA in five starts, the lefty has not been able to go more than five innings in four of those five starts. This will be his first career outing against the Orioles. Since joining the Royals in 2016, Ian Kennedy has held opponents to a .214 average with runners in scoring position, and a .119 average this season. He is 1-3 with a 2.92 ERA in seven starts this year and is looking for his first career win against the Birds as he closes out the series in Baltimore.

Kelvin Herrera secured his seventh save of the season after allowing just one hit in a scoreless ninth inning on Sunday against the Tigers. Another Royal who seems to be rebounding from a disappointing 2017, Herrera has not allowed a walk in 13 2/3 innings of work and is 7-for-8 in save opportunities.

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