Opposite dugout: Royals look like O’s chief rival for top draft pick

RoyalsLogo.jpgManager: Ned Yost (9th season)

Record: 42-91

Last 10 games: 4-6

Who to watch: 2B Whit Merrifield (.307, 28 SB) C Salvador Pérez (23 HR, 65 RBIs), DH Ryan O’Hearn (.554 slugging), RHP Brad Keller (6-5, 3.33 ERA), RHP Wily Peralta (8 saves),

Season series vs. Orioles: 1-2

Pitching probables:

Aug. 31: RHP Andrew Cashner (4-12) vs. RHP Brad Keller (6-5)
Sept. 1: RHP Dylan Bundy (7-13) vs. RHP Heath Fillmyer (2-1)
Sept. 2: RHP David Hess (3-8) vs. RHP Jorge López (0-4)

Inside the Royals:

The cynics will say that the loser of this series will really be the winner. With the Orioles and Royals burdened by the two worst records in the majors, the only mystery left in their respective seasons would seem to reside in the question of which of the two teams will get first pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft. The Royals bring up the rear in the American League for hits, runs and RBIs, and hit just .231 with runners in scoring position, ahead of only the Orioles. The Royals haven’t gone to the lengths the Orioles have in terms of salary-shedding trades this year, but they did deal closer Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals and the third baseman who was key to their 2015 playoff run and World Series title, Mike Moustakas, to the Brewers.

One of the youngsters getting a longer look these days is 23-year-old middle infielder Adalberto Mondesi, the son of longtime big league outfielder Raúl Mondesi. The Royals signed the younger Mondesi as an amateur free agent at 16. He’s been called up to the bigs for parts of three seasons and has demonstrated his ability to steal bases. Summoned this year in late July, he’s done appreciably better at the plate. Designated hitter/first baseman Ryan O’Hearn, 25, made an impression in his first major league game July 31, hitting a two-run homer to help power the Royals past the White Sox. O’Hearn has gone deep six times in his first 19 games with the Royals. Three-time Gold Glove catcher Salvador Pérez made his sixth straight All-Star team this year. His slash line isn’t up to his usual standard, but his RBI and home run totals are consistent with his best years. Since the team dealt Jon Jay to the Diamondbacks in June, second baseman Whit Merrifield is the only one on the Royal roster hitting .300, and he’s hit safely in 16 of his last 17 games. Orioles pitchers and catchers will need to watch him when he gets on base, too. Merrifield is tied for second in the American League in stolen bases.

With two-fifths of their original rotation serving lengthy terms on the disabled list, the Royals have had to put some understudies in their starting five. Rookie hurlers will start all three games for Kansas City in this series. Brad Keller will be on the mound tonight. He spent the first two months of the season working out of the Royals bullpen, mostly in the seventh or eighth inning. Keller’s last relief appearance resulted in a blown save May 26. He’s taken his share of lumps in his 15 appearances since joining the starting rotation, but he has managed six quality starts and kept his ERA very respectable. He’s not surrendered more than two runs in any of his last three starts. Heath Fillmyer got his first taste of big league action in a mop-up role as the Astros blew out the Royals on June 24. Fillmyer makes his ninth start tomorrow, coming off a win over the Indians in which he allowed one run on just three hits over six innings. Jorge López starts Sunday’s series finale. His rookie status remains intact through the rest of this season, but he did make two appearances with the Brewers in 2015 and another in 2017. He’s taken the loss in each of his three starts for the Royals so far, but one of them was of the hard-luck variety. He gave up just one run to the Rays over five innings Aug. 20, the only run scored by either team in the game. The Indians clobbered López over four innings for five runs on five hits and three walks on Aug. 26.

The Royals called up right-hander Wily Peralta from Triple-A Omaha on June 17. The next day, they traded closer Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals, and Peralta’s had the job since. His 24 appearances have not been without a few rough patches, but he’s logged eight saves without blowing any save opportunities, and has picked up a win and a hold along the way.

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