The Milwaukee Brewers are now in a tie for first place in the NL Central following a four-game sweep of the lowly Miami Marlins and a six-game winning streak.
The soft part of the Brewers’ April schedule continues this week with a quick two-gap pit stop in Kansas City to face the rebuilding Royals. Just a few years removed from a World Series title, the window appears to be closed for KC. Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain left through free agency, Mike Moustakas tried to leave but had to come back when he couldn’t find work anywhere else, and Alex Gordon has been hurt.
It’s been a very slow year for the offense, with only Moustakas (.318/.341/.612, 6 HR, 5 2B), Jorge Soler (.288/.415/.423) and Whit Merrifield (.266/.337/.418) hitting very well at all. Free agent additions Lucas Duda and Jon Jay have struggled in their first 20 or so games, and overall the team has scored a league-worst 68 runs, and their team slugging percentage of .360 ranks 27th. On the pitching side of things, their team ERA of 5.25 also ranks 27th in the league, and their 1.40 WHIP ranks 23rd.
It’s been a bad start for the Royals, but it isn’t quite the worst in franchise history. The infamously bad 2005 Royals -- which really made their run to back-to-back World Series possible -- started 8-25 on their way to going 56-106. This year’s team comes into this quick two-game set having won 2 of their past 3 games to earn a 4-game split against the Tigers and end a 9-game losing streak.
Tuesday - 7:15 p.m. CDT
Zach Davies vs. Ian Kennedy
Wednesday - 7:15 p.m. CDT
Chase Anderson vs. Jason Hammel
Both Kennedy and Hammel have had strong starts to the season without much to show for it as the Royals have gotten off to their 5-15 start.
Kennedy had his first shaky start of the year his last time out, allowing 6 runs (4 earned) off of 8 hits and 3 walks in Toronto. Prior to that, he’d only given up a total of 2 runs over his first three starts. He got off to a good start last season, too, with a 2.30 ERA in 5 April starts before getting crushed for an 11.30 ERA in May. Another nightmare month in August (9.57 ERA in 6 starts) pushed his season-long numbers into ugly territory. Now 33 years old, he’s a long time removed from being the budding front-end starter he appeared to be when the Brewers were facing him in the 2011 NLDS, but he can still be a serviceable back-end starter.
Hammel has also carved out a career in that role. Now in his second year with the Royals, he’s put up a 3.24 ERA in his first 4 starts. Like Kennedy, he’s hoping to bounce back from an ugly 2017 season (he had a 5.29 ERA in 32 starts last year, but his 4.37 FIP makes it look like he was unlucky). After a rough outing in his first start of the year, Hammel has bounced back with three straight strong games -- shutting out Cleveland over 6 innings, holding the Angels to 2 runs over 5.1 innings, and pitching 9 innings against Detroit on Friday but getting a no-decision when the Royals lost in extra innings.
Neither Kennedy nor Hammel have great strikeout stuff, so if the Brewers can keep putting men on base like they did in the Miami series, they should be able to do some damage.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference