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Series Preview 5/21-23: Royals vs. Cardinals

Ah, the I-70 series..

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Kansas City Royals v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

An inner-state rivalry will be renewed this week, as the Kansas City Royals have traveled east to St. Louis for a three-game series with the Cardinals. The Royals have dropped seven of their last eight games and enter the day 14-32; the Cardinals are 25-19 after their recent four-game split.

To commemorate the popular series, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum introduced a ‘Show-Me Series’ bobblehead, featuring the team’s mascots - Fredbird and Slugerrr. For more information and to purchase one for your collection, visit BobbleheadHall.com.

In Monday’s series opener, Miles Mikolas will face Ian Kennedy at 7:15 PM Central time. Mikolas has been St. Louis’s most consistent starter, maintaining a 2.63 ERA across 51 13 innings in eight starts. With five walks, Mikolas has the fewest total in the National League among qualified starters and the second fewest in the game behind (drum roll..) Bartolo Colon of the Rangers! None of the current Royals have faced Mikolas in the past.

Kennedy has a 4.46 FIP in nine starts for the Royals this season. In his third year as a member of Kansas City’s pitching staff, Kennedy has lowered his home run rate from 1.99 in 154 innings in 2017 to 1.53 in 47 frames this year. The Cardinals have a pretty long history facing Kennedy. Dexter Fowler is 8-for-32 with a double and two triples, and Matt Carpenter is 4-for-16 with a pair of doubles and a homer.

Luke Weaver will square off against Jason Hammel in Tuesday’s game, a 7:15 PM start. Weaver took a tough-luck loss in his last start, one where he stymied the Phillies across seven innings of one-run ball. It was Weaver’s third quality start of the season and helped lower his FIP to 3.33. The only current Royal with experience facing Weaver is former Cardinal Jon Jay. Weaver is on top in the small-sample-size battle, as Jay is hitless in two at-bats with a strikeout.

Hammel is in his second year in Kansas City after pitching for the Cubs across the 2014, ‘15, and ‘16 seasons. In nine games and starts in 2018, Hammel has a 1.47 WHIP in 53 innings. Batters are hitting .288 facing Hammel, who is battling a career-high, high-contact rate of 44.2 percent. Hammel is no stranger to the Cardinals, a team with collectively little success facing the right-hander. Carpenter has just three hits in 27 at-bats with 11 strikeouts, and Jedd Gyorko is just 1-for-8. Yadier Molina is probably especially disappointed to be missing this game, as he batting .385 (10-for-26) with four doubles and a triple (Yes, one of his seven career triples) facing Hammel.

Wednesday’s series finale will feature a matchup between Michael Wacha and Jakob Junis in a matinee that will begin around 12:15 PM. Wacha has a 3.08 in nine starts for the Cardinals, holding opponents to a .238 batting average with 44 strikeouts. Four of Wacha’s starts have been quality, perhaps a result of his low extra-base hit rates. Wacha has a 0.54 HR/9, down from 0.92 last season. Of 44 hits he has surrendered, seven have been doubles and three have been long balls. Former Cub Jorge Soler will look to reverse the trend facing Wacha, who Soler is 4-for-7 against with a pair of homers.

The 25-year-old Junis leads the Royals in several pitching categories, with a 3.51 ERA, 48 strikeouts, a 1.08 WHIP, and a .228 BAA. Junis has six starts with at least five strikeouts and three with seven or more. He will be facing a a Cardinals lineup with a 22.7 strikeout percentage, the eighth highest in the National League. Junis was born in Sterling, Illinois, a town about four hours north of St. Louis near Davenport, Iowa.