The suddenly hot Kansas City Royals have won their last four games, all against teams currently in first place in their respective divisions.
This season has not been an easy road as the Royals’ first 17 games were against teams that owned records of .500 or better, entering play Monday. On Tuesday, they’ll get their first sub-.500 opponent when they visit Great American Ball Park to take on the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of a two-game series.
Their four-game winning streak began against the Chicago Cubs, who entered play Monday with the best record in the majors. The last three wins have come against the Minnesota Twins, who had the best record in the American League until they faced the Royals.
Kansas City seems to be getting healthy at the right time as two pitchers who were sidelined due to COVID-19 are finding their stride.
Projected ace Brad Keller made his 2020 debut with five shutout innings in the victory over the Cubs after missing the start of the season. He joined fellow starter Jakob Junis in the rotation, as Junis made his first start the previous weekend against the White Sox and took a no-decision against the Twins.
The Royals, who struggled offensively in the start of the season, welcomed back right fielder/utilityman Hunter Dozier on Sunday and Dozier drove in two runners in his first at-bat. Unlike Keller and Junis, Dozier had significant symptoms after he was diagnosed prior to the club’s last exhibition game.
“Since I had all the symptoms, I wasn’t allowed to do anything until I started feeling better,” Dozier said before Sunday’s game. “I didn’t do any physical activity for a little over a week. Then when I started feeling better, I was able to start doing some body weight workouts, but those were still tough. I had shortness of breath, so it was tough for me to get through a workout. It got a little better every day. I was able to push myself a little bit more.
“I’m feeling good. I’m ready to get back. I know it’s definitely different up here, but the swing feels good. Timing felt really good (Saturday). (It) was probably my best day timing-wise. I know it’s going to be a process. I’m glad to be back. I’m glad to be feeling healthy. I’m ready to get going.”
The Royals will send rookie Kris Bubic to the mound in Cincinnati. He’s lost both, but he has pitched well in his two major league starts, compiling a 3.60 ERA. He has nine strikeouts while allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits in 10 innings.
The Reds are under .500, but they’re a half-game out of second place in the National League Central and the guaranteed playoff spot.
They’ll send Luis Castillo (0-2, 4.76 ERA) to the mound looking for his first win of the season, after winning 15 games in 2019. All 81 of his MLB appearances have been starts, and he owns a career 3.72 ERA. Only one position player who has started a game for the Royals (Maikel Franco, 1-for-6) has ever faced Castillo.
The Reds will be without former Royals All-Star Mike Moustakas, as the second baseman was placed on the 10-day injured list with a bruised left quad Sunday.
“It’s a little bit unknown,” Reds manager David Bell said last week. “It started bothering him (Monday) night, and then he did everything he needed to do to get into the lineup (Tuesday), got treatment on it and everything. He thought everything was good to go, and as the game went on, it continued to bother him.”
Moustakas is batting .238 with two home runs and six RBIs in seven games. Nick Castellanos is off to a strong start with team-highs of seven homers and 16 RBIs. He is batting .293 in 16 games.
–Field Level Media