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Series Preview: Rays take on KC Royals

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MLB: APR 13 Angels at Royals Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We saw three wins for the good guys in New York City this weekend, as the Rays extended their regular season domination of the New York Yankees to 13-3 since the beginning of 2020. Now they take their shot at the red hot Kansas City Royals.

The Royals lead the American League Central with a 9-5 record and are one of only two teams (the other is the LA Dodgers) that hasn’t lost a series this year.

Matchups

Monday 8:10 PM: Josh Fleming vs Danny Duffy
Tuesday 8:10 PM: Rich Hill vs Brad Keller
Wednesday 8:10 PM: Michael Wacha vs Jakob Junis

Danny Duffy has had a great start after posting a combined ERA approaching 5.00 with FIP and xFIP to match over the last three years. This year he’s posted a 0.75 ERA/3.35 FIP/4.27 xFIP. He’s found a few more strikeouts to get to a 22.4% rate while keeping his walk rate stable at 8.2%. In his last start he allowed one run in 6.0 innings against the Los Angeles Angels.

Josh Fleming gets to pitch in front of friends and family for the first time in his career. He grew up just on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

Brad Keller has been a rule 5 draft success story so far in his career. He has posted a 3.67 ERA/3.96 FIP/4.59 xFIP through 370.2 innings. His 2021 start hasn’t gone as expected with a 9.58 ERA/6.10 FIP/4.91 xFIP over 10.1 innings. Keller doesn’t strike out many batters (16.7% career strikeout rate) and doesn’t limit walks (9.1% career walk rate). He’s been successful by limiting homers with a 0.63 HR/9 and 8.4% HR/FB rate.

Jakob Junis has been an average starting pitcher putting up a 4.70 ERA/4.69 FIP/4.44 xFIP over 488.0 innings in his major league career. He’s gotten off to a great start in 2021 with a 1.50 ERA/1.35 FIP/2.78 xFIP. His strikeout rate has exploded to 32.6% from 20.9% for his career. He’s limited walks posting a career 6.4% rate that is in line with his 6.5% rate early in the season.

As for the bullpen, this winter the Royals brought back veterans from their World Series team — Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow, and Kyle Zimmer have been the most used relievers early on.

The Royals offense has been surprisingly productive

As a team the Royals have surpassed what had been low expectations with a .244/.316/.391 line and 101 wRC+.

Two of their experienced veterans have gotten off to quick starts. Whit Merrifield is hitting .321/.371/.547 and putting up a 147 wRC+. Salvador Perez has posted a .291/.339/.618 line and 168 wRC+.

Jorge Soler has gotten off to a very slow start especially in the power department with a .167/.327/.286 line and 87 wRC+, but he has been able to get on base.

The biggest off season addition, Carlos Santana. has a mediocre start hitting .261/.320/.413 line and has put up a 107 wRC+.

Their big trade acquisition Andrew Benintendi hasn’t found his contact or power stroke. He’s hitting .216/.286/.275 and putting up a 63 wC+.

Adalberto Mondesi has yet to make his season debut after suffering an oblique strain late in Spring Training.

The Rays look to build on the sweep of the Yankees.

Despite making it look easy versus the Yankees, it is difficult to sweep any team and the Rays need to keep the momentum building against the Royals. A series victory ahead of the off day on Thursday would make for a very successful road trip before taking on the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend. Thursday’s offday will be their last until May 10.