World Series champs continue stretch against subpar opponents trying to improve surprisingly mediocre record at home
The Astros don’t have the best record in baseball, but they’re almost certainly the best team. No one is within 50 runs of their ridiculous plus-161 run differential, and by that same metric, the Royals are the majors’ worst team. Kansas City has been outscored by 143 runs and comes in having lost nine straight games and sporting a 5-21 record against the AL West.
The Astros won two of three against Tampa Bay to begin a nine-game homestand, but before that was a 10-game road trip that saw Houston win ‘em all – including a three-game sweep in Kansas City to wrap things up. None of those games were close yet the Astros rallied from multi-run deficits in two of them, extending the Royals’ misery to a six-game skid that’s gained three more losses after a mid-week visit from the Rangers. Kansas City has scored 38 runs in 18 games this month. Houston has scored 42 in its last seven.
It’s awfully similar to the matchup six days ago – because it’s the same on the hill: Houston’s Dallas Keuchel against Kansas City’s Danny Duffy. It’s been an oddly tough season for Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young winner who finds himself with the highest ERA on what’s been far and away baseball’s best starting staff. Simply put, Keuchel isn’t missing many bats, having watched his swing-and-miss percentage dip from a career-best 27.0 last season to 20.9 in 2018.
He fared just fine last week against the Royals, though, allowing two unearned runs and striking out five over six innings of a 10-2 win. Three Royals have at least 15 career at-bats – including the postseason – against Keuchel, and two of those – Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon – are a combined 4 for 39 with 14 strikeouts.
Duffy had been pitching well since an awful first few months, posting a 2.10 ERA over his four latest starts prior to struggling against the Astros. He gave up seven runs in six innings, the last three coming on a Max Stassi homer in the sixth inning. Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez are a combined 15 for 31 lifetime against Duffy, though Carlos Correa is just 1 for 12.
.215 and .287. Those are the opponent batting averages by right-handers for the Astros – an AL-low – and the Royals – a major-league high. The 2016 Twins are the only team over the past five years that’s been worse against right-handers than this season’s Royals, Only this season’s Cubs and the 2016 World Series winners from the North Side of Chicago have been tougher on righties than Houston in 2018.
…this is a serious mismatch.
Just like it was a week against in Kansas City, this is a serious mismatch. But the Astros have been historically good on the road and the Royals historically bad at home, so perhaps it’s not as lopsided as Vegas would have you believe at Minute Maid Park. But it’s still tough to take Kansas City, even at what will be a great price.