It’s been a rough season in Kansas City, and it continued to reach new lows last night after being shut out in game one of their series with the Pirates. After a tough night, there is some good news for the Royals, which is that their newfound ace will be on the bump tonight. We’ll preview the game before going over my play for the first five innings.
Johan Oviedo entered last night with an ERA of 4.46, but by the end of the night, that was down to 4.20. That impressive dip to his earned run average resulted from a complete game shutout in which he allowed just two hits and struck out five. The right-handers' 112-pitch shutout stole the show last night in the Pirates’ 5-0 win. Offensively, Pittsburgh picked up 12 hits, and four players drove in the runs, providing Oviedo with all the run support he needed.
Pittsburgh will hand the ball to Luis Ortiz tonight, hoping he can carry the momentum from last night. Ortiz will need to get back on track to do that, as he has been hit around quite a bit over his last three outings. In those three starts, the Pirates right-hander allowed at least four earned runs and failed to throw more than 4.2 innings. This recent stretch has caused Ortiz’s ERA to balloon up to 5.37 in 57 innings.
With Oritz on the mound, it sets up a matchup of a struggling starter against a struggling offense since the Royals lineup has gone missing over their last three games. Not only have they not scored more than two runs in the past three games, but last night, MJ Melendez and Drew Waters were the only players to find the hit column, which means Kansas City has just seven hits in their last 18 innings.
As I mentioned before, though, Kansas City has the right man on the mound to get them back in the win column, and that is Cole Ragans. Since being acquired by the Royals, the lefty has pitched to a 2.08 ERA in 34.7 innings and is fresh off an outing in which he worked six scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts.
The Royals F5 run-line of (-.5) is currently priced at (-110), and I’ll be backing them for my play. Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, the Royals offense was terrible last night, but it’s a new day, and they hold a massive advantage in terms of pitching. A struggling right-handed starter might be what this offense needs to snap out of their three-game cold streak.
Overall, the Royals' numbers against right-handed pitching at home over the past month are still strong. In that span, they are hitting .331 and rank 6th in wRC+ and 5th in wOBA, which puts them in an excellent spot against Ortiz since he is in the 1st percentile in xERA/xwOBA, expected batting average, and expected slugging percentage. Ortiz is also sporting a 5.83 FIP on the road and 5.76 xFIP for the second half of the season.
Cole Ragans is on the other end of the spectrum for all of those numbers, as he is in the 91st percentile in xSLG, 87th percentile in xERA/xwOBA, and 84th percentile in xBA. With a 28.7% strikeout percentage, Ragans is a brutal matchup for a Pirates lineup that is hitting .162 with a .538 OPS against left-handed pitching on the road over the past month.
Kansas City Royals F5 (-.5)(-110)