There is no denying the Pirates and Royals have struggled this season, and to make matters worse, they both ran into two red-hot teams over the weekend. After playing teams in the middle of playoff races, Pittsburgh and Kansas City will now meet for a series of their own, and we’ll preview the opening game before going over my play on the total.
No one in the league wants to play the Mariners right now since they have been on an absolute tear, but the Royals didn’t have a choice this past weekend. Kansas City’s pitching staff allowed 22 runs in the first two games of the series but did manage to keep the team in the game yesterday. Behind starter Alec Marsh and the bullpen, the Royals held Seattle to three runs on six hits yesterday, but just as they got back on track, Kansas City’s offense went missing.
At the risk of being shutout, the Royals would get a two-run home run from Nelson Velazquez in the 8th inning, but that was all the offense the team would muster up in their 3-2 loss. Now back in their home ballpark after nine games on the road, the Royals will open tonight’s series with Zack Greinke on the mound. The veteran was used in a long relief role in his most recent outing, and it turned out to be his best outing in a while, as he worked four innings and allowed just two hits with five strikeouts.
Grienke will take on a Pirates lineup tonight that, much like Kansas City’s, went missing yesterday. In their 10-1 loss yesterday, which gave them their third loss in four days to the Cubs, Pittsburgh registered just four hits in the game while also striking out 12 times. A Ke’Bryan Hayes RBI ground out in the first inning was the first and last time the Pirates would cross home plate in the contest.
With yesterday’s loss behind them, the Pirates will hand the ball to Johan Oviedo for his 27th start of the year. After allowing ten earned runs in nine innings, the right-hander bounced back in his most recent start by allowing just one earned run in five innings, resulting in his 7th win.
The total for this game is currently set at nine, and I’ll be taking the over for my play. Kansas City has produced offensively at a high level when playing at home as of late, and neither starter gives their team an advantage on the mound. Aside from the starters being unable to put up good outings consistently, both teams' bullpens rank in the top 12 in xFIP over the past month.
Since July 28th, the Royals offense is hitting .345 and ranks 5th in wRC+, 4th in OPS, and 3rd for wOBA against right-handed pitching at home. Kansas City is also 8th in hard-hit percentage in the same split, which makes Johan Oviedo a good matchup for them since he is in the 44th percentile in xBA and 35th percentile in xERA/xwOBA. The Pirates right-hander is also pitching to a 4.69 FIP on the road.
The Pirates offense is in the middle of the pack statistically when facing right-handed pitching on the road over the past month, as they rank 14th in OPS and wRC+. While that doesn’t jump off the page, they still should be able to find success against Zack Greinke since he is in the 15th percentile in xERA/xwOBA, 5th percentile in xBA, and has a 4.53 xFIP at home.