April 08, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals first basemen Eric Hosmer (35) at bat against the Minnesota Twins during the third inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Royals vs. Blue Jays Series Preview

The Royals begin a three game series against the Toronto Blue Jays tonight at Kauffman Stadium. Here are some notes to keep in mind before the first pitch.

Apr 7, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks (16) runs past Toronto Blue Jays baseman Mark DeRosa (16) and starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) after hitting a home run at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

PITCHING PROBABLES

Friday: Luis Mendoza (0-0, 1.50) vs. J.A. Happ (1-0, 0.00)

Saturday: James Shields (1-1, 3.75) vs. R.A. Dickey (0-2, 8.44)

Sunday: Ervin Santana (1-1, 3.21) vs. Brandon Morrow (0-1, 5.59)

In case the ERA’s didn’t give it away, Blue Jays starting pitching is struggling mightily right now. In eight starts, the Blue Jays rotation has posted a 7.59 ERA in 42.2 innings with a 1.90 WHIP. Dickey is still looking for the feel of his knuckleball leading to six walks in 10.2 innings, Mark Buehrle has allowed more runs than he has pitched innings, and Morrow has allowed nearly two base runners per inning pitched. Happ may be the guy to turn it around for the rotation as he allowed just one hit while striking out six in his first start of the season.

Ultimately: Either the Royals offense or the Blue Jays pitching staff is going to get healthy this series.

BATTING BITS

– The Blue Jays have 12 home runs already this season, but when the ball is not flying out of the yard they are having trouble scoring runs. 19 of Toronto’s 34 runs have been produce through their homers, so keeping the ball in the ballpark will be a huge key for the Royals.

– Jose Reyes is batting .412/.487/.559 with a home run and three RBI from the leadoff position coming into the series.

– Neither one of these teams walk very much. Toronto has a 7.9% walk rate while the Royals are only walking 6.6% of the time. Some of the Royals walk numbers are deflated a little bit because of the amount of strikes the White Sox and Twins throw. Kansas City walked 12 times in Philadelphia so they may have a different approach against a Toronto team who is having trouble throwing strikes.

– Aside from the Blue Jays having out-homered the Royals 12-4 this season, the other major difference between the two offensive squads are the strikeouts. Toronto’s all or nothing approach has led them to strike out in 22.6% of their at-bats this season, the third highest percentage in the American League behind the Astros and the Twins. The Royals meanwhile have struck out very little, just 14.4% of their at-bats. In fact, if you take out the three pitchers who have batted this season, the Royals have struck out just 13.4% of the time they’ve come to the plate.

– Eric Hosmer has seen a huge decrease in the amount of fastballs he is seeing in the early going. Last season 30.5% of the pitches thrown to him were 4-seem fastballs, this year it is down to 19.4%. Teams appear to be trying to jam him inside with 2-seem fastballs and sinkers. Adjusting to the new way pitchers are approaching him may be part of the reason for his slow start in the power department.

MOMENTUM

Toronto has lost the first three series of the season for the first time since 1978.

Kansas City has won six of their last seven games.

PICK TO CLICK

Eric Hosmer.

Blue Jays pitchers are having a lot of control problems early so hitting that inside spot consistently may be a difficult thing from them to execute right now. As a result, Hosmer may see more fastballs for strikes this series which could get him going. This seemed to be the recipe for success in Hosmer’s lone start in Philadelphia.

PREDICTION

The ballpark proves and weather help keep the ball in Kauffman stadium which adds to the Blue Jays woes. Royals win the series 2-1.

Tags: Eric Hosmer Kansas City Royals R.A. Dickey Toronto Blue Jays

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