May 13, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Kansas City Royals starter Luis Mendoza delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Kansas City Royals vs. Oakland Athletics

May 15, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35), second baseman Elliot Johnson (23) and left fielder Alex Gordon (4) celebrate the Royal

The Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics begin a three-game series today in Oakland. Here are some things you need to know about the A’s and the Royals heading into the series.

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Friday: James Shields (2-3, 2.48 ERA) vs. Jarrod Parker (2-5, 6.86 ERA)
Saturday: Ervin Santana (3-2, 2.79 ERA) vs. Tommy Milone (3-5, 3.71 ERA)
Sunday: Luis Mendoza (1-2, 6.00 ERA) vs. A.J. Griffin (4-3, 3.48 ERA)

What has happened to Jarrod Parker? A rookie wonder last year (finished 5th in the AL Rookie of the Year voting), Parker has been nothing like what he was in 2012 by walking almost two more batters per nine innings and giving up hits at an alarming rate. Some will point to his innings total last year of 181 1/3 (plus another 20 2/3 in the minors and another 12 2/3 in the playoffs) as a reasoning for his decline this season. The 214 2/3 innings pitch last year was 84 2/3 more than he had pitched in any professional season which may have taxed his arm a little too much. His velocity suggest that is not the case has he’s maintained what what he was throwing in 2012 to 2013, but it is hard to not see the leap in innings and not think there is some kind of correlation there.

Luis Mendoza continues his case to remain in the rotation on Sunday as he’ll go for his third straight start of three earned runs or fewer. Mendoza has had an odd start to the season that began with playing with team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic and then not pitching for nearly a month due to weather and scheduling oddities in April. From April 7 to April 30 Mendoza threw just eight innings and didn’t start his third game of the season until May 1, a three week layoff from his second start of the season April 12.

And from April 12 to May 8 Mendoza was a nightmare, going 0-2 with a 8.00 ERA in 18 innings pitched.  Monday, however, brought about a ray of hope as he threw a quality start against the Angles and did not walk a single batter. He’s going to have to have more starts consistently like the one he had on Monday if he wants to stay in the rotation once Danny Duffy returns in late June or early July.

BATTING BITS

May 1, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics first baseman Nate Freiman (7) hits a RBI-double scoring third baseman Josh Donaldson (20, not pictured) against the Los Angeles Angels during the third inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

- Oakland has scored the second most runs in the American League and they are doing it by … well, I don’t know. Oakland is third from last in the AL in home runs hit, league average in OBP, and have a worse team slugging percentage than the Royals. Yes, Oakland has a worse slugging percentage than the Royals.

- So far in May, the Athletics are batting .217/.296/.346 and have struck out in 23.85% of their plate appearances.

- Just go ahead and walk Josh Donaldson. He’s batting .373/.459/.614 with three home runs and 11 doubles in his last 23 games. The rest of the team is batting .213 in that span.

- With Jarrod Dyson hurt that likely means more Jeff Francoeurin the starting lineup. Frenchy is batting .118 (four-for-34)/.167/.147 in May and .221/.258/.311 for the season. More fun with Frenchy, he is batting .233/.282/.366 since the beginning of 2012. His 17 home runs in his last 731 plate appearances are fewer than the 20 he hit in 2011.

May 15, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson (1) walks off the field after he was injured trying to catch Los Angeles Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo (not pictured) homer in the eighth inning at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

- Chris Getz was batting .300 with a .825 OPS on April 16. Since then he is batting .093/.152/.093 (.245 OPS).  At this time I’d like to remind you that on May 5 Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura intentionally walked Chris Getz with two outs in the 10th inning of a 5-5 game. Chicago lost (obviously). Getz hasn’t been on base since.

- In games the Royals have won the team totaled 122 runs, bat .312, have a .366 OBP and walk in 7.3% of their plate appearances. In losses the Royals have scored 44 runs, bat .210, have a .254 OBP and walk in 4.9% of their plate appearances. Make of this what you will.

MOMENTUM

Kansas City has lost seven of their last 10 but are coming off a series win over the Angels where they scored 22 runs in three games. The Royals are 13-3 when they score 4 or more runs and 7-14 when they score 3 or fewer. This symbolizes how inconsistent the offense has been as well as how important getting to four runs in a game can be with the way the Royals starting pitching is going. So while the 22 runs in Anaheim is nice to see, it would been even better to see an offense that is consistently putting up four runs per game.

Oakland isn’t doing so hot either. They’ve dipped two games under .500, are 7.5 games behind the division leading Texas Rangers, and are 4-10 in the month of May. What has been most surprising about this team has been the starting pitching staff. Just two starters – A.J. Griffin and Tommy Milone – are pitching above league average and the starting staff has a collective ERA of 5.09. Throw in injuries to Josh Reddick, Scott Sizemore, Brett Anderson, and Chris Young and you can see why May hasn’t been a kind month to the Athletics.

PICK TO CLICK

Luis Mendoza.

This will be Mendoza’s fourth start in a row with consistent rest and he’s gotten better in each one. With the Oakland offense struggling and Mendoza needing to prove he belongs in the rotation long-term, Sunday would be an excellent time for him to break through.

PREDICTION

Going into the road trip I felt the Royals needed to win one of either the Angels or Athletics series, avoid getting swept, and win the Houston Astros series. After winning the Angels series whatever happens here is gravy to me so long as Kansas City doesn’t get swept. But because of the pitching matchups and the current state of the Athletics offense, it would be an extreme disappointment if the Royals lost this series and a disaster if they were swept. This is a series the Royals should win.

Tags: Chris Getz Jarrod Parker Jeff Francoeur Josh Donaldson Kansas City Royals Luis Mendoza Oakland Athletics

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