The Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics hope to build on impressive road wins that ended losing streaks when they open a three-game series Friday night in Oakland.
The Royals figure to be the better rested of the two teams, having completed a three-game set across the San Francisco Bay against the Giants on Wednesday afternoon. They had Thursday off.
The A’s, meanwhile, not only played Wednesday night at Boston, but they were in action Thursday afternoon against the Red Sox before flying back to Oakland.
The highlight of the Royals’ series in San Francisco was the introduction of what could be their infield of the future when Whit Merrifield started at second base, Bobby Witt Jr. at shortstop and Nicky Lopez at third for the first time on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Witt had two hits and Merrifield contributed a tie-breaking sacrifice fly in the eighth inning as Kansas City rebounded from consecutive losses to the Giants to take a 3-2 victory. The Royals ended a four-game skid.
Kansas City manager Mike Matheny was proud of the way his club scratched out a much-needed win over a quality team.
“Textbook baseball,” he said. “Beautiful to watch.”
Merrifield (6-for-13) and Lopez (2-for-5) have enjoyed career success against right-hander Frankie Montas, Oakland’s scheduled starter in the series opener. Montas (3-6, 3.40 ERA) has never faced Witt.
The A’s ace is coming off a 10-5 road win over the Cleveland Guardians on Saturday, when he allowed a season-high-tying five runs in six innings. He benefited from an outburst by the Oakland offense, a rarity this season for the 29-year-old, who had seen his teammates score a total of 30 runs in his previous 12 starts.
Montas owns a 2-1 record and a 3.08 ERA in five career games (four starts) against the Royals. He is 21-14 lifetime when facing teams under .500.
During the Royals’ off day on Thursday, the team and Lopez’s representative were involved in an arbitration hearing. Lopez, 27, is asking for a $2.9 million salary for this season, while the club is offering $2.55 million.
A decision is expected before the start of play Friday.
The Royals are expected to send struggling left-hander Daniel Lynch (2-6, 5.50) to the mound for the series opener.
The 25-year-old has gone 0-5 with a 6.39 ERA in his past eight starts after beginning his second season 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA. He was particularly ineffective in his past three outings against the Cleveland Guardians, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, losing all three while allowing 16 runs on 23 hits in 15 innings.
Lynch faced the A’s once last season in a 7-2 home loss, when he was pulled with no outs in the third inning because of tightness in his left calf. He was eventually charged with the loss and three runs (one earned) in two-plus innings despite leaving with a 2-1 lead and the bases loaded.
He will face an Oakland team that took its cross-country flight home after a 4-3 win at Boston. The A’s ended a three-game losing streak while concluding a 2-7 trip.
“Earlier in the day, I got a question about this team’s fight,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said after the win. “If they didn’t show up and fight today, I don’t know what they did. Long road trip, obviously, not a successful one.”
–Field Level Media