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Royals look to maintain momentum against reeling Angels

Jul 15, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Zack Greinke (23) pitches to the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Mired in a losing season that has had them occupying the American League Central’s cellar for long stretches, the Kansas City Royals had a much better weekend than their year in general.

They won two of three against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays and will look to ride the momentum Monday night when they host the Los Angeles Angels in the first matchup of a three-game series.

The two fourth-place AL clubs will meet for the second time this season and the first time in Kansas City.

In the three previous games, the Royals took two of three, including a wild, 12-11 affair in 11 innings on June 21.

The Angels, who have lost eight of their past 10 games, salvaged a game the next night in the finale, winning 5-0 behind Shohei Ohtani’s 13 strikeouts over eight innings. He gave up just two hits.

In beating the Rays on Saturday and Sunday by 6-3 and 4-2 margins, respectively, the Royals were good offensively and defensively.

They produced 27 hits in the two victories, and they received a second straight quality start from Kris Bubic (2-6) in Sunday’s triumph.

The team played eight innings Sunday without star shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., who hit his team-best 14th homer Saturday and drove in a run in the first inning and stole a base in the finale. But he left the contest with a hamstring injury while tagging up and advancing to third in the opening frame.

“As of now, it’s a sore, tight hamstring. Nothing other than that,” Witt said. “They said day-to-day, so hopefully I’ll be back in there soon.”

After being routed 8-1 and 7-2 by the Atlanta Braves in the National League East team’s hard charge against the first-place New York Mets, the Angels turned it on early Sunday in a 9-1 victory in Georgia.

Taylor Ward homered in a five-run first inning against Atlanta starter Ian Anderson, and Reid Detmers (3-3) threw five shutout innings before handing the ball to the bullpen.

“Jumping out early, we’ve seen that against us several times lately,” said Angels interim manager Phil Nevin. “It was just nice to see us jump out of the gate like that. They were good, quality at-bats. We jumped on some pitches we saw early in the zone and didn’t miss them against a good pitcher.”

The AL West club’s lineup generated five hits in a row in the big inning. Ward, whose long shot was his 13th of the year, hopes his club can carry that effort to Missouri.

“Hopefully, we can keep this rolling into tomorrow,” the right fielder said. “It was very enjoyable to get out to a lead like that.”

Los Angeles’ Noah Syndergaard (5-7, 4.00 ERA) has won only once in his last seven starts — June 27 against the Chicago White Sox — and has made four career starts against Kansas City.

The right-hander is 2-2 with a 3.55 ERA vs. the Royals, allowing 24 hits while fanning 24 in 25 1/3 innings.

Kansas City will send out its own right-handed power pitcher — 38-year-old Zack Greinke — in an effort to win its third straight game.

Greinke (3-6, 4.64), who will make his 16th start of the year, is 7-5 with a 3.57 ERA in 19 games against the Angels, 18 of them starts.

He has won three of his last five decisions.

–Field Level Media