On June 5, the Astros (50-27) were the scuffling team, falling two games behind the Seattle Mariners in the American League West with a 7-1 loss, their seventh setback over 10 games. The entered this weekend 3 1/2 games ahead of the Mariners and maintained that lead Friday when Seattle lost at Boston 14-10.
Midseason standings are fluid, and it’s far too early to get enthralled by scoreboard watching.
“I think I pay attention to our team,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I appreciate the stress that comes with whether you’re a game up or a game back or five games up or five games back. I really think we’re chasing ourselves. I think we need to play our best baseball and we’ll sort out the standings as it gets towards the later end of the season.
“I’m aware of it because I’m a baseball enthusiast; I watch the scores all the time. It’s what I do. I’m not emotionally drained when other teams go on win streaks and I’m not emotionally charged by a couple losses. I just want our team to play well.”
Right-hander Lance McCullers (8-3, 3.77 ERA) gets the start in the middle game of the series for Houston. He is 1-0 with a 2.33 ERA over four career starts against the Royals, and he recorded a no-decision in his previous outing against them after allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings in a 7-4 Astros victory on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals will hand the ball to right-hander Ian Kennedy (1-7, 5.31 ERA) on Saturday. Kennedy is winless over his last 13 starts, one behind Athletics right-hander Chris Bassitt for the longest active streak in the majors. He is 0-7 with a 6.12 ERA since his only win on April 7.
Kennedy is 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA over five career starts against the Astros, including 3-0 with a 0.92 ERA over three starts at Minute Maid Park.
The Royals (23-52) on Friday began transitioning veteran Alcides Escobar off shortstop, ending his string of 407 consecutive starts there by moving him to center field for the opener of their series with the Astros. Escobar finished 2-for-2 with two walks Da'Shawn Hand Jersey , marking the first time since Sept. 6, 2017, against the Detroit Tigers that he reached base in all four plate appearances.
Escobar, a free agent following the season, has been a mainstay at short for the Royals since 2011. Before making his first career start in center on Friday, Escobar last played that position on Aug. 2, 2010, while with the Milwaukee Brewers, shifting in the eighth inning after starting at shortstop.
“We know that he’s athletic enough to play it and we want Mondi (22-year-old infielder Adalberto Mondesi) playing short,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Escobar. “We just think that the time is right. We talked to the coaches about it and they feel like he’ll be fine.
“He’s really excited about the opportunity at playing multiple positions, not only center but some third and some second. He knows that his next career move is probably going to be a utility-type player on the field and he’s anxious to start showing people that he can handle it.”
Matt Duffy saved his best for last.
Duffy’s ground ball found a hole between third and short with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday and drove in the game’s only run in Tampa Bay’s win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
”After seeing that many zeroes, it’s definitely awesome to come out on top in that game Levine Toilolo Jersey ,” Duffy said after a game in which eight pitchers gave up a total of 10 hits.
Duffy drove in Mallex Smith, who doubled with one out and moved to third base on a groundout.
Diego Castillo (1-0) got his first major league win after pitching two innings of relief.
Ryan Tepera (3-2) pitched the final 1 2/3 innings for the Jays, who were swept in the three-game series and have lost five of six to the Rays this season. It was the 12th time the Blue Jays have scored one run or none this season, and the first time since August 2011 they were held without an extra-base hit for a second straight game.
”I have no explanation for it. It’s the way it is,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
Curtis Granderson had the first three of Toronto’s five hits, leadoff singles in the first, third and fifth innings, and was the only runner to reach third base until Smith in the ninth.
With two outs in the Toronto ninth, Aldemys Diaz hit a line drive off Castillo that was caught by left fielder Johnny Field near the top of the wall, the best-hit ball of the game by far.
”Luckily, I was playing deep and it was high enough that it didn’t seem like one of those no-doubters off the bat,” Field said. ”He got under it just enough to give me a chance to get back there.”
Toronto starter J.A. Happ allowed one hit and three walks in five innings. He was lifted after throwing 98 pitches Jarrad Davis Jersey , 30 in the first inning.
”I try to give credit where credit is due. I thought they did a good job of fouling some good pitches off,” said Happ. ”They made it difficult. Certainly, I’d like to go more than five innings, but I was happy to keep them off the board.”
Rays starter Wilmer Font gave up two hits in 3 1/3 innings, and Matt Andriese gave up two hits in 3 2/3 innings.
”That’s two days in a row now that the bullpen came in and really picked us up in a big way,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. ”They pieced it together really well.”
Blue Jays: 3B Josh Donaldson (left calf tightness) will run the bases Thursday and if all goes well could join Triple-A Buffalo on Friday. … RHP Marcus Stroman (shoulder) was scheduled to start a minor league assignment Wednesday night with Class A Dunedin against Charlotte.
Rays: OF Johnny Field was back in the lineup after missing two games with a sprained knee.
SIXTEEN NOT SO SWEET
Thursday’s game at New York marks the start of a 16-game stretch in which the Rays will play only the Yankees, Astros and Nationals. ”We’re going to really see what kind of team we have here against the best in the league,” Blake Snell said. The Rays are 11-26 against winning teams.
Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez (3-5, 4.33 ERA) will pitch Friday night against the Washington Nationals in the opening game of a five-game homestand.
Rays: LHP Blake Snell (8-3, 2.30 ERA) will start in Thursday night’s opener of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium against Domingo German (0-4, 5.32). Snell is 3-0 with a 0.38 ERA in his past four starts.