While the first-place Royals have all but locked up their first American League Central title since 1985, the Los Angeles Angels continue to fight for their playoff lives as they try to salvage a four-game series split on Sunday in Kansas City. After an unlikely rally against the vaunted Royals’ bullpen in the series opener, Los Angeles dropped the next two, including a 9-4 loss on Saturday which trimmed its lead over Baltimore for the second wild-card spot to one-half game.
The Angels, who are 2 1/2 games behind first-place Houston in the AL West, fell to 1-5 on their seven-game road trip and have scored 16 runs during that span. Kansas City has no such issues as it sits 12 games ahead of Minnesota in the Central and has scored 48 runs while going 7-2 in the first nine contests of its 10-game homestand. Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer has driven in a run in nine consecutive games – the longest active streak in the majors – and leads baseball in average (.395) and runs scored (27) since the All-Star break. Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura won his last outing despite tying a career high with six walks as he opposes Hector Santiago, who is winless in four starts (0-2).
TV: 8:08 p.m. ET, ESPN
LINE HISTORY: The Royals opened around -140 but are now in the -127 area. The total opened and has remained at 8.
INJURY REPORT: Angels – SS Erick Aybar (Questionable, back), 3B David Freese (Mid August, finger). Royals – LF Alex Gordon (Early September, groin).
WEATHER: Temperatures will be in the low-80s under clear skies. Wind will blow out to left field at around seven miles per hour.
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “It’s looking more and more like Kansas City will cruise to its second straight division crown as the Royals extended their lead in the AL Central to 12 games. If they keep going like this in the next three weeks, they will be the only division leader which can perhaps relax a bit in September. The battle for bragging rights in the City of Angels wasn’t much of a battle last week as the Dodgers swept past the Angels in three games. After winning player of the month for July, OF Mike Trout is struggling in August with a .148 BA and you have to wonder if his wrist is still a problem.” Covers Expert Bi Al McMordie
Kole Calhoun’s wife Jennifer Calhoun and Eric Hosmer’s girlfriend Kacie McDonnell
PITCHING MATCHUP: Royals LH Hector Santiago (7-6, 2.87 ERA) vs. Royals RH Yordano Ventura (7-7, 4.97)
Santiago allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 3-0 loss to the White Sox in Chicago on Tuesday and has permitted three or more runs in four consecutive appearances after doing so once in his previous eight turns. The 27-year-old New Jersey native could be starting to wear down as the former reliever has pitched 134 2/3 innings this season – 14 1/3 shy of his career high – and hasn’t worked more than six frames in five straight outings. Santiago is 1-1 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 games (1-1, 1.93 in five starts) against Kansas City, including a 4-2 loss on April 10.
Ventura overcame his bout with wildness by allowing two hits and matching a season high with eight strikeouts in six scoreless innings of a 6-1 victory over Detroit on Tuesday. “(He) stayed calm and continued to make pitches all night. He wasn’t crazy-wild. He was just missing,” Royals manager Ned Yost told reporters about the 24-year-old Dominican. “He was aggressively into the game. You could tell by his body language. He was the old Ventura of last year – he had all the confidence that, ‘Hey, you can get a couple guys on, but that’s as far as it’s going to go.'” Ventura is 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA in two starts against Los Angeles, including a 5-2 victory on April 12.
* Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Angels are 1-9 in the last 10 meetings.
* Home team is 36-17 in umpire Quinn Wolcott’s last 53 games behind home plate.
* Royals are 6-1 in their last seven Sunday games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Sixty-two percent of Covers users are backing the Royals.