It’s Fourth of July weekend and the World Champion Kansas City Royals are in town.
Friday: 7:05 pm EST – Ian Kennedy (6-6, 3.96 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (5-6, 4.23 ERA)
Saturday: 5:50 pm EST – Danny Duffy (3-1, 3.24 ERA) vs. Aaron Nola (5-7, 4.45 ERA)
Sunday: 1:35 pm EST – Yordano Ventura (6-5, 5.00 ERA) vs. Vincent Velasquez (6-2, 3.38 ERA)
Earlier this week, the Phils gave the D’Backs a taste of their own medicine, sweeping them on the road by mounting late comebacks in two of the three games. The Phils surged to a 5-4 record while out West as the offense has awoken, and is alive and well. In the nine games, the Phils put up 57 runs on 110 hits. The previous nine games, which featured just one win, the offense was nonexistent scoring 23 runs on 54 hits. Peter Bourjos is the hottest hitter on the Phils who delivered big hit after big hit on the road trip. Over his last 12 games, Bourjos sports a .462 average, leaving skipper Pete Mackanin penciling him in the two-hole behind Odubel Herrera.
Since we don’t hear much about the Royals, I thought I would get some inside information from Royals Blue, a fan blog that follows the Royals. I asked Royals Blue out of the three starters the Phils are expected to face, which one has the best stuff. Royals Blue said, “Duffy has the best stuff of those three. He is in the high 90’s from the left side.” Duffy is coming off a strong outing vs. St. Louis – registering eight innings and allowing just two runs. Ian Kennedy was described as a solid pitcher that gives his team a chance to win most nights. Young, hard throwing right-hander Yordano Ventura will take the mound in Sunday’s matinee. Royals Blue explained Ventura as a “wild card.” He was dominant in two starts before his suspension after throwing at Manny Machado but the extended rest has cooled him off since.
On the offensive side, the Phils will have to look out for Royals slugger Kendrys Morales. The Royals sat the 33-year old at the end of May because of a finger issue but since then he, “has been like the silver slugger of last year.” Morales is hitting a scorching .395 average over the last 21 games. Whit Merrifield, a 27 year old rookie, has recorded a hit in 30 of his first 34 games. Merrifield is in rare company with Ichiro Suzuki, as the only other player to accomplish that feat.
Then I asked what we should expect out of this Royals team. “The Royals are exciting to watch. They are never out of a game with our bullpen and defense. But we are god awful on the road.” It’s true, they are. Compared to a 27-11 record at home, Kansas City’s road record is 14-25. The Royals score almost two runs a game fewer on the road than at home.
With the combination of the hitting coming around and the Royals road woes, the stage is set up perfectly for the Phillies to at least take the series. And of course, fans in attendance on Friday and Saturday night will be treated to the annual fireworks show following the game.