Reds vs Royals: Preview, pitching matchups and prediction

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 12: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds throws to first past Whit Merrifield #15 of the Kansas City Royals (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 12: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds throws to first past Whit Merrifield #15 of the Kansas City Royals (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /
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Whit Merrifield #15 of the Kansas City Royals rounds third base to score a run. The Royals open a series against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday.
OAKLAND, CA – SEPTEMBER 16: Whit Merrifield #15 of the Kansas City Royals rounds third base to score a run. The Royals open a series against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /

The Royals seek a return to respectability

Just how bad was the American League Central last year? The Royals lost 103 games last year and managed to stay out of the division cellar. This is coming off a season in which they dropped 104 contests during the 2018 campaign. Needless to say, the World Series title year of 2015 seems like a distant memory.

However, the 2020 Royals (7-10) are showing signs of life under first-year manager Mike Matheny. The former Cardinals skipper has an offense that is proving to be one of the better units in the American League in the early going of the 2020 season.

Kansas City leads the American League with 37 doubles and places third among junior circuit clubs in both slugging (.436) and OPS (.743). Free swinging third baseman Maikel Franco, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies, currently leads the team and the AL with seven doubles.

But like the classic Royals teams of yesteryear, the club is running the bases like it’s 1976. Kansas City has already swiped 12 bases in 17 games, but have been gunned down seven times in 19 attempts. For comparison’s sake, the Reds have attempted just 11 stolen bases this year. Shortstop Adalberto Mondesi leads the club with four thefts.

The Royals have been above-average from the pitching rubber as well. Their team ERA of 3.95 ranks sixth in the AL while their 146 strikeouts are good enough for fourth among junior circuit clubs.

Even though the rotation has struggled to a 2-7 record with a 4.82 ERA, the KC bullpen has been impressive. Tossing 77 frames they’ve fanned 80 and posted an imposing 3.16 ERA. Former St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal is making a case for Comeback Player of the Year. The 30-year-old right-hander has allowed just four hits with three saves and 10 strikeouts this year.