HOUSTON — One obvious benefit of a club-record-tying 12-game winning streak and 13 victories in 14 games is the positive impact it has on the standings
, something the Houston Astros could attest to before dropping the opener of a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals on Friday.
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
Kyzir White Color Rush Jersey
, 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, 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 seasonhas 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.”
LOS ANGELES — When the San Francisco Giants arrive in Los Angeles to face a red-hot Dodgers club in the opener of a three-game series Friday, it will not be with a full head of steam.
The Giants are returning to California having barely avoided a four-game sweep at the hands of the Miami Marlins needing 16 innings Thursday afternoon in South Florida to do it. There should be exhaustion and jet lag aplenty, especially from Buster Posey, who caught all 16 innings.
Now the Giants will be facing one of baseball’s hottest teams in a Dodgers club that has gone 9-2 in June and has crushed a baseball-best 30 home runs this month.
Back in April, when the Giants and Dodgers seemingly met on a daily basis, things mostly went San Francisco’s way. The Giants took three of four in a series at AT&T Park in late April and won six of the first 10 matchups between the clubs.
The Dodgers struggled with runners in scoring position back then and barely showed any power. And when they did go deep the odds of nobody being on base were high.
That all has changed now, and the two hitters getting the most credit for L.A.’s power revival both have Bay Area ties.
Palo Alto native Joc Pederson has eight home runs this season, seven of which have come in June.
And former Oakland A’s infielder Max Muncy is in the midst of a coming-out party for the Dodgers with 13 home runs, 30 RBIs and a .631 slugging percentage in 46 games. Before the season
Kyle Lauletta Color Rush Jersey
, Muncy played in 96 major league games and hit five home runs with 17 RBIs and a .321 slugging percentage.
“I try not to think about it, (but) it’s hard not to,” Muncy said, according to mlb.com. “Games are a lot of fun right now. Everyone’s feeling the momentum up and down the lineup.”
Also in a bit of a revival is Cody Bellinger, who had a home run in four consecutive games last week.
The common thread among Pederson, Muncy and Bellinger is that all three bat left-handed and the answer from the Giants will come with lefties Derek Holland (Friday) and Madison Bumgarner (Saturday) starting in the first two games of the series.
Holland (4-6, 4.54 ERA) has helped the Giants toward six victories in his last nine starts. In two starts against the Dodgers this season he is 0-1 with a 7.56 ERA. In three career outings against the Dodgers he is 0-2 with a 7.43 ERA.
” the Giants’ Andrew McCutchen said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s not something you take lightly.”
The Dodgers are scheduled to send Ross Stripling (5-1, 1.65) to the mound in the series opener. The right-hander, who threw 7 1/3 no-hit innings in his major league debut at San Francisco in 2016, has won each of his last five starts, posting a 1.15 ERA in that stretch (31 1/3 innings).