Philadelphia Phillies Weekend Preview: Kansas City Royals

The weekend series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Kansas City Royals kicks off Friday.

All of a sudden, things look a little brighter in Philadelphia. That’s what happens when the Philadelphia Phillies sweep a three-game series from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and finish a nine-game road trip with a winning record. They’ll try to keep that momentum going as they welcome an American League opponent (one with which they share a bit of history) to Citizens Bank Park.

Kansas City Royals

Record: 41-36 (Second place in American League Central)

Manager: Ned Yost

The last time they met

The Royals last visited Philadelphia in April 2013. After the teams split the opening two games of the series, the Philadelphia Phillies were trailing by five runs entering the ninth inning of the finale. Undaunted, the Phillies scored four runs in the inning. But with the tying run on second base, Erik Kratz struck out to end the game.

What’s the deal with the Royals

For years, the Royals were hailed as having one of the best minor league systems in baseball. That wasn’t much consolation to their fans who were enduring season after season of horrible baseball at the major league level.

In 2014, after a 19 year absence, they finally made it back to the playoffs, and won the American League pennant. They did even better in 2015, besting the New York Mets to win the World Series.

The path to a third straight pennant has not been easy; The Royals endured an eight-game losing streak earlier this month. Despite those struggles, the Royals still sit in second place, and look capable of successfully defending their title.

Reason to hate the Royals

Philadelphia Phillies

Jul 14, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; American League shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) of the Kansas City Royals walks onto the field prior to the 2015 MLB All Star Game at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

There isn’t much of one, really. The greatest moment in Phillies history came at the expense of the Royals, and no amount of regular season victories will make up for that.

I suppose we could show some resentment at the Royals’ current success, but considering they went 19 straight years out of the playoffs, that seems a little petty. Although if you really need a reason to dislike them, I suppose their habit of stuffing the All-Star ballot box is a bit scorn-worthy.

Royals player who isn’t entirely horrible

The Philadelphia Phillies have had some success finding good players from Venezuela, but it seems they aren’t alone in that. At age 26, Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez is already a three-time All-Star. Admittedly, that accomplishment is somewhat diminished by the ballot stuffing, but Perez is legitimately deserving. With 12 home runs, he’s well on his way to topping his career-best total of 21.

Royals player who is horrible

Alcides Escobar has had a solid career. He’s never been an offensive star, but he’s a good defensive shortstop who earned a Gold Glove and even made the All-Star team in 2015. (There’s that ballot stuffing again.) However, 2016 has not been his best season.

His defense has slipped a bit, and he hasn’t shown any offensive improvement to compensate for it. It appears unlikely that he will make the All-Star Game for the second year in a row.

Phillies player who hasn’t been too horrible

Philadelphia Phillies

Jun 27, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Peter Bourjos (17) hits a ground rule double in the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

What’s gotten into Peter Bourjos? For the first two months of the season he was an offensive black hole who was often slotted behind the pitcher in the batting order. Inexplicably, he’s become one of their best hitters over the past month. He batted .410 with two home runs in June, and all of a sudden, the Phillies’ outfield doesn’t seem to be the major weakness that it once did.

Reasons for optimism

  1. The Philadelphia Phillies are on a roll! Sometimes once a team gets hot, they stay hot.
  2. Citizens Bank Park will likely be full of reminders about 1980. Will that mess with the Royals’ heads?
  3. Based on his last start, Vincent Velasquez may be back in his early season form. Hopefully, he’ll be able to shut the Royals down in Sunday’s finale.

Reasons for pessimism

  1. Aaron Nola‘s last start showed that he is definitely not in his early season form. Will he be able to snap out of this funk?
  2. The Royals are the defending champs. There’s a chance they might be pretty good.

Tweet of importance

Best wishes to Matt Imhof in his recovery.

Prediction

The Philadelphia Phillies just swept the Diamondbacks, so who’s to say they can’t sweep the Royals too? Just about everybody. The Phillies will lose the first two before Velasquez pitches them to victory in the finale.

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