Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Game 78 Preview: Atlanta Braves (44-33) at Kansas City Royals (35-38)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Kris Medlen (ATL) 4-7, 2.96 ERA
RHP Ervin Santana (KC) 5-5, 2.64 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (8:10 pm ET, SportSouth):

Braves (career vs. Santana):
Jordan Schafer - LF (N/A)
Jason Heyward - RF (N/A)
Justin Upton - DH (1-3, K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (0-3)
Brian McCann - C (1-7, RBI, K)
BJ Upton - CF (8-24, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (0-3)
Chris Johnson - 3B (N/A)
Andrelton Simmons - SS (N/A)

Royals (career vs. Medlen):
Alex Gordon - LF (1-4)
Alcides Escobar - SS (0-6, K)
Eric Hosmer - 1B (0-3, K)
Billy Butler - DH (0-3)
Salvador Perez - C (0-3, K)
Mike Moustakas - 3B (1-3)
David Lough - LF (N/A)
Elliot Johnson - 2B (N/A)
Jarrod Dyson - CF (N/A)

This is the 17th season of Interleague play in Major League Baseball. Tonight will mark the first time the Braves have traveled to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The two ball clubs have previously met eight times, with all three series coming at Turner Field, including the two-game set on April 16-17, when the teams split a game apiece in the series.
One of those matchups featured tonight's Braves starter, Kris Medlen. In that start on April 16 against the Royals, Kris Medlen received a no-decision, despite allowing just one run over seven magnificent innings. Medlen will get another shot against Kansas City tonight, as he looks to reverse his hard-luck losing trend. Medlen has a 2.96 ERA this season, yet sports a record of 4-7. In five of those seven losses, he's allowed three runs or fewer and has tossed a shutout with a no-decision in addition to the no-decision against the Royals. However, in his last start against the Mets, Medlen allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits and seven strikeouts through seven solid innings to get his fourth win of the season.
Backing up Medlen is a Braves offense that has been shutout three times since June 14 and has been blanked 11 times total this season, which is the most in the Majors.
Meanwhile, Royals starting pitcher Ervin Santana has been going through the same tough luck as Medlen. Royals offense has been mostly to blame for the team's recent rut, losing four of their last five games. The bats did wake up a bit on Sunday with a three-run fifth and eighth innings in the come back win against the White Sox
The main issue of the Royals offense all season long has been the middle of the lineup. The three, four, and five hitters have been underwhelming. Those spots in the order have combined to go 5-for-53 with just four RBIs during the past five games.

Justin Upton back in the lineup:
Braves OF Justin Upton did not play in the final two games of the series in Milwaukee due to a sore right hand. Upton will hit in his normal three-spot in tonight's game against starter Ervin Santana.

Fredi Gonzalez to use Upton as DH:
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez recently said he was unsure of who he would use as the DH during the visit in Kansas City, an American league ballpark. Dan Uggla, Brian McCann, Evan Gattis, and former Brave Juan Francisco has served as the team's designated hitter. Gonzalez knows his options were limited due to Evan Gattis' oblique injury which landed him on the disabled list. Gonzalez decided to use Justin Upton has the DH tonight due to his sore hand. Jordan Schafer will again play in left field and hit in the lead-off spot.

Ervin Santana in a good groove:
Royals P Ervin Santana takes the mound tonight looking for his eighth straight outing of pitching at least seven innings. In the month of June, Santana is 2-0 with a 0.94 ERA, allowing only three runs in 28 2/3 innings with opponents hitting only .165 against him in that stretch.
Santana has faced the Braves twice as a members of the Angels, with the most recent coming in May 2011 when he tossed a complete-game shutout while allowing only four hits.
Despite his gaudy 2.64 ERA, which is third among American League starters, Santana's record sits at 5-5 due to spotty run support from the Royals offense.

Side note:
Braves are 5-3 all-time against the Royals, including sweeping them back in 2010.
Atlanta is also the last team in the National League to play in Kauffman Stadium.
Royals claimed right-handed reliever Maikel Cleto off waivers on Sunday from the Cardinals and has been assigned to Triple-A Omaha.

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