Royals host Orioles in series of AL cellar-dwellers

MLB

The Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals, owners of two of the three worst records in the American League, kick off the second part of the season with a three-game series in Kansas City.

The Orioles will send Keegan Akin (0-4, 7.54 ERA) to the mound Friday, while the Royals have not announced their starter.

The season has gone pretty much as expected for the Orioles. Unfortunately for the Royals, it hasn’t.

MLB.com had the Orioles ranked as the 28th best team in baseball, 15th in the American League, in its spring training power rankings. The Ringer had them one spot below at 29th, as did ESPN.com with a projected 65-97 record.

The Orioles have not had a winning month, including going 5-23 in May.

The highlight of 2021 for the Orioleshas been Trey Mancini, who missed the 2020 season with Stage 3 colon cancer.

He not only made it back to the big-league club in time for the start of the season, he’s hitting .256 with a .791 OPS. He has also clubbed 16 homers, which landed him in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game.

There, he advanced all the way to the final before falling to Pete Alonso.

“It was surreal to see that become a reality from my vantage point,” Mancini said. “That, and then seeing my family afterward on the field, they were all so happy. They were all crying, except for one of my nephews, who was crying because he was upset that I lost.”

Akin has been used in long relief and as a starter. He has one appearance of less than three innings, but has not gone more than 5 2/3 innings in any of his appearances. The Orioles are 1-11 in his 12 appearances and 1-6 in his starts.

The Royals were expected to be better. MLB.com had the Royals at 23rd and The Ringer had them at 21st. ESPN split the difference, putting them at 22nd, with a projected 78-84 record.

They started well, with a 16-9 record through May 1, the best record in baseball at the time. But they’ve gone 20-44 since then.

The problem lies in both their pitching and their hitting.

2020 debutantes Brady Singer and Kris Bubic have struggled, though each has shown flashes of brilliance. Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar, two first-round picks from 2018, made their debuts, struggled mightily, and have returned to Triple-A.

Brad Keller also started off slow but has been better recently. He’s 6-9 with a 5.97 ERA for the season, but allowed three earned runs on nine hits over 14 innings in his last two games before the break.

Royals manager Mike Matheny was asked why Keller has pitched better lately.

“Trusting (his stuff) more,” Matheny said. “Really, it sounds simple. But having the conviction when you step on the mound and release the ball is another thing. He had it all going for him.

“And then late, it was him taking a step forward as a leader on the staff. ‘This is my game.'”

–Field Level Media

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