The Kansas City Royals open a six-game homestand Monday with the first of two against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and they’re brimming with confidence after winning their first series in Minnesota since 2017.
They’ll welcome a Pirates club that has lost seven of their past nine and is 8-19 in May with Monday’s game remaining. The clubs split a two-game series in Pittsburgh in late April.
The Pirates expect to send right-hander Chad Kuhl (0-1, 6.32 ERA) to the mound against veteran left-hander Mike Minor (3-2, 4.83 ERA). The Pirates will need to make a roster move to activate Kuhl from the 10-day injured list.
The Royals gutted out a 6-3 victory Sunday. Their pitchers walked seven Twins batters and hit another, but only one of those runners scored. And on offense, they were 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position while the Twins were 2-for-11.
But it was one of those “non-hits” that sparked a rally in the fifth inning. After the first two runners reached on singles, Hunter Dozier and his 1-for-35 slump over the past 10 games came to the plate. He rolled one to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who flipped to second for the force. But Dozier hustled down the line, beating the throw.
It was Dozier’s first RBI since May 5, and the Royals ended up scoring four in the inning and never gave up the lead.
“That’s a rally killer if he doesn’t hustle down the line,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said of Dozier’s effort. “Those sorts of things make a big difference.”
Dozier downplayed it, instead giving credit to the teammates who got on base and those who followed and drove in three more runs.
“Effort is something I can control,” he said. “I would have been good if I hit a home run, but I rolled over a ground ball. My job is to get down the line as fast as I can. The guys behind me picked me up. We were able to keep the line moving.”
The Royals have played .600 ball (9-6) since snapping an 11-game losing streak and have won three of their past four series.
If they’re going to stretch that to four of five, they’ll need a strong effort from Minor. He has his ERA under 5.00 for the first time since April 23. In his most recent outing, against Tampa Bay on Wednesday, he gave up one run on two hits in five innings. He also struck out nine. Four walks kept him from going deeper in that game.
“I almost like [the pitching duel] because the innings are so quick,” he said after going toe-to-toe with Tampa Bays ace Tyler Glasnow in that game. “Some guys like to rest, but the rhythm of the game is back and forth, and back and forth. Before you know it, you’re deeper in the game.”
The Pirates are hoping Kuhl is fully recovered from right-shoulder discomfort that has sidelined him since late April. The Opening Day starter allowed one run on two hits in 6 1/3 innings in his Triple-A rehab.
“I’m excited for Chad to get back in the mix,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said Sunday. “I think the more options you have, the better it is. Especially pitching-wise because you can never have enough pitching depth.”
Kuhl has one career start against the Royals, a 2020 outing in which he gave up nine runs in 2 1/3 innings. Minor is 0-1 with a 5.64 ERA in four career starts against the Pirates.
–Field Level Media