The Royals vs. Astros series continues early on Monday afternoon in Houston with the home side enjoying a 2-1 series lead. Lance McCullers (6-7 / 3.22 ERA), the Astros 22 year old rookie, will toe the rubber for Houston. He will be opposed by the Royals’ Yordano Ventura (13-8 / 4.08 ERA) as the Royals get one more, and final, chance to win in Houston in 2015.
On Sunday, Kansas City took an early 1-0 lead on a Lorenzo Cain solo home run in the 4th, but surrendered four runs to fall behind 4-1. Another solo home run in the ninth inning, this time by Alex Gordon off Astros reliever Luke Gregerson, gave the Royals hope, but a spectacular running catch in center field by Carlos Gomez helped squelch the late comeback attempt, leaving the final score at 4-2 favoring the Astros. Just like in game one, the Royals were unable to execute their normal winning style of stringing together clutch hits, as once again their two runs came via the solo bomb. The Royals now find themselves down 1-2 in the series, and facing the unenviable task of having to win the next two games to stay alive in the playoffs.
The Astros, meanwhile, will try to build on the momentum provided by another stellar Dallas Kuechel performance, and attempt to apply the “coupe de grace” to the series favorite. They know that they have the AL’s best home record in the regular season (53-28) and that they are now 4-0 against the Royals at Minute Maid Park in 2015. After so many years of futility, they would undoubtedly like to give their 40,000+ fans the chance to celebrate the series victory at home, avoiding a do-or-die game five at Kauffman Stadium in the process.
This game is critical for both teams, though obviously more so for KC. Their starting pitcher, 24 year old Yordano Ventura, was actually their game one starter and loser. He will be pitching on short rest, albeit after only a short two inning start in the opener, caused by the rain delay in that game. He also has one of the two Royals’ victories over the Astros in 2015, having won by a 5-1 score on July 26th, and will be looking to repeat that feat in game four. The Astro’s even younger starter also recorded a win against the Royals, scattering four hits and one run over seven innings in a 6-1 victory on June 29th.
Ventura will seek redemption from game one and the chance to send the series home to Kauffman Stadium for game five. McCullers, who was a middle-schooler the last time the Astros celebrated a series win at Minute Maid Park, looks to be the catalyst for this year’s celebration.