Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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MLB Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates (59-73) at Kansas City Royals (41-92)

PITTSBURGH PIRATES NOTES:
THE PIRATES:..shut out the Royals 5-0 last night in the opener of their six-game road trip…Will look to win back-to-back games on the road tonight for the first time since 5/30-31 at San Francisco…Went 3-4 on their seven-game homestand against the Cardinals (2-1) and Cubs (1-3)…Have gone 18-19 in their last 37 games since losing each of their first five games following the All-Star break.

GO THE DISTANCE: Monday night Johan Oviedo tossed the first complete game shutout of his career and second by a Pirate this season (also Mitch Keller on May 8 against the Rockies)…It’s the first time since 2018 that the Pirates have recorded multiple complete game shutouts in a single season when Trevor Williams (a 6.0 inning shutout on July 23 at Cleveland) and Jameson Taillon (April 8 vs. Cincinnati) each did so…The last time the Pirates had multiple 9.0-inning complete game shutouts in a single season was 2011 (Jeff Karstens on July 15 at Houston, Paul Maholm on May 28 at Wrigley Field and Charlie Morton on May 18 at Cincinnati).

THE OPENING ACT: Colin Selby will open tonight for the second time in four games…Selby threw 2.0 perfect innings in his start against the Cubs Saturday night at PNC Park, throwing 17 of his 25 pitches for strikes…Selby has allowed one run in 5.2 innings in his last four appearances since giving up a season-high tying three runs in 1.1 innings in his appearance on August 15 against the Mets.

HAYES STAYING HOT: Ke’Bryan Hayes reached base safely in each of his five plate appearances Monday night, going 4-for-4 with a double, RBI, run scored and walk…Since August 14, Hayes ranks sixth among all National League players (minimum 50 plate appearances) with a .357 batting average behind Mookie Betts (.519), Marcell Ozuna (.489), Bryce Harper (.432), Charlie Blackmon (.404) and teammate Connor Joe (.359).

CLIMBING THE CHARTS: Andrew McCutchen has knocked in nine runs in his last nine games and comes into today two shy of tying Arky Vaughan for the eighth-most (767) in Pirates history…The 36-year-old McCutchen ranks eighth among all active players with 1042 RBI (Miguel Cabrera is first with 1871).

EXTRA EXTRA: The Pirates doubled four times Monday night and have recorded a total of 82 extra base hits this month…That ranks 11th in MLB and fourth among all National League teams behind the Phillies (110), Braves (105), Dodgers (100) and Cubs (90).

GO JOE: Connor Joe has reached base safely in 13 of his last 14 games, going 15-for-46 (.326) with seven doubles, five RBI, .458 OBP, .478 slugging percentage and a .936 OPS…Joe ranks eighth among all National League players this month with a .418 on-base percentage.

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: Bryan Reynolds has 14 extra base hits this month, which are tied for the sixth-most in the National League behind Mookie Betts (18), Freddie Freeman (18), Bryce Harper (17), Marcell Ozuna (16) and Trea Turner (15).

KE’S TO THE GAME: Since August 9, Ke’Bryan Hayes gone 17-for-44 (.386) with three doubles, four home runs, seven RBI, a .438 OBP, .727 slugging percentage and 1.165 OPS in the 10 games he has batted out of the leadoff spot…Since August 8, Hayes has produced the seventh-highest OPS (1.090) and ranks third in total bases (52) among all National League hitters…The only two NL players with more total bases in that time are Marcell Ozuna (57) and Mookie Betts (53).

ISN’T IT NIFTY: David Bednar recorded his 50th save as a member of the Pirates Friday night, which is tied for 11th all-time along with Jim Gott since saves became an official stat in 1969… Bednar’s 28 saves this season are the most by a Pirates righthander since Mark Melancon had 30 in 2016…Bednar is tied for fourth among all National League pitchers with 28 saves.

STARTING PITCHER – 52 – RHP COLIN SELBY
COLIN SELBY: The 25-year-old righthander will make his ninth appearance (second start) tonight in game two of this three-game series…Was promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis on 8/8..Opened Saturday’s game against the Cubs, tossing 2.0 perfect innings while throwing 17 of his 25 pitches for strikes.

VS. KANSAS CITY: Has never faced the Royals.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS NOTES:

A NIGHT TO FORGET: The Royals suffered a 5-0 loss last night to the Pirates to begin this homestand, as Johan Oviedo went the distance while allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks, and did not permit a baserunner past first base…it was the 14th time they have been blanked, matching the Mets and Tigers for the most in the Majors.

ROSTER MOVE: The Royals announced today that left hander Taylor Hearn was optioned to Triple-A Omaha after last night’s game…in a corresponding move, the Royals selected right hander Steven Cruz (No. 64) from Triple-A Omaha…Cruz, 24, was acquired by Kansas City in January in a three-player trade with Minnesota for Michael A. Taylor…in 43 appearances this season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, Cruz has recorded 9 saves, a 3.81 ERA (21 ER in 49.2 IP) and 64 strikeouts (11.6 K/9) while holding opponents to a .183 average (32-for-175)…he was promoted to Omaha over the All-Star break, and hasn’t allowed a hit over his last 5 appearances (6.2 IP) since Aug. 12, a stretch during which he has 3 walks and 8 strikeouts. Cruz will be the sixth Royal to make his Major League debut this season, following Austin Cox (May 4), Samad Taylor (June 17), James McArthur (June 28), Alec Marsh (June 30) and John McMillon (Aug. 17). When Cruz makes his debut, he’ll become the 34th different pitcher to appear in a game with the Royals this season, which will extend their franchise record over the previous mark of 32, set last season.

ROYAL RUNDOWN: Since winning a season-high 7 consecutive games from July 28-Aug. 4, the Royals are a Major League-worst 5-17 (.227) and are winless in their last seven completed series, including six losses and one split…last night’s loss dropped the Royals to 51 games under .500 (41-92) for the first time since Aug. 26, 2018—five years and three days ago—when they were 40-91, en route to a 58-104 finish to the 2018 season. They must win 16 of their last 29 games to avoid matching the franchise record of 106 losses set in 2005.

RING-’EM-UP RAGANS: The Royals tonight will turn to southpaw Cole Ragans, whom they acquired in a three-player trade with Texas on June 30 for Aroldis Chapman…Ragans, 25, has paid dividends in his short time with Kansas City, going 3-1 in 6 starts with a 2.08 ERA (8 ER in 34.2 IP), 10 walks (2.6 BB/9) and 47 strikeouts (12.2 K/9)…in 5 starts this month, he’s 3-1 with a 2.12 ERA (7 ER in 29.2 IP), which is tied for 2ndbest in the American League behind Pablo López (1.80)…Ragans has 44 strikeouts in 29.2 innings in August (13.4 K/9), 2nd most in the Majors behind Freddy Peralta (46)…with 5 strikeouts tonight, Ragans would match Zack Greinke (August 2009) and Dennis Leonard (September 1977) for the 2nd-most strikeouts in any month in Royals history, and would trail only Leonard, who set the club record with 55 strikeouts in June 1977.

HOME: The Royals continue this 9-game, 10-day homestand tonight with the 2nd of 3 games vs. the Pirates… the Royals will enjoy an off day on Thursday before welcoming the Red Sox to town this weekend to begin the month of September, and will begin next week with a 3-game set vs. the White Sox, which will include a 1:10 p.m. CT start on Monday (Memorial Day) and a pair of 6:40 p.m. CT starts on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Royals have lost 4 consecutive games at Kauffman Stadium dating back to the Mariners series two weeks ago, after winning 8 of their previous 9 home games, including 7 straight from July 28-Aug. 11. This is the third-to-last homestand of the season, including a 6-game stay from Sept. 15-20 vs. Houston and Cleveland and a 3-game series vs. the Yankees to end the regular season from Sept. 29-Oct. 1…including tonight, there are only 17 home games remaining on the Royals 2023 schedule.

INTERLEAGUE INTRIGUE: The Royals are hosting the Pirates this week for the third time in the last four seasons, after the Pirates traveled to Kansas City just four times from the time Interleague play began in 1997 through 2019…the Royals are 21-19 all-time against the Pirates, including 13-4 in Kansas City, which is their best record vs. any opponent in the 51-year history of Kauffman Stadium…last night’s loss was the Royals 1st to the Pirates in this ballpark since July 20, 2015, snapping a 7-game win streak…despite last night’s outcome, the Royals have won 8 of their last 13 games vs. the Pirates overall, during which they’ve outscored them 65-41 (+24). The Royals are 16-28 in Interleague play this season, but are 8-6 in their last 14 games since July 1… the Royals are playing 14 of 28 games this month vs. National League opponents, and will wrap up their Interleague slate with the series finale tomorrow, as all 27 games after then will be vs. AL teams.

SALVY SPLASHES: Despite going just 5-for-36 with 3 RBI since the start of the last trip, and being homerless in his last 12 games, Royals Captain Salvador Perez is approaching several notable milestones…sitting on 19 home runs this year, his next will make 2023 his seventh season with at least 20 home runs, which will break a tie with Mike Sweeney for 2nd most in Royals history, trailing only Hall of Famer George Brett, who had eight…Salvy is also just 12 hits shy of matching Sweeney for 7th place on the Royals all-time hits list at 1,398. Perez, who is the Royals first baseman tonight, is 25.0 innings caught shy of 10,000.0 for his career. Salvy is Kansas City’s all-time leader in Interleague play in hits (213), HR (38) and RBI (120)…he’s hit safely in 11 of his 14 career games vs. the Pirates, in which he’s batting .339 (19-for-56) with 3 HR and 9 RBI.

THE RUNNING ROYALS: In 42 games since the All-Star break, the Royals lead the Majors with 53 stolen bases, which are 7 more than the Nationals (46), who rank 2nd, and 14 more than the Mariners (39) for the American League lead…after stealing only 40 bags in 56 games through the end of May, the Royals rank 2nd in the Majors and lead the American League with 89 steals in 77 games since June 1…for the season, they rank 4th in the Majors with 129 steals, trailing only Cincinnati (153), Tampa Bay (138) and Arizona (134). Nine different Royals players have at least 5 steals this year, which trails only the Reds, who have 10 players with at least 5 steals…Kansas City’s leading base stealer is Bobby Witt Jr., who ranks 4th in the Majors with 38 steals behind Ronald Acuña Jr. (61), Esteury Ruiz (51) and Corbin Carroll (40).

ARMS RACE: The Royals lead Major League Baseball with 33 outfield assists this season, which are 6 more than the Cardinals (27), and are 8 more than the Guardians and Athletics (25 each) for the American League lead…the Royals are attempting to lead the Major Leagues in outfield assists for the first time since 2011 and 2012, when they had 51 in both seasons, which were the most by any team since Cleveland had 51 in 1993. Nine different Royals have recorded an outfield assist this season, including team leader MJ Melendez, whose 9 outfield assists rank tied for 4th in the American League, trailing only Adolis García, Teoscar Hernández and Alex Verdugo, who are tied for the league lead with 11 each.

TRIPLE THREAT: The Royals lead the American League with 35 triples, only 1 behind Arizona (36) for the Major League lead…they are attempting to lead the Majors in triples for the second straight season, after pacing the league with 38 in 2022…that was the first time they led the Majors in triples since 2009 (51), but the Royals 2,237 triples since their inception in 1969 are 143 more than these Pirates (2,094) for the Major League lead.

TONIGHT’S STARTERS: LHP COLE RAGANS (5-4, 3.66)
COLE RAGANS is making his 7th start of the season (24th appearance) and 16th start of his career tonight vs. the Pirates…Ragans, 25, was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 1st round (30th) of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of the North Florida Christian High School, and was acquired by Kansas City with 17-year-old Dominican outfielder Roni Cabrera on June 30 for Aroldis Chapman.

ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS: Ragans earned the win in Kansas City’s 4-0 victory last Wednesday at the Oakland Coliseum, in which he limited the A’s to just 2 singles across 6.0 dominant innings of work, while tying his career high with 11 strikeouts and not issuing a walk…Jonah Bride led the game off with a single off Ragans, but Cole retired each of his next seven batters until Nick Allen slapped a 1-out single in the 3rd inning…from there, Cole set down each of his final 11 hitters, including 5 strikeouts, before handing the ball to Taylor Clarke (1.0 IP), Jackson Kowar (0.1) and Carlos Hernández (1.2), who shut the Athletics down without allowing a base hit. He’s the second pitcher age 25 or younger in the Majors this season to have 11 strikeouts with no walks in a scoreless outing, joining 2023 All-Star and NL Cy Young candidate Spencer Strider (24), who did it on April 24 vs. Miami.

“K”OLE RAGANS: In 6 starts with the Royals since being acquired from Texas on June 30, he is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA (8 ER in 34.2 IP) and 47 strikeouts (12.2 K/9, 33.3 K%)…his ERA is tied for the 3rd lowest by a Royal through 6 starts with Andy Hassler (1976), behind Bruce Dal Canton’s 1.99 ERA in 1971 and Steve Busby (2.03) from 1972-73. His 47 strikeouts through 6 appearances as a Royal are the most in club history, ahead of James Shields’ 39 from April 1-30, 2013…the club record through 7 games also belongs to Shields, who had 48 through May 6, 2013. Since re-joining the Royals for his second stint on Aug. 2, Ragans has 44 strikeouts in 29.2 innings (13.4 K/9, 36.4 K%), which are the most in the Majors since Aug. 2…there have only been two months in franchise history in which a Royals left hander had more than 44 strikeouts: Danny Jackson (46, May 1987) and Danny Duffy (45, June 2016)…his 44 strikeouts are 5 shy of the club record for August, regardless of handedness, behind Zack Greinke’s 49 in 2009. With 6 strikeouts tonight, he would become the second Royal with a 50-strikeout month and would join Dennis Leonard, who set the club record with 55 in June 1997, the year he set the club single-season record with 244 strikeouts.

RAGANS IN AUGUST? HOTTER THAN TWO RATS IN A WOOL SOCK: While the strikeouts in August have been impressive, Ragans has been absolutely dominant this month in just about every facet of the game…among American League pitchers with at least 5 starts this month, he ranks 1st in strikeouts (44) and K% (36.4%), tied for 2nd in ERA (2.12), tied for 4th in wins (3), 7th in opponents’ slugging percentage (.313), 8th in K/BB (5.5) and tied for 14th in innings pitched (29.2). Cole brings a whopping 36.4 K% in the month of August into tonight’s start, which is by far the highest by a Royal in a single month, more than Brady Singer’s 35.0% last July, when he struck out 42 of 120 batters faced.

ELECTRIC SLIDE(R): When Cole was acquired by Kansas City on June 30, he had never thrown a slider…as noted earlier this month by MLB.com’s Anne Rogers, when he arrived to Omaha following the trade, he wanted to be more effective vs. lefthanded hitters and thought a slider could help him do that…Paul Gibson, the Royals Sr. Director of Pitching Performance, agreed and encouraged Cole add it to his arsenal. Since Ragans’ Royals debut on July 15, when he started Game 2 of a doubleheader against Tampa Bay, he has thrown his slider 7.9% of the time, and it has induced 16 strikeouts to just 5 hits with a .185 opponents’ average… that includes a 15.3% usage rate vs. lefties, who are 2-for-11 with 5 strikeouts.

AN UNFORGETTABLE JOURNEY: A 1st-round Draft selection in 2016, Cole overcame two Tommy John surgeries and missed the 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to become one of the top minor league pitchers in 2022…Ragans had his first Tommy John surgery on March 28, 2018 and felt discomfort while on a throwing program in early 2019, which led to another procedure on May 15, 2019. He made his return in 2021 with 19 appearances (17) starts—his 1st game action since 2017—and was selected for the 2021 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. In 2022, Ragans earned Texas’ Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award after going 8-5 with a 3.04 ERA (32 ER in 94.2 IP) and 113 strikeouts (10.7 K/9) in 18 starts between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock.

WELCOME TO THE CLUB: Ragans was recalled on Aug. 2 to mark his second stint with the Royals since acquired on June 30 from the Rangers, with whom he posted a 5.92 ERA (16 ER in 24.1 IP) with 24 strikeouts in 17 relief appearances this season… Ragans broke camp with the big league club and began the year with 5 consecutive scoreless outings, covering 5.0 innings while allowing just 2 hits…he made 9 starts with Texas during his 2022 debut season and went 0-3 with a 4.95 ERA (22 ER in 40.0 IP).

LOAD THE RA-GUNS: Cole is making his 1st career appearance vs. the Pirates tonight, who will become the fourth National League Central team he’s faced in his career…he has struggled against this division, going 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA (11 ER in 14.2 IP) in 6 appearances (2 starts)—all this season—which includes 2 starts since joining the Royals: a 5-4 loss vs. St. Louis on Aug. 12, and a 4-3 win at Wrigley Field on Aug. 18. COLE AT THE K: In 3 starts at Kauffman Stadium, Ragans is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA (4 ER in 16.0 IP)…he last pitched here on Aug. 12 vs. the Cardinals, and allowed 4 runs (3 ER) on 6 hits and 4 walks in 5.0 innings, with 5 strikeouts, as he fought his command for the first time in a Royals uniform.

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