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Man Crush on Kyle Guy
Slumping Texas In Store For 'Royal' Rumble With Kansas City

Texas (17-22) at Kansas City (15-27)

When: 8 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

MLB Pick: Royals ML

Texas' Mike Minor (3-3 2.68 ERA) may seem like he has improved from last year because his ERA is 1.50 lower. Minor has pitched amazingly at home, allowing only five extra-base hits in 28.2 innings. But on the road, he's yielding a 4.75 FIP, (like ERA, but factors out fielding) which places him on level with his performance last year. Minor has benefitted from good fortune, yielding a lower BABIP, (batting average of balls in play) despite inducing soft contact at a lower rate, and leaving an unsustainably high rate of runners stranded.

It's curious that Minor does so well at home given Global Life Park in Arlington's reputation for being a hitter-friendly venue. Overall, it witnesses the fifth-highest slugging rate in baseball. Minor isn't benefitting from the physical aspects (i.e. the dimensions) of the venue, but he is benefitting mentally. He is sharper at home, but less so on the road. For example, in his home start on May 3, he left his pitches with 1.72% frequency over the heart of the plate. In a two-game road stretch from April 22 to April 27, this frequency was 2.63 percent higher. Overall, he hits the borders and corners of the strike zone much less often on the road than at home.

One may still want to back Minor as a southpaw against a Royal team with poor numbers versus lefties. But the Royals have had more success against lefties lately, including two strong performances against last year's AL Cy Young, Blake Snell. They should be better against lefties given their personnel. Adalberto Mondesi is currently underperforming against lefties given his numbers from 2016-2018, as is the case with Whit Merrifield. although he is only underperforming in terms of BA. Jorge Soler is slugging .512 against lefties. Fellow righty Hunter Dozier is 2-for-3 with a double in his career against Minor.

A big reason why Texas has allowed 37 runs in its past three games combined is its bullpen. The sooner KC knocks Minor out of the game, the more KC will get to face Texas' bullpen. In the past seven days, Texas' bullpen is yielding a 7.84 ERA, second-worst in baseball. During the same span, KC's pen is yielding an ERA 5.39 lower.

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Jorge Lopez (0-4, 6.07 ERA) counters for the Royals. He's a great fit for KC's venue as a fly-ball pitcher. Seven of the 10 homers that he has allowed this season came in 15.1 innings on the road in smaller venues.

Lopez' key traits are variety and unpredictability. He throws five different pitches, but none more frequently than 28 percent. He uses deception by keeping the vertical and horizontal release points of his slider and fastball close together, so that batters struggle to discern which pitch is approaching them.

His pitches, above all his sinker and change-up, thrive with relatively strong arm-side movement. He keeps the latter with 55 percent frequency on the lowest row of the strike zone while he concentrates the former's location along the borders of the zone. Their location and elusiveness combine to encourage softer contact.

Ranger batters are struggling to score in general, having produced 16 runs in their past five games combined. That run-per-game average doesn't look too bad on the surface. But, nearly all of those runs came when the game was already decided in blowout-fashion. The injury to Elvis Andrus, one of their top sluggers, can't help them. He is listed as day-to-day with hamstring tightness.

Oddsmakers don't account for form. So Texas' five-game slump adds nice value to the Royals as underdogs.