Judging the Royals

Lee Judge’s keys to June: It’s time for the Royals to beat up on some bad teams

Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain can be a pitcher’s best friend, especially during their final series of June at Houston’s spacious park, where he’s able to cover a lot of ground.
Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain can be a pitcher’s best friend, especially during their final series of June at Houston’s spacious park, where he’s able to cover a lot of ground. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Let’s face it, nobody really knows what’s going to happen next, but in this preview of the coming month, we can give you some things to watch for. (If I’m really far off, just remember that last month I told you the trip to New York might not go well and the Royals got swept.)

Records shown are through Thursday.

Texas Rangers (28-26)

Home, June 5-7

The Rangers are the No. 2 team in baseball when it comes to runs scored. When the Royals faced them in May Texas lit it up, so unless the starting rotation pitches better than it has, the Royals’ offense needs to come to life and put up runs to stay with Texas. Don’t expect a 2-1 game; 6-5 is more like it. (Now watch Edinson Volquez throw a shutout just to make me look bad.)

Minnesota Twins (32-21)

At Minnesota, June 8-10

Ask what the Royals need to do to beat the Twins and you might be surprised to hear that the key is keeping Brian Dozier off base. Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer are the stars; both are scuffling coming into this series, but you never know when guys like that will get hot. If they do get hot, minimize their damage by getting the guys batting in front of them.

St. Louis Cardinals (36-18)

At St. Louis, June 12-14

The Cards rank 25th in home runs, so if a pitcher makes a mistake with nobody on base, he has a decent chance of getting away with it; but he’s likely to pay for the mistake with a single. A pitcher also can’t get sloppy with runners on, because St. Louis is very good at making the most of those mistakes. They’re also No. 1 in team ERA. Expect low-scoring games.

Milwaukee Brewers (18-36)

At Milwaukee, June 15-16; home, June 17-18

The Brewers are in last place in their division and have a total of 18 wins. The left- and right-center gaps in Milwaukee are about 15 feet closer than the gaps in Kansas City, so hitting home runs is a possibility, but the Royals can’t try to hit home runs (apparently part of what got them in trouble in New York). KC hitters need to take their regular line-drive swings and balls that are doubles in the gap here might leave the yard there.

Boston Red Sox (24-31)

Home, June 19-21

Another team that’s scuffling. The Royals need to avoid getting swept by good teams like St. Louis and then turn around and beat up on teams like the Brewers and Red Sox — that’s where you build your record. Consider this: In 2014, the Royals missed winning the division by one game, and that year they got swept by the Red Sox (71-91 in 2014) and the Astros (70-92). Must beat the teams you should beat.

Seattle Mariners (24-30)

At Seattle, June 22-24

The Mariners have a team ERA of 3.79 — 13th best in baseball — but are 28th in runs scored. Seattle’s got the pitching to win, but the offense isn’t cooking yet. Nelson Cruz is the guy to watch out for, so pay attention to what the hitters in front of him do; that might be the key to how big a series Cruz has. Also pay attention to the Mariners’ rolling roof; the ball apparently carries better there when it’s closed.

Oakland Athletics (23-33)

At Oakland, June 26-28

Another team the Royals need to beat up on. Ask if there’s unfinished business with the A’s — there were some hard feelings after their last series — and you might hear the unfinished business is with Brett Lawrie, not his teammates. The Royals have a pretty good idea of how to pitch Billy Butler; with a runner on base, teams were going down and in on Billy and letting him pull double-play grounders to the left side. There’s a ton of foul ground in Oakland, so foul pop-ups that would be in the stands somewhere else get caught.

Houston Astros (34-21)

At Houston, June 29-30

The Astros have been hot, so once again you want to make sure you win at least one game in their park. Speaking of which: Houston’s park is very deep in center field but very short in the corners: 315 to left and 326 to right. For a Royals pitcher to be successful there, he needs to keep the ball in the middle of the field and just let Lorenzo Cain go get it.

OK, there you have it: Avoid getting swept by the good teams and beat up the bad ones. That’s the formula for June — and every other month of the season.