Arizona Diamondbacks (92-69 SU, 86-75 RL, 72-81-8 O/U) vs. Kansas City Royals (80-81 SU, 76-85 RL, 75-80-6 O/U)
MLB: Sunday, October 1, 2017 at 3:15 p.m. EST
The Line: Arizona Diamondbacks -125/Kansas City Royals +115. Total: 9.
The Kansas City Royals and Arizona Diamondbacks will conclude a three-game series when they clash at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City on Sunday afternoon. Arizona dropped the first two of the set but is already comfortably in the playoffs as a wild card. The Royals have won four of their last five contests.
Not much mo’ prior to playoffs
The Diamondbacks’ spot in the postseason–and specifically as the wild-card leader in the National League–has been secure for a while, but they can’t be overly pleased with the way the regular season is ending. Arizona will attempt to avoid yet another one-run loss and a sweep when it takes the field on Sunday, one day after it learned that it will host NL West rival Colorado in the wild-card game on Wednesday. That news came hours before the Rockies dropped a 4-3 decision to the Royals, who also held on for a 2-1 victory in the series opener. More than avoiding their first sweep since Aug. 18-20 at Minnesota, the Diamondbacks would like nothing more than to get Paul Goldschmidt going at the plate after the five-time all-star batted .175 in September. Outfielder J.D. Martinez failed to homer Saturday, leaving him tied with Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner for the most by a NL player in September (16).
Left-hander Robbie Ray (15-4, 2.86 ERA) is taking the mound for Arizona on Sunday. Ray extended his winning streak to six games with a victory over San Francisco on Tuesday, giving up two unearned runs on three hits and two walks while striking out five over as many innings. Although the 2017 all-star has struggled in his last two outings (seven runs –five earned–in 9.1 innings), he finished 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA in five September outings. Ray will face the Royals for the first time in his career as he attempts to improve upon his 3-6 record and 4.75 ERA in 12 interleague starts.
Something to play for–kind of
After Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield delivered a tie-breaking solo shot on Friday, teammate Jorge Bonifacio sent his club to its fourth win in five contests with a go-ahead, three-run blast in the sixth inning of Saturday’s triumph. The Royals (80-81) will miss their second straight postseason after back-to-back trips to the World Series, but they can record their fifth consecutive non-losing season–their longest such streak since a six-year run from 1975-80 –if they complete the sweep. Merrifield needs one more homer to become only the fourth second baseman in American League history with 20 home runs, 30 doubles and 30 stolen bases in a season.
Jason Vargas (18-10, 3.94) will oppose Ray on Sunday. The left-hander continued to build upon his career year as he won for the fourth time in as many starts on Tuesday against Detroit, permitting one run on five hits and a walk across six innings. He hasn’t squared off against Arizona since 2012 and is 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 24 career interleague starts. Vargas is trying to become the first pitcher to win at least 19 games for Kansas City since Bret Saberhagen won 23 during his second and final Cy Young campaign in 1989.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are:
- 1-5 in their last six road games
- 5-16 in their last 21 interleague road games
- 0-5 in their last five games against the American League Central
The Kansas City Royals are:
- 4-1 in their last five overall
- 4-1 in their last five home games
- 4-1 in their last five interleague games
Vargas has posted a 2.02 ERA and allowed only one homer during his recent surge, obliterating his previous personal-best 14-win campaign with Seattle in 2012. Arizona is 1-5 in its last six on the road, 5-16 in its last 21 interleague road contests, and 0-5 in its last five against the American League Central. The Royals are 4-1 in their last five overall, 4-1 in their last five at home, and 4-1 in their last five interleague contests. Additionally, they are 5-0 in the last five meetings between the two teams. Look for those trends to continue.