Kansas City will carry a modicum of momentum home from a seven-games-in-seven-days road trip with its first road series win and a split in Texas as it battles the Minnesota Twins on Monday afternoon at Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
The Twins will send right-hander Lance Lynn (2-4, 6.34 ERA) to the mound in the opener and the Royals will counter with right-hander Jakob Junis (5-3, 3.52).
The Royals managed a 2-2 split of the four-game series with the Rangers with a 5-3 win Sunday. They won four of the seven games on the road trip and have found a way to get a crucial piece of their pitching puzzle, right-hander Jason Hammel, back on track.
Hammel struck out 10 batters in 5 2/3 innings in the win Sunday, more than any Royals pitcher in a little over a year. He hadn’t posted a victory in 8 1/2 months, a period of 13 starts, until he beat the Cardinals on Tuesday in St. Louis.
Meanwhile, the Royals have decided to give rookie right-hander Brad Keller a spot in the starting rotation while Eric Skoglund is on the disabled list with elbow problems.
“He’s been a starter his whole career and we like what he’s doing so far this year,” manager Ned Yost told MLB.com before Sunday’s game against the Rangers. “Our goal was to bring him in here and eventually make him a starter anyway. He’s just a good pitcher.”
Keller, 22, has been a starter throughout his minor league career, starting 100 of 106 appearances in five seasons. This year, his first in the majors, he has posted a 2.01 ERA in 22 1/3 innings and 21 games in relief.
“Being able to control the game, I think that’s a lot of fun,” Keller said. “The whole game, the whole tempo and everything is based off you. That’s what I enjoy as a starter. I’m super excited about doing it.”
The Twins head to Kansas City after losing 3-1 on Sunday at Seattle to get swept in the series. Minnesota managed just four hits in the series finale and scored only five runs in the three games in the Pacific Northwest.
Also on Sunday, Minnesota traded right-hander Phil Hughes to San Diego for minor league catcher Janigson Villalobos. The Padres also got the 74th pick in next month’s draft from the Twins in the deal.
Hughes was designated for assignment last Monday. He was 0-0 with a 6.75 ERA in 12 innings over seven games, two of them starts, and was 32-29 with a 4.43 ERA in parts of five seasons with Minnesota. Hughes has been slowed by surgeries in recent years.
“For the Twins to be able to consummate that deal and give Phil an opportunity to get back to pitch, that’s a good thing,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said before the game in Seattle.
Lynn will be making his fifth career start against Kansas City, against whom he is 0-1 with a 5.55 ERA with eight walks and 13 strikeouts. He is coming off his longest start of the season May 22, when he shut out Detroit for 6 2/3 innings.
Lynn’s most recent start against the Royals was on Aug. 10, 2017, when he did not factor into the decision after allowing three runs (two earned), six hits and five walks with three strikeouts in six innings.
Junis will make his 11th start of the season Monday. He took a no-decision in the Royals’ 5-2 win at St. Louis on Wednesday, when he allowed two runs in five innings with seven strikeouts, leaving for a pinch-hitter in the sixth down 2-1.
All five of Junis’ wins have come after a Kansas City loss. He is 8-3 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 career starts when pitching after a Royals defeat.
Junis’ 14 career victories are tied for the most by a Royals pitcher in his first 30 appearances, matching Rich Gale in 1978 and Jose Rosado in 1996-97.
Junis has two no-decisions against the Twins despite a 3.27 ERA in two starts last season, including allowing two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings on Sept. 9, 2017.