|5:15 PM PT6:15 PM MT7:15 PM CT8:15 PM ET20:15 ET0:15 GMT8:15 5:15 PM MST7:15 PM EST7:45 PM VEN4:15 UAE (+1)7:15 PM CT, September 13, 2019
Ewing M. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri Attendance: 20,593
Astros' Cole on mound to open series with Royals
The Houston Astros can't clinch the American League West Division title this weekend against the Royals in Kansas City, but they can take some big steps toward that goal.
The Astros will send Gerrit Cole (16-5, 2.73 ERA) to the mound to oppose Danny Duffy (6-6, 4.71 ERA) in the first game Friday night. Cole is the first of three Astros pitchers in the series with an average record of 15-5, all with ERAs under 4.00. Two of the three (Cole and Zack Greinke) have ERAs under 3.00.
The Royals will avoid Justin Verlander, who is 18-6.
The Royals will counter with three pitchers whose average record is 6-9, with ERAs between 4.71 and 5.06.
Even though they lost their last three games to the Athletics, the Astros still lead the A's by 7 1/2 games in the AL West and have a magic number of eight to eliminate them.
Houston is also two games behind the New York Yankees for the best record in the American League.
Cole is undefeated since mid-May, having won his last 12 decisions. In that stretch, he has posted a 1.97 ERA (26 earned runs in 118 2/3 innings), bringing his season mark from 4.11 to the current 2.73.
He's 1-0 against the Royals this season, allowing four runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings in a May start. He struck out nine and didn't walk a batter. He's 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in three career starts. He has struck out 23 and walked only three.
In Cole's last outing, maybe his best of the year, he struck out 15 and allowed one hit in Houston's 21-1 victory over the Mariners on Sunday. He joined Pedro Martinez in 1999 in striking out 14 or more batters in three straight starts.
"Today was a pretty special day, just kind of all around," Cole understated. "We played really great defense. (Catcher Martin) Maldonado was on his game. The offense was explosive, to say the least. We just executed a lot of pitches today."
Duffy has pitched only 112 2/3 innings in 2019, thanks to two stints on the injured list. He has had two solid outings in a row since coming off the injured list after straining his left hamstring in early August.
In his last outing, he allowed one run on two hits in a 7-2 victory over the Marlins.
He won his only start against the Astros this season, allowing two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He's 3-3 with a 4.24 ERA against the Astros in his career.
With a 6-3 victory over the White Sox on Thursday, the Royals won their fourth straight series, the first time they've accomplished that since June 2017. Jorge Soler hit his 44th home run, extending his own club record.
But it will be hard for them to keep that streak going. Their final 15 games will come against teams in playoff position. Four of the five series are against teams leading their divisions, including the Astros, and the fifth is Oakland, which moved into the wild-card lead on Thursday.
Manager Ned Yost knows it's going to be tough, but he's eager for the challenge.
"We're playing better ball, but we're playing teams we match up a little bit against here," he said. "It's a tough go from here. We'll see what happens. It's going to be teams that are fighting either for division championships or wild cards. They're going to be tough series.
"I'll be interested to see how our guys stack up."
--Field Level Media
Updated September 13, 2019