Royals-Blue Jays Preview - Sports Illustrated

Royals-Blue Jays Preview

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TORONTO -- In an attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the World Series champion Kansas City Royals, the Toronto Blue Jays are counting on a continued return to form from Marcus Stroman on Wednesday.

A sweep wouldn't make up for losing the American League Championship Series to the Royals in six games last October, but it would be a good first step.

The Blue Jays are in a tight race in the American League East, which they won last year. And they also have to keep in mind the AL wild-card spots, which Kansas City might be fighting for, too. It is far in the future, but games played now could influence those played down the stretch in September.

The Royals (43-40) lost 8-3 to the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Kansas City is trying to find ways to win on the road, where it is 16-29 after dropping the first two games of the series at Rogers Centre.

Stroman (6-4, 5.08 ERA) has something to prove, too. In his past 10 starts, he is 2-4 with a 6.36 ERA, despite a decent start in his most recent outing. He has shown some improvement after pitching coach Pete Walker worked at lowering his hands in his windup and making a few other slight adjustments to simplify his delivery.

Last Friday, Stroman allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings in Toronto's 19-inning loss to the Cleveland Indians. He struck out six and recorded 10 outs on ground balls, a sign that his sinker is staying down.

"I felt good," Stroman said. "The work that's been going on between starts is starting to pay off."

Stroman is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in one regular-season start against the Royals. He also won Game 3 of the ALCS against the Royals despite allowing 11 hits, one walk and four runs in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out one in Toronto's 11-8 win.

The Blue Jays right-hander will be facing Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy (6-7, 4.04).

Kennedy has allowed 20 home runs this season. Surprisingly, that is not the most on the pitching staff. Chris Young, who allowed four homers Tuesday, leads the majors with 26 long balls allowed.

Kennedy has allowed at least one homer in each of his past six starts. Young tied the club record by allowing at least one homer in a 13th consecutive start Tuesday.

Kennedy took the loss Friday when the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Royals 4-3. He allowed six hits (including one home run), three walks and three runs in five innings. He had eight strikeouts but battled his command.

"Early on, it just felt like it was a struggle to get on top of the ball," Kennedy said. "My hand was under it a little bit. My fastball was good. My breaking ball wasn't as good as it was last start. It was kind of a constant grind. That's what it felt like."

He has one career start against Toronto, and he allowed one hit and one run on Sept. 13, 2007, when he was with the New York Yankees. It was his third major league start.

Kennedy is 3-6 with a 5.37 ERA in 10 road starts this season.