Missouri's two teams continue to head in opposite directions, with the red-hot St. Louis Cardinals looking to complete a four-game sweep of the sinking Kansas City Royals on Thursday night.
The Cardinals rallied for a 5-3 victory over the Royals (21-29) on Wednesday night, scoring four times in the eighth inning for their seventh win in eight games and 21st in 27. They have recorded at least 10 hits in 17 of those 27 contests and are batting .292 in May, tops in the major leagues.
They've been sparked by the hot play of catcher Yadier Molina , who had three hits Wednesday to give him a .650 average in his last six games, and first baseman Allen Craig , who is 7 for his last 12.
Right fielder Carlos Beltran has bounced back from an 0-for-9 stretch, going 3 for 8 with two home runs in the past two games for St. Louis (35-17).
Now the Cardinals will send highly touted prospect Michael Wacha to the mound for his major league debut in this contest.
"The key, from my perspective, is that we just have to manage expectations a little bit," general manager John Mozeliak told the team's official website. "He's a year removed from college and being thrust into a very competitive division with a lot of expectations being put on him, I don't know how fair that's going to be. I just think people need to be patient."
The right-hander out of Texas A&M garnered plenty of attention during spring training, surrendering one unearned run over 11 2-3 innings while striking out 15. He stayed on the fast track at Triple-A Memphis, posting a 4-0 record and 2.05 ERA.
"It's well-deserved," Mozeliak said of Wacha's promotion. "He was really good this spring and he hasn't disappointed at Triple-A. We're just going to take it day by day. He's a talented young man and he may be here for awhile."
Wacha will face a slumping Kansas City lineup that has mustered 16 runs during an eight-game losing streak. Designated hitter Billy Butler hasn't hit a home run since May 14 and is 5 for 25 with one extra-base hit during the slide.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas hasn't homered since May 10 and is batting .154 in his past eight contests.
Hoping to spark the offense, Kansas City appointed Hall of Famer George Brett its hitting coach Tuesday. The former Royals third baseman has helped the team in spring training for years but has turned down full-time job offers. Brett replaces Jack Maloof and Andre David , who were reassigned to the minors.
Also hoping to break a slump for Kansas City is Jeremy Guthrie (5-3, 3.92), who has lost his last three starts with a 7.91 ERA after posting a 2.28 mark in his first seven. The right-hander has allowed eight home runs in his last three outings after giving up seven in his first seven games.
Guthrie appeared to be well on his way to getting back on track Saturday, holding the Los Angeles Angels without a hit through five innings, but he allowed four runs in the eighth and gave up seven in 7 1-3 innings overall in a 7-0 loss."I executed better today," Guthrie said. "It came unraveled in the eighth. We couldn't seem to make a play and things didn't work out for us."
|Kansas City Royals|
|May 16, 2013||Jarrod Dyson||15-Day DL||Right ankle sprain|
|March 31, 2013||Danny Duffy||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|February 12, 2013||Felipe Paulino||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|May 26, 2013||John Gast||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tightness|
|May 26, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder soreness|
|May 25, 2013||John Gast||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shoulder tightness|
|May 21, 2013||Fernando Salas||15-Day DL||Right shoulder irritation|
|May 18, 2013||Jaime Garcia||15-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
|May 09, 2013||Jake Westbrook||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Kansas City Royals waited a long time between wins. They had no problem waiting to put this one in the books.
Jeff Francoeur and Eric Hosmer combined for three RBIs in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen and the Royals spoiled Michael Wacha 's almost spotless debut, snapping an eight-game losing streak with a rain-delayed 4-2 victory on Thursday night.
"We talk about this streak, we've been in every game, we've been one hit away, and tonight we got the hit," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Those are games that can get you turned around. Hopefully, that will be the case."
Hall of Famer George Brett 's debut as interim batting coach was a success and the Royals avoided a four-game sweep despite totaling only four hits in a marathon delayed an hour before the first pitch and another 4 hours, 32 minutes not long after the Royals took the lead with the bases loaded and none out in the top of the ninth.
It took 12 minutes to get the last six outs of a game that would have been a snappy 2 hours, 27 minutes without the rain.
"To get a win and break the streak, hopefully we'll carry some momentum tomorrow night," Francoeur said.
From a near capacity crowd of 43,916, a couple hundred fans at most were around when the game scheduled to start at 7:15 p.m. CDT ended at 3:14 a.m.
Umpire crew chief Joe West opted for patience and declined to invoke a rule clause in the final season meeting between teams that would have wiped out the top of the ninth and declared the Cardinals 2-1 winners.
"I wasn't sure we were going to get that game in, and to lose in that fashion after coming back in the ninth inning wouldn't have been right," Yost said. "I credit Joe West for hanging in there. I credit their grounds crew for getting the field playable."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak lobbied during the delay for an eight-inning St. Louis win. Matheny said the field was "bad."
"And I thought our grounds crew did a tremendous job," Matheny added. "This comes down to one of my guys getting hurt, it's a big deal.
"Fortunately they got it to where we could play."
West told pool reporter Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Cardinals did not express their frustration to him directly, made no statement and did not lodge a protest.
The length of game created a bit of a hardship for that crew, set to work a Cubs day game on Friday.
"We worry about that game when we get to that one," West said. "We had to worry about this game tonight."
The Royals headed for a weekend series in Texas while the Cardinals are at home Friday night against the Giants.
Matheny paid a hefty price for giving closer Edward Mujica a day off after earning four saves in four days. Francoeur homered on the second pitch from Mitchell Boggs , a curious choice to get the ball in the ninth given season-long woes that left him with a double-digit ERA and included a stint in the minors.
Boggs (0-3) faced two batters, retired neither and was loudly booed by a near-sellout crowd forced into a second rain delay. He was demoted May 3 after a 12.66 ERA and 12 walks in 10 2-3 innings. He has allowed a run in three of four appearances since returning on May 19, and none of the first three outings came with the game on the line.
Matheny said after the game that rookie set-up man Trevor Rosenthal also had been unavailable.
Hosmer, who had one RBI the previous 10 games, bounced a bases-loaded double over a drawn-in infield off Victor Marte .
The 21-year-old Wacha, who allowed a run on two hits in seven innings, was the third rookie to debut as a starter for the Cardinals and came close to matching John Gast and Tyler Lyons as first-game winners. Wacha retired the first 13 batters and set down the side in order every inning except the fifth, when Lorenzo Cain doubled with one out and scored on Elliott Johnson's single.
Wacha made the Cardinals' fastest jump from draft day to the majors in 25 years after getting picked in the first round last June.
Louis Coleman (1-0) allowed a walk in 1 1-3 innings and Greg Holland finished for his eighth save in 10 chances and first since May 1. Holland's blown save on May 6 against the White Sox was his only other chance this month.
Francoeur had been batting .156 in May and didn't start for the second straight game, entering in a double switch in the seventh. He ended the Royals' 59-inning slump without a homer with his second of the season and first since April 10.
Allen Craig and David Freese had two-out RBI singles in the first off Jeremy Guthrie to give the Cardinals the lead. They left the bases loaded in the second, wasting a single by Wacha in his first career at-bat, and stranded two in the fourth.
Wacha had a chance to score from second on Carlos Beltran 's hit, but the Cardinals didn't risk a play at the plate with the bases loaded, one out and the heart of the order coming up. Matt Holliday grounded into a force play at the plate and Craig grounded out to end the inning.
NOTES: Wacha is the eighth rookie pitcher to suit up for St. Louis this year and seventh to play. Reliever Michael Blazek was optioned to the minors earlier in the day without appearing in a game. ... Shelby Miller (5-3, 2.02) opposes the Giants' Matt Cain (4-2, 5.00) in the opener of a three-game series Friday. The Royals begin a three-game set at Texas with Wade Davis (3-4, 5.71) opposing Derek Holland (4-2, 2.97). ... Cardinals reliever Randy Choate was the winner Wednesday for his first decision since July 24, 2011, a span of 103 appearances. It's the third-longest streak in major league history.