Kansas City announced its rotation and as expected Luke Hochevar will get the Opening Day start against the Angels despite a 5.60 career ERA that includes a 4.81 mark in 18 outings last year.
Of course, the Royals being the Royals they don’t really have any clearly better options.
Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, and Bruce Chen will follow Hochevar in the rotation and Vin Mazzaro has won the final spot, but he’ll begin the season at Triple-A because the Royals won’t need a fifth starter for a couple weeks.
If healthy Francis is a pretty good bet to emerge as the Royals’ best starter this season, but that isn’t really saying much. Starting a guy with a 5.60 ERA on Opening Day and it not being a particularly crazy decision is a big part of why the Royals are very capable of losing 95-plus games for a fourth straight season. Their lineup has a chance to be pretty decent, but the pitching staff is going to be ugly.
Angels DH Albert Pujols passed Mark McGwire for sole possession of 10th place on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard, slugging his 584th career home run in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays.
Mike Trout had already slugged a solo home run off of Jays starter Marco Estrada to bring Pujols to the dish. Pujols jumped on an 0-1 cut fastball, sending it out to left-center field, clearing the fence by a few feet.
Pujols, who finished 4-for-4 with the homer and an RBI double, is batting .257/.321/.441 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI on the year. His next target on the home run leaderboard is Frank Robinson at 586.
Orioles closer Zach Britton had appeared in a major league record 43 consecutive games without allowing an earned run, spanning May 5 to August 22. That streak came to an end on Wednesday evening against the Nationals.
The Orioles entered the bottom of the ninth inning holding a 10-3 lead, but reliever Parker Bridwell immediately found himself in hot water. He yielded back-to-back singles to Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson. He was able to strike out Trea Turner, but walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. Daniel Murphy then crushed his first career grand slam to make it a 10-7 game. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to bring in Britton.
Britton, too, was knocked around. He served up a single to Bryce Harper, followed by a double to Anthony Rendon that scored Harper, pushing the score to 10-8 and ending Britton’s streak. Wilson Ramos reached on a fielder’s choice back to Britton, but the lefty finally finished the game by getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Britton now holds a nice 0.69 ERA with 38 saves and a 61/16 K/BB ratio in 52 innings of work this season.