Improving Royals look to slow down Acuna, Braves

Field Level Media

July 22, 2019 at 11:03 pm.

The Kansas City Royals will look for a way to slow down outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. when they make a quick stop in Atlanta for a two-game series against the Braves.

The opening game features a pair of veteran left-handers. The Royals will send Danny Duffy (4-5, 4.52 ERA) against Atlanta’s Dallas Keuchel (3-3, 3.58) on Tuesday.

Acuna went 2-for-4 on Sunday and has reached base in 27 consecutive games. His on-base streak dates to June 19 and is the longest active stretch in the majors. He was 8-for-17 in the just-completed four-game series against Washington and now has hits in 14 of his last 15 games.

Acuna hit a 424-foot homer on Sunday, giving him 24. He recently surpassed 20 homers and 20 steals in the same season, only the 22nd time that has happened in franchise history. Hank Aaron did it six times. Acuna now has a chance to join the 30-30 club, which has only happened four previous times, most recently by Ron Gant in 1990 and 1991.

The Braves are coming off a four-game split against the Nationals. Atlanta entered Monday leading the NL East by 6 1/2 games over Washington and 7 1/2 over Philadelphia.

“We need everybody,” said third baseman Josh Donaldson, who has 23 homers, of the second half of the season. “It’s going to take 1 through 25, maybe 1 through 35 depending on the situation. But everybody is key to our success.”

Kansas City has won seven of 10 games since the All-Star break but dropped two of three over the weekend against the Cleveland Indians. The Royals tried to rally with two late runs on Sunday, only to fall short 5-4.

Royals right fielder Jorge Soler went 3-for-3 on Sunday and has reached base safely in 18 consecutive games. He has 27 home runs on the year and has driven in 11 runs in 10 games since the break.

Duffy broke a career-long nine-start winless streak the last time out when he beat the White Sox 7-5 on Wednesday. He limited Chicago to two runs on six hits over six innings and struck out five. It was his fourth quality start in the last five outings.

He has made one career start against the Braves, on May 15, 2016, working three scoreless innings with five strikeouts and only one hit.

Duffy has not faced a National League team this year. He was 1-1 with a 5.56 in two such starts in 2018 and is 7-5 with a 3.45 in 19 appearances (16 starts) against the National League in his career.

“We’re getting to the point where we’re gaining confidence again,” Duffy said. “Guys are playing great. The offense is doing a great job of going up there every time and having good at-bats. We’re just kind of following them. As a staff just trying to grab the baton and run with it.”

Keuchel is coming off a loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday. He allowed five runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings and surrendered a pair of home runs.

Keuchel will make his ninth career start against Kansas City. He is 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA against the Royals. Keuchel made two starts against Kansas City in 2018 and did not allow a run in 12 innings, striking out 11.