The Los Angeles Angels will host the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday in Anaheim, Calif., knowing one of the keys to victory is keeping Whit Merrifield off the bases.
The Royals second baseman leads the team and is tied for ninth in the American League with 38 runs, but what makes him especially effective offensively is his base-stealing prowess.
Merrifield leads the major leagues with 17 stolen bases this year, and he has been caught only once. He topped the majors with 45 steals in 2018 and led the American League with 34 in 2017.
“The stolen base, something like that is amazing how it can just start to trigger good things to happen,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “I think he is one of the most well-rounded hitters in the league. A guy who’ll take a walk, shoot the ball the other way, move runners over, get his base hits, fights with two strikes, steal a base.”
Merrifield has been hot at the plate lately. His single Monday in the Royals’ 8-3 loss to the Angels extended his hitting streak to eight games. He is batting .382 (13-for-34) during the streak.
Left-hander Kris Bubic (1-0, 2.12 ERA) will start on the mound for Kansas City. He is coming off a rough start against the Minnesota Twins his last time out, when he gave up four runs (three earned) on eight hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings. He has never faced the Angels.
Angels lefty Andrew Heaney (3-3, 4.76 ERA) will make his 11th start of the season, coming off victories in each of his past two outings. He yielded three runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Texas Rangers on May 25, then followed that up with a strong start June 1 against the San Francisco Giants, whom he limited to one run in 6 1/3 innings.
With Mike Trout out at least another month, Los Angeles’ Juan Lagares is expected to start in center field again Tuesday. Lagares has played 25 games in center for the Angels this season, and he went 2-for-4 on Monday, raising his average to .222.
It’s possible, however, that before Trout gets back, the Angels might give a few starts in center to Jo Adell, the club’s highly touted prospect who struggled in the majors last season and has spent all of this year in the minors.
Adell, who leads the minor leagues with 15 home runs, recently moved from the corner outfield spots to center field at Triple-A Salt Lake.
Trout, out since May 17 with a strained right calf, has not started baseball activities but had his walking boot removed last week. He felt good about his progress after a rehab session on Monday.
“Today was probably my best day yet, as far as tolerance-wise,” Trout said. “As far as activities, I’m doing as much as I can to strengthen around the calf muscle. I don’t have an exact date but I want to start jogging soon if my body allows me to do it.
“Every day I come in, I’m walking on the treadmill but not with any intensity yet. But I’m just very happy with my progress so far.”
–Field Level Media