KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Los Angeles Angels have a tough challenge this weekend.
The Angels are facing a Kansas City Royals’ rotation that owns an American League best 2.70 ERA after 10 games.
Right-hander Nathan Karns, who was acquired in a January trade from Seattle for outfielder Jarrod Dyson, will be the Royals’ starter Saturday in Kansas City.
The past two nights, Royals left-handers Jason Vargas and Danny Duffy have allowed one run and seven hits over 14 2/3 innings.
Royals manager Ned Yost acknowledges that Vargas’ strong outing Thursday to beat the Oakland Athletics might be an inducement for the other starters.
“It could,” Yost said. “There’s always a lot of competition amongst the starters. Somebody will throw a good start and the guy the next night will want to go out and duplicate it.”
Next it is Karns’ turn. He is 0-1 with a 5.82 ERA in three career outings against the Angels. He had a no-decision against them last year, allowing three runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings. Karns has no-decisions in one start and one relief appearance this season.
When Royals starter Yordano Ventura died in a vehicle crash in January in the Dominican Republic, there were plenty of question marks about the rotation.
So far the rotation has been a pleasant surprise.
“I don’t know if it surprises me, but we were hoping they would do good,” Yost said. “Coming off the year Danny had last year and the year Ian Kennedy had last year, knowing Vargy was coming back healthy (after missing most of 2016 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery).
“We liked the two additions in (Jason) Hammel, coming off a World Championship year with 15 wins. And Nate Karns, we really like his upside. We felt like we’d have a good starting rotation.”
The Angels will counter with right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who has had his woes facing the Royals.
In four career starts against Kansas City, Shoemaker is 0-3 with an 11.34 ERA, allowing 21 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings. That is his highest ERA against any opponent.
Shoemaker, who went 16-4 in 2014, has struggled to start this season. In two starts, he has no-decisions, but a 7.71 ERA, giving up nine runs, eight earned, on 13 hits, three of them home runs, in 9 1/3 innings.
The Angels turned to right-hander JC Ramirez for a Friday start after making 111 career relief appearances. Ramirez lasted five innings and 75 pitches, both career highs, giving up five runs on five hits, two walks, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly.
Ramirez gave up a two-run homer to Mike Moustakas on his third pitch. Ramirez rebounded to retire the final nine Royals he faced.
“Early on I think those guys jumped him out of the gate,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He threw three pitches and he was down two to one. I think the way he found the flow, he got into mixing his pitches up. The last two innings he looked really sharp, so that’s a positive.”
It appears Ramirez will get another start next week.
“If nothing changes, we’re anticipating that, and the way he came back the last couple of innings, hopefully he can grow with it,” Scioscia said. “As of right now we have him on the board and we’ll see where he is.”
First the Angels hitters will have to deal with the Kansas City pitching.