KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City fans will get a chance in the next four games to witness what all the international baseball buzz is about when the Royals host the Los Angeles Angels.
The buzz is not about Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who may indeed be the best baseball player on the planet.
Two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani is creating the big bold headlines. He will likely be the designated hitter Thursday and/or Friday. On Sunday, Ohtani is listed as the Angels’ probable starter.
Ohtani homered in the first three games he started as the designated hitter. He did not hit a home run as the Angels’ DH on Wednesday, but he went 1-for-3 with a walk and recorded his eighth RBI of the season. He is hitting .364 with a 1.190 one-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Ohtani is 2-0 in his first two major league starts as a pitcher, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his last start on Sunday against the Oakland Athletics.
No doubt fans will be pouring in, wanting to see Ohtani.
“You’re able to throw 100 miles per hour and hit bombs, I think people would be shocked to see that,” Mariners outfielder-designated hitter and Japanese superstar Ichiro Suzuki said through an interpreter.
Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy, who is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in his first two starts, is the probable starter for the series opener. Kennedy has allowed one run on eight hits with two walks and 13 strikeouts over a dozen innings. He beat the Indians 1-0 in his previous start on Saturday at Cleveland, spacing out four hits, striking out eight and walking none over six innings.
Kennedy has held opposing hitters to a .186 batting average in his first two starts. He has not allowed a home run after yielding 34 last season and 33 in 2017.
He is 1-4 with a 4.42 ERA in seven career games, including six starts, against the Angels. In two starts against the Angels last season, Kennedy was 2-0 with an 0.64 ERA.
The Angels will call up right-hander Nick Tropeano from Triple-A Salt Lake to make Thursday’s start. Tropeano, who missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, struck out seven in 3 2/3 scoreless innings on Friday for Salt Lake.
The 27-year-old Tropeano made a career-high 13 starts in 2016, posting a 3-2 record and 3.56 ERA before he was injured. He made his lone career start against Kansas City that year, allowing two runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
It is anticipated the Angels will activate second baseman Ian Kinsler for the first game against the Royals. Kinsler has been out with an adductor strain.
Kinsler has had success against Kennedy, going 7-for-20 (.350). Albert Pujols, who went to high school and junior college in the Kansas City metropolitan area and is closing in on 3,000 hits, has a 1.167 OPS against Kennedy. He is 5-for-18, but three of the hits are home runs. Trout is 1-for-10 versus Kennedy, while Justin Upton is 5-for-21 (.238).
The Royals lost 4-2 to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday. They dropped the last two games of the series after winning the opener 10-0 on Monday. The Royals are 1-4 at Kauffman Stadium and have lost seven of their first 10 games.
“It’s the best I’ve felt about a 3-and-7 start in my life,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I just feel good about this team. I feel good about what we have. I just feel we’re going to get hot offensively and get on a run and back to a little more even than 3-and-7.”