Royals pursue .500 while D-backs tune up for playoffs

Jakob Junis will be making his third start against a National League opponent.
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Arizona Diamondbacks are preparing for the postseason, while the Kansas City Royals can play the what-if game if not for the injuries.

The two teams meet again Saturday in the penultimate game of the regular season.

The Diamondbacks have already locked up the top wild-card slot in the National League with a 92-68 record.

“We played good baseball all year long and it gave us an opportunity to clinch a week before the season was over, and we’re honored by that,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We embrace that. We understand that that was something that we earned. We’re proud of that. So, we need to make sure that we keep fine-tuned, and we will.”

Right-hander Taijuan Walker, who is 9-9 with a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts, goes to the mound Saturday against the Royals. He was acquired in a trade last November with the Seattle Mariners.

Walker will be making his third interleague start. He is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in starts against the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros.

Walker is 6-5 with a 2.99 ERA in 15 road starts this year.

Melky Cabrera is 4-for-10 off Walker, while Brandon Moss is 1-for-10. No other Royals player has more than five at-bats against Walker.

Rookie Jakob Junis is the Kansas City starter. He is 8-3 with a 4.39 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 92 1/3 innings. He lost his previous start to the New York Yankees, snapping his personal six-game winning streak.

Junis will be making his third start against a National League opponent. He defeated the San Diego Padres on June 11 and had a no-decision in the Royals’ 3-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 24.

Junis is 2-0 with a 3.49 ERA in six starts and two relief appearances this year at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals are 79-81 and need to win their next two games to end up at .500 for the second straight year.

“Some of it,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, when asked how injuries contributed to the team’s struggles. “It kind of shows you the character of the players we have. A lot of these injuries the players would have shut down and say, ‘Look, I’m not going to play through this.’ Our guys continued to play through their injuries and quite frankly were pretty productive through this time.”

He mentioned Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez playing through injuries.

“Everybody has got little dings, but they continued to play through it,” Yost said. “It hurt when we lost (Danny) Duffy. It hurt when we lost (Nathan) Karns. (Ian) Kennedy has gone through some shoulder issues. It just all kind of added up.”