Royals-Cubs Preview

The Kansas City Royals’ lineup hasn’t been performing consistently lately but had one of its better efforts in the series opener against the Chicago Cubs.

They might have an opportunity to build on their showing with Alex Rios expected to return from injury Saturday night at Wrigley Field.

Kansas City (29-18) is batting .246 and averaging 3.5 runs in its last 11 games, a significant decrease from its .291 average and 5.1 runs per contest in its first 36. The Royals have scored three runs or fewer seven times in the last 11, including each of their season-high four consecutive losses.

They ended that skid with an 8-4 victory over the Cubs on Friday and totaled 11 hits with a trio of solo homers. Kansas City also benefited from a pair of Chicago errors in their highest-scoring performance since a 12-1 win over the New York Yankees on May 15.

The Royals look to improve to 6-1 against the NL in Rios’ scheduled return from a fractured left hand. The outfielder hasn’t played since getting hit by a pitch in Minnesota on April 13 and the career .279 hitter was batting .321 with eight RBIs in his first seven games with the team.

"He was really swinging the bat good when he left," manager Ned Yost said. "But it may take him some time."

Yost gives the ball to Yordano Ventura, who is seeking a second win in eight starts. The right-hander threw seven innings in a 3-0 victory against Cincinnati on May 19 but took a 6-1 loss to St. Louis on Sunday, allowing four runs in seven innings.

Ventura (3-4, 4.64 ERA) is pitching his first game in Chicago since the Royals’ bench-clearing brawl with the White Sox on April 23, which led to a seven-game suspension. He’s appeared to calm down following three confrontations in his first four games.

Ventura will make his first start against the Cubs (25-22), who are batting .206 while averaging 3.0 runs during a 4-7 stretch. Chicago, the majors’ leader with 466 strikeouts, has fanned 29 times in the past two games with 15 Friday.

"They showed why they went to the World Series last year. We showed why we’re not ready yet," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Tsuyoshi Wada (0-0, 2.70) will make his first start versus the Royals after Jason Hammel was pushed back to Sunday.

The left-hander has pitched in two games since returning from a strained groin and yielded one run in 5 1-3 innings in Monday’s 2-1 loss to Washington. He has struck out 15 over 10 innings and while right-handed hitters are batting .194 (6 for 31) with a home run and double against him, lefties are 2 for 5 with a homer and double.

The Royals rank second in the majors with a .293 average against southpaws.

The only Cubs to face Ventura – Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero and David Ross – are a combined 5 for 10 with one home run and two doubles.

Montero is batting .370 with a home run and five doubles while hitting safely in 11 of his last 12 games against the Royals.

Kansas City’s Omar Infante is hitting .371 in his past 18 versus the Cubs.