Royals, Hammel will try to cool off Tigers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The forecast calls for 90-plus degrees with the heat index a few degrees hotter when Kansas City Royals right-hander Jason Hammel throws his first pitch against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
It is not Hammel's preferred weather.
"Honestly, no," Hammel replied when asked if he liked pitching in the heat. "Growing up in Seattle, it was not humid in the summertime. Probably 80, tops, beautiful summers.
"I've always been a sweater. For whatever reason, I just sweat like a pig. In my last start, I went through three jerseys and three hats."
The Royals have lost four of five at home after the All-Star break, certainly not a recipe to stay in healthy contention for a postseason berth.
It does not get any easier for Kansas City (45-47), which faces Tigers right-handers Justin Verlander on Wednesday and Michael Fulmer on Thursday in the final two games of a four-game series. Detroit cruised to wins in the first two games, 10-2 on Monday, 9-3 on Tuesday.
"We're going to need a good start by Jason Hammel tomorrow," Royals manager Ned Yost said Tuesday.
After starting the season 1-6 with a 6.18 ERA in his first 10 starts, Hammel (4-8, 5.02 ERA) is 3-2 with a 3.83 ERA in his past eight starts. After going 3-0 with a 2.51 ERA in five June starts, he is 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA through three July starts.
"One hundred percent it's changed, for sure," Hammel said of turning around his season. "Just the feeling. I'm not a guy to make excuses, but having been a guy that's been traded at the deadline before, I understand new dwellings, new surroundings, new teammates, different expectations, and throw that all on top of competing at the best level in baseball, it can be a little tough at times.
"You're not necessarily trying to prove yourself, you also want to prove your worth and get off to that good start. I wasn't pitching up to standards at the beginning of the season."
Hammel is 2-2 with an 8.02 ERA in 10 career outings, including seven starts, against the Tigers. He had a May 29 no-decision against them. Miguel Cabrera is 6-for-14 with two doubles and three walks against Hammel.
The Tigers have won four straight, but they are 43-49 overall. They have already started to be sellers, trading power-hitting outfielder J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday for three prospects.
"By not winning, we were kind of backing Al (Avila, Tigers general manager) into a corner," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. "If you keep J.D., you essentially get almost nothing for him.
"If we were 10 games over .500, we wouldn't be in this position that in some ways forced Al to make a move."
Expect the Tigers to continue to be active before the July 31 trading deadline, dealing veterans for prospects and shedding payroll.
Verlander is 5-7 with a 4.66 ERA in 19 starts this season. He owns a 23-10 career record with a 3.19 ERA in 43 career starts against the Royals. In two starts this season at Kauffman Stadium, Verlander is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA. He is 13-6 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 career starts at Kansas City.
Royals catcher Salvador Perez is 24-for-58 (.414) with eight doubles, two home runs and 16 RBIs against Verlander. He is, however, just 1-for-6 vs. the right-hander this season. Alex Gordon is 18-for-92 (.196) with five doubles, three home runs, 31 strikeouts and 12 walks vs. Verlander.