Woody Williams can’t explain his recent struggles.
“I know what’s going on around me,” Williams said. “I know I have to pick it up.”
Williams opened the season 7-0 with a 2.19 ERA over his first 10 starts, leaving him just five victories shy of the career high he established in 1999 with San Diego.
But his perfect season has unraveled quickly since a 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh on May 31. Williams is 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA over his last four starts.
He is coming off one of his most frustrating losses of the season. Williams allowed five runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the New York Yankees.
After walking a career high-tying six batters, Williams expressed his anger over umpire Larry Vanover’s tight strike zone.
“I don’t feel like I got a fair deal by any means,” he said. “But I don’t want to make excuses. I am a control pitcher and I didn’t make the pitches I had to make.”
Like Williams, the Cardinals are also struggling, losing five of eight with Friday’s series-opening 10-4 defeat.
Raul Ibanez went 3-for-4 with three RBIs for the Royals, who rebounded from Thursday’s 16-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Desi Relaford homered on the second pitch of the game and Angel Berroa also connected for Kansas City, which has won five of six.
“I think we have shown a lot of people and we are not going to go away,” Royals manager Tony Pena said. “We go out and we fight and we’re going to fight until we reach our goal.”
STANDINGS: Royals - 2nd place, 1 GB, AL Central. Cardinals - 3rd place, 1 GB, NL Central.
ROYALS PROBABLE STARTER: Darrell May (0-3, 4.04 ERA). May is still looking for his first win after 15 appearances, including 12 starts, this season. The left-hander did not figure in Kansas City’s 9-8 win over Minnesota on Monday despite allowing just two runs and seven hits over 6 1-3 innings. He struck out four and walked two. May lost his lone career start against the Cardinals, giving up five runs and four hits over 5 1-3 innings of a 5-1 setback on June 16, 2002.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Williams (8-2, 2.66 ERA). Williams is 2-3 with a 2.94 ERA and one complete game in 12 career appearances, including six starts, against Kansas City.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Royals - Mike Sweeney, .321 avg., 12 HRs and 50 RBIs; Ibanez, 43 runs; Carlos Beltran, 18 SBs. Cardinals - Albert Pujols, .376 avg., 20 HRs, 61 RBIs and 64 runs; Edgar Renteria, 14 SBs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Royals - 7-5. Cardinals - 7-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Royals - After going a team-record 75 games without an error, 3B Joe Randa committed his first two of the season Friday. … 1B Sweeney missed his second straight game with tightness in his upper back. His status for Saturday’s game remains uncertain. … The Royals on Friday released RHP Albie Lopez, who was 4-2 with a 12.71 ERA in 15 games. Kansas City purchased the contract of 1B Morgan Burkhart from Triple-A Omaha to fill the spot on the 25-man roster. Cardinals - OF Pujols entered Friday’s game with a .471 average, two homers and 10 RBIs in nine career games against Kansas City, but went 0-for-5 in the opener. … SS Renteria was 2-for-5 Friday for his NL-leading 33rd multi-hit game. … 3B Scott Rolen missed his second straight start and fourth game this week with what he described as a whiplash effect from a jarring head-first slide June 12 in Boston, suffering from a stiff neck and soreness in his shoulders. But both he and manager Tony La Russa believe he’ll be ready to play Saturday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Royals - 17-18 on the road; Cardinals - 22-13 at home.
INJURIES: Royals - INF Mendy Lopez (calf), 15-day DL; OF Dee Brown (wrist), 15-day DL; RHP Runelvys Hernandez (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Miguel Asencio (elbow), 60-day DL. Cardinals - C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; C Chris Widger (thumb), 15-day DL; 2B Fernando Vina (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Eli Marrero (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Russ Springer (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL.