The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t been to Kansas City since winning the World Series 27 years ago. Their next matchup with the Royals shouldn’t be nearly as challenging.
Coming off a sweep of the National League’s top team, the Phillies open a three-game interleague series with the last-place Royals on Friday night.
Philadelphia (31-29) swept a three-game series with New York (35-23), winning the finale 6-3 in 10 innings Thursday night to close within five games of the first-place Mets.
The Phillies have hopes of making their first postseason appearance since 1993, but they started the season 4-11. A sweep of New York - the defending NL East champion - was the kind of series that could become a turning point.
“There’s been a lot of hype about this team, the expectations and all, and we haven’t lived up to them,” Philadelphia left fielder Pat Burrell said. “Series like this can carry us on.”
A series against the Royals (22-39) gives the Phillies a good chance to continue their momentum. Kansas City has lost 11 of 14 and has the AL’s second-worst record.
This will be the first time the Phillies have visited Kansas City since the teams met in the 1980 World Series, which Philadelphia won in six games for the only title in team history.
Philadelphia won two of three games at home against Kansas City from June 18-20, 2004 in the first regular-season series between the teams.
The Phillies got outstanding pitching against the Mets, holding them to a total of seven runs. Freddy Garcia (1-4, 5.11 ERA), one of the team’s weakest starters, will take the mound Friday.
The right-hander did not factor in the decision despite a terrible start Sunday, allowing a season-worst seven runs - six earned - and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings as Philadelphia beat San Francisco 9-8.
Opponents are hitting .303 against Garcia.
He is 8-9 with a 5.66 ERA in 21 starts against the Royals, including a 4-5 record with a 6.65 ERA in 11 road games against them.
Kansas City is heading home after a 3-4 road trip. The Royals lost two of three games against Cleveland, including an 8-3 defeat in the series finale Thursday.
“I see some signs (of breaking out),” Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said. “We just need to get a few guys going.”
Rookie Alex Gordon was a bright spot for the Royals on Thursday, going 4-for-4 with an RBI single to end a 1-for-23 slump. The team’s starting third baseman raised his average from .173 to .190.
The Royals have scored three runs or less in 10 of their last 14 games. They’ll likely need more than three runs with Scott Elarton (1-2, 7.36 ERA) on the mound.
The right-hander hasn’t made it out of the sixth inning in any of his five starts. He gave up four runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings as Kansas City lost 5-1 to Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Elarton is 1-1 with a 7.13 ERA in four starts and a relief appearance against Philadelphia.
The Royals got some help for their bullpen Thursday, activating right-hander Joakim Soria from the 15-day disabled list. Soria, who had 10 saves in April and May, will be used primarily as a setup man for Octavio Dotel.