While the Kansas City Royals have a young and potent lineup, their starting pitching could determine how much success they'll have this season.
Coming off a stellar outing from Luke Hochevar, veteran Jonathan Sanchez makes his Royals debut looking to help his new team take two of three from the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday in Anaheim.
After the Royals were held to four hits in a 5-0 loss Friday to open the season, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas each homered Saturday as Kansas City pounded out 12 hits en route to a 6-3 win. Hochevar allowed two runs in 6 1-3 innings, one night after veteran Bruce Chen yielded three hits over six shutout innings.
"Our only goal is winning games," Hosmer said. "We have a group here that believes we can do that."
With a young lineup featuring the likes of Hosmer, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, Kansas City ranked fourth in the majors in batting average (.275) and 10th in runs (730) scored in 2011, but finished 71-91 due in part to a 4.82 staff ERA - second-highest in baseball.
While Chen and Hochevar have started the rotation off in better fashion in 2012, Sanchez has a chance to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2011.
After going 38-46 with a 4.26 ERA in six seasons with San Francisco, Sanchez was dealt to Kansas City for outfielder Melky Cabrera. Two stints on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis and an ankle injury limited the left-hander to 19 starts in 2011, when he went 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA.
Manager Ned Yost, however, has confidence that Sanchez can again be the pitcher who tossed a no-hitter in 2009 and helped the Giants to a World Series title in 2010.
"He makes good hitters take bad swings," Yost told the Royals' official website. "His deception, his delivery, the way the ball jumps out of his hand."
Sanchez allowed seven runs and 10 hits in 3 2-3 innings of an 8-1 loss in his only previous start versus the Angels in 2009.
Perhaps facing Sanchez will help Albert Pujols get on track for the Angels. The former Cardinals slugger is 5 for 10 lifetime against Sanchez, but 1 for 7 with two strikeouts for his new club.
Los Angeles boasts one the deepest lineups in the majors, but its eight runs in this series have come in just three innings. The Angels, shut out through the first five innings a major league-worst 50 times last season, have yet to score in the first five innings this season.
"We're still in spring training mode and pitchers are way ahead of us, but I think we'll catch up soon,'' said outfielder Torii Hunter, who had two hits Saturday.
Kendrys Morales went 4 for 4 on Saturday and is 5 for 7 in his first action since breaking his ankle May 29, 2010. He's batting .425 (17 for 40) in his last 10 games versus Kansas City.
After Dan Haren was tagged for five runs in 5 1-3 innings Saturday, Ervin Santana takes the mound for the Angels in the series finale.
The right-hander was 11-12 in 33 starts in 2011, but set career bests with a 3.38 ERA and 228 2-3 innings pitched. The highlight came July 27 when he threw his first career no-hitter, a 3-1 win at Cleveland.
Santana was 5-8 despite a 3.18 ERA in 17 home starts last season.
He's 5-5 with a 4.80 ERA in 13 career starts versus Kansas City.