The Kansas City Royals will begin a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday in Anaheim with a record (15-29) that is the second worst in the American League, better only than the Baltimore Orioles.
Royals manager Ned Yost has been forced to modify his goals for the team. Now, his focus is simply to get to .500.
The Royals were 9-20 at the end of April, so Yost took a long-range approach, starting with being four games over .500 this month.
Problem is, with Thursday's 16-1 loss to the Texas Rangers, Kansas City has lost four of five and is 6-9 in May.
"Everybody has to have a goal, and everybody has to have a team goal to shoot for," Yost told reporters. "... So if we get to four games over for the month of May, four games over in June and four over in July, we're back to .500 in August. It's not inconceivable. A lot of good things have to happen, like we have to stop walking guys."
Royals pitchers have walked 162 batters this season, third most in the AL. And their starter Friday -- right-hander Brad Keller -- has issued a league-high 32 walks.
Keller said he has identified the problem -- he has been "yanking my head and pulling off pitches."
"It's kind of been the same thing," he said. "It's like an evolving thing that we're trying to stop real quickly. It feels like we stop one thing and then that causes another thing. We'll get it right, and we'll get back on the horse."
Despite his control problems, Keller (2-4, 4.47 ERA) has been able to keep himself in games -- he has pitched at least five innings in all nine of his starts.
The same cannot be said of Angels starter Matt Harvey, who has lasted at least five innings in only three of his eight starts. The good news for the Angels is that Harvey's best start of the season, and his only victory, came against the Royals on April 28.
In that one, the righty lasted a season-long seven innings and gave up just one run and two hits. Harvey is 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA in three career starts against the Royals.
Friday's game will mark the first home game of the season for Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, activated from the injured list during the recent road trip. Ohtani has hit safely in four consecutive games (8-for-18) and is hitting .294 with one homer and six RBIs in eight games overall.
The home run Monday at Minnesota was his first since undergoing Tommy John surgery last Oct. 1. Ohtani said it took a few games to feel good at the plate.
"I was seeing the ball really well the whole time, but my timing was just a little off, and the way I was making contact, the angle was a little off," Ohtani said through an interpreter.
Keller is 1-1 with a 1.46 ERA in three career games (two starts) against the Angels.
--Field Level Media