KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jake Junis’ last two starts for the Kansas City Royals were very impressive. It’s just been a while since he started a game.
The rookie right-hander limited the Seattle Mariners to four hits and one run over eight innings, walking none and striking out seven, in an Aug. 6 victory. He beat the Oakland Athletics on Aug. 14, giving up two runs on four hits over six innings, walking none and striking out two.
Junis has not started since then, though. With the Royals having off days on Monday and last Thursday, manager Ned Yost opted to skip him.
Junis (5-2, 4.99 ERA) will return to the rotation Thursday afternoon as the Royals will go for a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
“They’re a really good team,” Junis said. “One of the best teams in the league. I’ll hopefully go out with a good game plan, execute and try to get a win.”
To keep Junis sharp, the Royals used him for 2 1/3 innings in relief Friday against the Cleveland Indians. He gave up five hits and four runs.
Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy started the first two games of the series against Colorado. Was he paying attention to how they attacked the Rockies’ hitters?
“Duffy, not so much, because he’s left-handed,” Junis said. “Kennedy being a right-hand pitcher like myself, definitely. We have scouting reports. I’ll take some notes and stuff like that, and we’ll go from there.”
The only Colorado batter he remembers facing is Raimel Tapia, in the minors.
The Rockies will counter with their own rookie right-hander, German Marquez (10-5, 4.24 ERA).
Marquez has never faced the Royals. He picked up his 10th victory Friday, allowing four runs on seven hits and one walk with six strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Marquez has been on a roll. He is 5-1 with a 3.99 ERA in his past eight starts. The Rockies are 6-2 in those games.
“I think, with German, he’s got a pretty simple formula: It’s a good fastball and a hard breaking ball,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “I think, with him, it’s locating the fastball from pitch one and landing the breaking ball.
“If he does that, he’s going to pitch well and they’re not going to score many runs. He has a tendency at times to not locate the fastball consistently, and there’s been some damage on fastballs out over the plate. We saw that in his last start, when he gave up the back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning.
“But he’s very capable of locating the fastball. We’ve seen that in numerous outings. With him, it’s pretty straightforward. He’s a guy with good stuff. If he has good stuff in a good area, he’s going to get outs. He’s not tricking guys.”
Marquez is 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in three starts against American League clubs. In 11 road starts, he is 4-3 with a 3.95 ERA.
The Rockies (68-58) will try to snap a four-game losing streak. Colorado remains a half-game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the race for the top National League wild card. The Rockies are three games ahead of the Brewers for the second wild card.
The Royals (64-61) picked up ground Wednesday on the Indians and Twins, the teams ahead of them in the American League Central. Both Cleveland and Minnesota lost while the Royals rallied for a 6-4 walk-off victory on Eric Hosmer’s three-run homer with two outs in the ninth.
Whit Merrifield, who had four hits to tie his career best, kept an eye on the scoreboard and knew Cleveland and Minnesota had lost before Hosmer’s blast.
“I probably watch it more than other people because I’m new and I haven’t been to the playoffs yet,” Merrifield said. “I’m a little more eager to scoreboard-watch than these other guys, so I knew. I’ll peek out there. I’m not going to not look.”
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