The Royals finally get to make themselves at home at Kauffman Stadium.
Tuesday night's game against the Rockies opens a nine-game homestand for the Royals, who have had just 15 games at Kauffman Stadium so far, going 8-7.
Royals staff ace James Shields (4-3. 2.70 ERA) will get it started, and he will be looking for his first home victory of the season. Of course, he has made just two starts there, losing both. The Rockies will turn to lefty Franklin Morales (3-2, 5.18 ERA), whose start was moved up when the Rockies decided to push lefty Jorge De La Rosa to Friday because of back spasms.
However, struggles at home have become a habit for Shields. He is tired of hearing about it, but in his two seasons with Kansas City, he is just 3-8 with a 4.48 ERA in 18 home games.
On the road, it is a completely different story: in 20 away starts, he is 14-4 with a 2.00 ERA.
Shields will tell you it was different when he was with Tampa Bay. He was better at home there.
"Actually there was a point in my career when I was really, really good at home and I wasn't so good on the road, and last year was the complete opposite," he said earlier this year. "Sometimes seasons go different ways. I don't think it's any particular park, it's just when I'm pitching and how I'm pitching and how I'm feeling that day, I guess."
Morales lost his latest start, a 5-0 decision against the Rangers. He was charged with five runs (four earned) in six innings, but two of the runs scored after he left the game in the seventh.
Much like Shields' time in Kansas City, Morales has fared well on the road throughout his career, spent mostly as a reliever. He is 12-13 with three saves and a 4.44 ERA in 100 games, including 20 starts, away from his home park. In his home parks with the Rockies and the Red Sox, Morales was 4-7 with eight saves and a 4.54 ERA.
Rockies: Cuddyer off and running
On Sunday morning, defending National League batting champion Michael Cuddyer, out since sustaining a left hamstring strain on April 17, took the significant rehab step of running the bases.
Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said if Cuddyer could run the bases without incident on Tuesday and Wednesday in Kansas City, the Rockies would send him to extended spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., for at-bats.
Last year when coming back from a stiff neck in May, Cuddyer needed just one day in extended spring before returning.
Royals: Escobar an accomplished thief
Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar not only has great hands, but he has great feet. He uses them artfully to steal bases. He has 40 stolen bases in his last 41 attempts, dating back to 2012.
"He's got great instincts," manager Ned Yost said. "He can read the pitcher. He knows when to go."
Escobar was 22-for-22 in stolen-base attempts last season, and he is 11-for-12 this year, including six in the seven games of Kansas City's just-completed road trip. He is not a burner on the bases like teammate Jarrod Dyson, but his sharp instincts help.
"You don't have to have great speed to be a bona fide basestealer, but his speed is above average," Yost said.
Baserunning coach Rusty Kuntz, who directs traffic at first base, keeps Escobar and other players aware of pitchers' delivery time to the plate and their pickoff moves.
"Rusty makes a big deal out of studying it, and he gives all the information to him, and he utilizes it better than anybody, except for Dyson," Yost said.
• Second baseman Omar Infante was placed on the disabled list with back issues on Tuesday. He had missed the past five five games with back inflammation.
To replace Infante on the roster, the Royals recalled infielder Pedro Ciriaco from Triple-A Omaha.
• Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau saw a lot of Shields in the American League and did well against him: 14-for-41 (.341) with four homers, six doubles and 10 RBIs.