St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals to do battle

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Winners of seven of their last 10 games, the Kansas City Royals will welcome the rival St. Louis Cardinals to Kauffman Stadium this weekend for a showdown of two first-place clubs in Kansas City.

The three-game set will open on Friday night when right-hander Lance Lynn (3-3, 2.96) takes the ball opposite Chris Young (3-0, 0.94) of the Royals. Lynn, who has flown under the radar for much of the season, despite his excellent work, will do battle with a Kansas City lineup that leads all American League clubs in average (.287), slugging percentage (.434) and hits (391).

Lynn hasn’t pitched at the K in three years. His last time taking the rubber there ended with nine hits and half-a-dozen earned runs, so he’s got plenty of room for improvement this time around. Against the Royals, the former first-round pick boasts an earned run average pushing 6.00 in a pair of starts, so that’s a major focus for Cards fans in the opener.

Meanwhile, Young, coming off an American League Comeback Player of the Year Award last season with the Mariners, has been nothing short of dominant. The lanky right-hander has allowed just three earned runs in 28 1/3 innings of work this season, helping lead the Kansas City club to the top of the Central.

Veteran John Lackey will take the ball on Saturday after turning in a gutsy performance his last time out. The right-hander has been steady all season-long for manager Mike Matheny, and he’ll be a big key for the Cardinals in this three-game weekend set.

Lackey (2-2, 2.96) has pitched at least six innings in all but two of his eight starts this season, and is coming off a one-run, seven-inning effort against the Mets his last time out.

Danny Duffy will oppose the former World Series champion Lackey on Saturday, hoping to turn things around after pitching to a 5.87 ERA so far this season. He’ll take aim at a Cardinals’ lineup that is anchored by Yadier Molina, who carries a .375 average over the last week into the weekend showdown with the Royals.

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Aiding Molina in the St. Louis lineup is outfielder Jason Heyward, who has two home runs and a .300/.348/.700 line over the last seven days. Matt Adams, who has struggled in the month of May, has also turned things up lately – a promising sign for the offense.

St. Louis (27-14) turns to ace Michael Wacha in the series finale on Sunday afternoon as the young righty looks to move to a perfect 7-0 on the year. Even more impressive is his 2.13 earned run average, which ranks 11th in all of Major League Baseball among qualified starters.

Wacha will be opposed by veteran righty Edinson Volquez, who has been impressive in his first season with the Royals. The former Pittsburgh Pirates starter is 3-3, but carries a 2.74 ERA this year.

Next: Mets top Cardinals in series finale Thursday

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