|Cardinals, Royals open weekend series|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals will renew their interstate rivalry for a weekend series beginning Friday.
St. Louis rookie Austin Gomber and Kansas City rookie Burch Smith are the pitching probables for the series opener.
The Royals took two-of-three in May in St. Louis with Jason Hammel and Blaine Boyer the winning pitchers. Hammel is in the bullpen in August with a 2-11 record and 5.91 ERA. Boyer is on the disabled list with a lower back strain and on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha.
The Royals will be attempting to win the I-70 series for the third time in the past five years. They won the series in 2014 and 2016.
With the Royals celebrating their 50th season, they are bringing back several players from their 1985 World Series championship team that beat the Cardinals in that seven-game series. Players scheduled to appear are Hall of Famer George Brett, Willie Wilson, Charlie Leibrandt, Danny Jackson, Dennis Leonard, Jorge Orta, Darryl Motley, Greg Pryor, John Wathan and Jamie Quirk. Also Jamie Quisenberry Stone, widow of Royals closer Dan Quisenberry, will appear.
There is absolutely no chance for a World Series repeat in 2018. The Royals (35-79) have the second-worst record in baseball to the Baltimore Orioles (35-80).
The Cardinals are still in the hunt for a National League postseason berth. They are 60-55 after a 7-1 victory Wednesday over the Miami Marlins. The Cardinals have won their past four series. Both clubs were off Thursday.
Matt Carpenter is carrying the Cardinals. He hit a tiebreaking home run in the sixth inning for the second straight night in the triumph in Miami. Carpenter tops the National League with 31 home runs.
The game will feature arguably the two best catchers in baseball -- Yadier Molina of the Cardinals and Salvador Perez of the Royals. Molina has been behind the plate for 1,798 games, needing eight more to tie Rick Ferrell for 13th all-time among catchers in major league history. Molina homered, doubled and drove in three runs in the St. Louis victory in Miami.
Perez, a four-time Rawlings Gold Glove winner, threw out Ben Zobrist trying to steal Tuesday. He has thrown out seven of the last nine runners attempting to steal a base. He has thrown out 19-of-37 would-be base thieves and second in the majors for most caught stealing. Perez's 48.6 percent ratio of throwing out runners leads the majors. He has thrown out 153 base runners in his career. Perez is a six-time All-Star Game selection, starting the last five.
The Royals are 8-11 since the All-Star break. They are 5-27-4 in series play this season. They are 4-8 in interleague play with games remaining against St. Louis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Gomber (1-0, 4.10 ERA) will be the fourth straight left-hander to face the Royals. Kansas City is 14-24 when a left-hander starts.
Smith, a Rule Five pick last December, has made one career appearance against the Cardinals. That was May 22, 2013 while he was with the San Diego Padres, allowing four runs on five hits and three walks in one inning in relief to take the loss.
Smith will make his sixth start after beginning the season in the bullpen. He is 1-3 with a 6.41 ERA this season. He had a 5.40 ERA in 24 relief outings before being inserted into the rotation on July 11.
Smith lost his last start Saturday at Minnesota, surrendering six runs on seven hits, including a pair of home runs, over five-plus innings.
Gomber, 24, made his big league debut June 2 against the Pirates. The Cardinals picked him in the fourth round (135th overall) in 2014.
This will be his third big league start. He had a no-decision Saturday in a start at Pittsburgh, allowing seven hits, including a David Freese home run, in four innings. He exited with the game tied at 4. He had never faced the Royals.
The Cardinals are winding down a nine-game, 10-day trip, going 4-2 against in Pittsburgh and Miami.
The Cardinals are 13-9 under interim manager Mike Shildt, who took over on July 15 after Mike Matheny was fired.