Todayâ€™s game on BBC Five Live Sports Extra is a match-up from the American League Central, as the Kansas City Royals (39-48) take on the Chicago White Sox (48-38) at U.S. Cellular Field.Â The White Sox have won the first two games of the series and will be going for the sweep today.Â
Jonny Gould and Josh Chetwynd will be on air from 19.00 with the game scheduled to begin five minutes later.Â Coverage is available on DAB Radio and via digital TV, although the BBCâ€™s MLB rights do not appear to stretch to online streaming for UK listeners.Â We wonâ€™t be running a live blog this week, although Iâ€™ll be commenting on the game and the coverage via my Twitter feed.
The World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain kicks off at 19.30, so mute the commentary (and the vuvuzelas) and take in the two sporting events at the same time.Â
A Royal Appearance
As mentioned by Jonny and Josh during last weekâ€™s programme, one of the few downsides to their â€˜Baseball on 5â€™ broadcasts was that they were tied to the games that ESPN wanted to show.Â This meant that some teams were featured regularly (the east coast behemoths: Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Phillies etc), while others were rarely, if ever, showcased in front of the late-night British audience.
The Kansas City Royals were one of those teams that did not get a look in.Â North Americans might laugh at the thought of people wanting to watch the rank-bad Royals or the poor Pirates, but thatâ€™s to overlook just how little MLB coverage we get.Â Particularly in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when MLB.comâ€™s online content was nowhere near its current outstanding level, if a team wasnâ€™t on Five, you basically didnâ€™t seem them at all.Â Even the worst teams normally have one or two players that any baseball fan would enjoy watching, a Zack Greinke or an Andrew McCutchen, and itâ€™s hard to feel like youâ€™ve really experienced an MLB season without seeing every team at least once.
So itâ€™s with some cheer that the Royals are welcomed on to the British airwaves this evening, although itâ€™s typical of their luck that they have been scheduled against the World Cup final.Â
Todayâ€™s starting pitchers
Josh has at least got his wish, expressed with a laugh last Sunday, that Zack Greinke will take the mound for the Royals.Â Greinke is the reigning AL Cy Young winner, the annual award given to the best pitcher in each league, and his recovery from nearly quitting the game due to a social anxiety disorder to being the best pitcher in the league last year was one of defining stories of the 2009 season.
He hasnâ€™t hit those astonishing heights again so far this season.Â April went well enough, but May and June were less impressive, giving up six or more runs in three of his twelve starts.Â Greinke actually was credited with a win the last time he gave up six runs, which goes to show how arbitrary a win-loss record is.Â That six-run appearance was on 30 June against the White Sox, so theyâ€™ll have a recent good memory of getting at the Royalsâ€™ ace.Â However, Greinke was back on form in his next, and most recent, start when he struck out nine and conceded just one unearned run over seven innings against the Mariners.Â The White Sox’s hitters know all to well that if Greinke is on form, itâ€™s going to be a tough day at the office.
Former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy would have started against Greinke, but he is scheduled to have season-ending surgery and the White Sox will instead turn to their Triple-A team and call-up their top pitching prospect: Dan Hudson.Â Looking back on 2009, Baseball Prospectus described Hudson as â€œthe minor leagueâ€™s breakout pitcherâ€ and his season ended with a taste of the Big Leagues in September, making six appearances including two starts.Â
Hudson was a candidate to make the White Soxâ€™s roster out of Spring Training, but the team had five starters already set and they decided to send him to Triple-A to continue starting, rather than putting him in the bullpen.Â That move was made in the firm belief that he would be back up in the Big Leagues sometime during the season. The 23 year old has struck out an impressive 10.4 batters per nine innings for the Charlotte Knights, compiling a 11-4 record and a 3.47 ERA over seventeen starts.Â Todayâ€™s game will be his 2010 Major League debut.