Royals ready for intense Cards series

By: By Conor Nicholl /
By: By Conor Nicholl /

06/10/2007 10:15 PM ET

After enjoying one of the best games of his long career, Mark Grudzielanek will get to see his former teammates Tuesday as he and his Royals will host the first version of the 2007 I-70 Series against the Cardinals.
"I have a lot of friends over there, and I know [Redbirds manager] Tony [La Russa] really well," Grudzielanek said. "It's going to be fun to see some familiar faces and have a good time over there."

Grudzielanek, the Redbirds' second baseman in 2005, certainly enjoyed himself Sunday afternoon, finishing a triple short of the cycle and driving in five runs, tying his career high.

The outburst ignited a season-high 17-run outburst in a 17-5 win over the Phillies at Kauffman Stadium. The win moved the Royals to 6-6 since their season-high seven-game losing streak and bumped their 2007 Interleague series record to 4-2. They also haven't lost a series against a National League team this season, taking a 2-0 series record into Tuesday.

They will look for similar success against the Cardinals, a team that has beaten them eight of the last nine times at Kauffman, including all three contests in KC last year. For the current Royals, the series not only represents another opportunity to turn 2007 around, but it also gives them a chance to win state's rights.

"There is no doubt -- not to say that the Phillies aren't an important series -- but because of the logistics of it, this is an important series not only for our club but for the fans here in Kansas City," Royals manager Buddy Bell said.

"There is a lot of history behind it, and it is kind of fun to have bragging rights for the state," John Buck added. "It adds a little more joy to the game and a little more interest, I think."

For the series opener, Kansas City will turn to its best pitcher in recent weeks. Young Brian Bannister, a veteran of just 14 Major League starts, will face the World Series champions in the first I-70 appearance of his career.

Bannister, who has worked at least seven innings in his last three starts and has won his past two outings, pitched for the Mets in 2006. He believes this series will be a little different than the Subway Series, but still understands the impact.

"It will be fun," Bannister said. "I don't know if it will have the same emotion that the New York one does, that gets pretty cutthroat. People are getting in fights in the stands. I think it will be a little more peaceful around here, but it will still be a good series. Lot of intensity, and I am looking forward to it."

Bannister, who relied mainly on a cut fastball that produced just one earned run in 15 innings over his last two starts, will take a page from a former Cy Young winner against St. Louis.

"Barry Zito was talking one time about how he changes a certain pitch percentage or a certain count," Bannister said. "Whether he throws 1-0 changeups this time or throws 1-0 curveballs the next time he faces them. When he makes a slight adjustment, the hitters can't pick up any patterns, and that is what I try to do every time out. ... If you keep changing yourself every time out, the hitters can't watch you on video and try to pick something up."

Grudzielanek hopes the offense will provide plenty of support for Bannister -- just like they did for the entire pitching staff Sunday against Philadelphia.

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"When we are not playing [St. Louis], I wish them all the best, but when we are playing them, I want to win," Grudzielanek said.

Pitching matchup
KC: RHP Brian Bannister (2-3, 3.33 ERA)
Bannister has had excellent back-to-back outings, getting his first two victories for the Royals. In a total of 15 innings against Tampa Bay and Cleveland, he gave up just seven hits and two runs, just one of them earned. His control was superb -- no walks in either game. Bannister is not especially overpowering but he's been hitting his spots and has been very tough on right-handed batters.

STL: RHP Brad Thompson (4-1, 4.56 ERA)
Thompson wasn't at his sharpest on Wednesday, but he held it together enough for another Cardinals win. The team is 5-1 when he takes the mound. Thompson hasn't dominated -- he's yet to strike out more than three batters in a start -- but he's kept the Cards in the game every time he's pitched. He's only allowed more than four runs once. So far, so good.

Player to watch
Emil Brown is 2-for-2 lifetime against Thompson and is one of the Royals' best hitters in Interleague Play, hitting .339 (57-for-168).

Interleague Play by the numbers:
KC in Interleague Play this season: 4-2
KC in Interleague Play overall: 80-101
KC against STL: 16-23 career, 0-0 in 2007

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