Two former collegiate standouts trying to relive their glory days are scheduled to go head-to-head when the Kansas City Royals and host Oakland Athletics continue their pitching-dominated three-game series on Saturday afternoon.
The A’s drew even in the tightly contested set when Elvis Andrus singled in Matt Chapman with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 4-3 win on Friday that offset Kansas City’s 6-1 victory the night before.
All four starters in the series have pitched well, having allowed a total of just 19 hits and seven earned runs in 25 1/3 innings, leaving it up to 24-year-old Jackson Kowar (0-1, 54.00 ERA) and 27-year-old James Kaprielian (2-1, 3.08) to follow in some awfully big footsteps.
The Royals’ Kowar will be making his second big-league start after a three-year career at Florida during which he went 25-6. He was the 33rd overall pick of the first round by Kansas City in the 2018 draft.
Arguably the second-most famous alumnus of Charlotte Christian High in North Carolina, Kowar will be pitching in the shadow of the Oakland building that recently hosted five consecutive NBA Finals thanks to the school’s top celebrity, Stephen Curry.
Kowar was inexplicably wild in his major league debut on Monday on the road against the Los Angeles Angels, allowing a one-out walk, a wild pitch, an RBI single, a second walk, a second wild pitch, a second RBI single, a third wild pitch, an RBI infield out and a third RBI single in his seven-batter, 39-pitch nightmare.
He was pulled two outs into the inning, then was slapped with his first big-league defeat when the Royals never overcame the early 4-0 deficit in an 8-3 loss.
Kowar will be following Brady Singer to the mound, with Kris Bubic slated to start the series finale Sunday. All three were selected within the first 40 picks of the 2018 draft.
“It is exciting, and it is rare,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said of lining up the three prospects. “I never want to make light of the importance from an organizational perspective of having these young guys from a recent draft. That’s very special. But we’re kind of past that. They’re here now. You’re a major leaguer, let’s go get a job done.”
Kowar will have to deal with Friday’s hero, Andrus, whose game-winning single was his second hit of the night, giving him multiple hits in six of the last 15 games.
A’s manager Bob Melvin assured after the game he sensed he had the right man in the right place with the game on the line.
“This is a veteran guy. The moment’s not too big for him,” Melvin gushed. “It doesn’t surprise me. He’s done it against us many times over the years.”
Like Kowar, Kaprielian suffered the first loss of his big-league career in his last start. But he did so despite allowing just two runs in five innings at Colorado in a 3-1 defeat on Sunday.
The No. 16 overall pick of the 2015 draft out of UCLA, where he had a 17-10 career, Kaprielian has made seven major league appearances, including two last season, without having faced the Royals.
–Field Level Media