Preview: Dodgers, Royals Meet At Dodger Stadium For First Time Since 2003
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a sweep against of Arizona Diamondbacks, the Los Angeles Dodgers host the Kansas City Royals for the first time since 2003 to close out the unofficial first half of the season. The Dodgers enter Friday’s contest a half-game behind the Houston Astros for the best record in baseball.

While they aren’t atop the overall standings, Los Angeles boasts the best run differential in the Majors at +156 — 17 runs better than the Astros (+139).

Making his 14th start of the year is Kenta Maeda, who’s pitched to a 4.56 ERA and 4.09 FIP in 73 innings thus far (16 appearances). In his most recent outing against the San Diego Padres, Maeda lasted just 3.2 innings, yielding five runs and eight hits with one strikeout.

It was just the second time all season Maeda allowed more than three runs in a game. Prior to that outing, the right-hander had allowed just four earned runs over his last 21 innings (1.71 ERA).

The Royals counter with Jason Hammel, who has struggled for the better part of 2017. For the year, the veteran owns a 5.08 ERA, 4.52 FIP and 1.48 WHIP in 88.2 innings with a disastrous 10.4 hits per nine innings ratio.

In his last start against the Minnesota Twins, Hammel allowed seven runs (six earned) and nine hits in 5.1 innings — ultimately being tabbed with his 10th loss of the season.

Over the course of his career, Hammel is 2-7 with an even 5.00 ERA and 1.53 WHIP against the Dodgers in 77.1 innings pitched.

Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer has been on a tear over the last two weeks of play, slashing .353/.411/.588 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 56 plate appearances.

Justin Turner, winner of the National League Final Vote, is batting .350 over his last 54 plate appearances with three home runs, 11 runs scored and a 206 wRC+.

Joining Turner as an All-Star selection is Alex Wood, who was officially named to the National League team on Friday, replacing Clayton Kershaw who won’t be available due to starting the Dodgers’ final game before the break.

The Royals have won 18 of their past 24 games, while the Dodgers are in the midst of a 23-4 stretch.

Dodgers lineup:

3B: Logan Forsythe
SS: Corey Seager
LF: Chris Taylor
1B: Cody Bellinger
CF: Joc Pederson
C: Yasmani Grandal
2B: Chase Utley
RF: Yasiel Puig
P: Kenta Maeda

Royals lineup:

RF: Whit Merrifield
2B: Ramon Torres
CF: Lorenzo Cain
1B: Eric Hosmer
C: Salvador Perez
3B: Mike Moustakas
SS: Alcides Escobar
LF: Alex Gordon
P: Jason Hammel