Royals Vs. Pirates: Bucs Return Home For Interleague Play With First Place In Sight

June 04, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after scoring in the fourth inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

The Pirates are just two games back in the NL Central, and they have a series against a weak AL opponent coming up.

The Pirates kick off the bulk of interleague play with a home series against the Royals, and it should be an exciting one, with first place in sight.

The Bucs have won their last four series, two of which came against the first-place Reds. They beat the Reds in dramatic fashion Thursday night and are now 29-27 on the year, two games back in the NL Central.

They'll have three good matchups against a weak Royals rotation, with Luke Hochevar facing Erik Bedard Friday (7:05), followed by Vin Mazzaro and James McDonald Saturday (7:15) and Bruce Chen and A.J. Burnett Sunday (1:35).

Friday night starter Hochevar has a 6.63 ERA this year, although his underlying numbers suggest he's somewhat better than that. He's coming off a loss to the Athletics in which he allowed six earned runs over 4.2 innings, while striking out three and walking three.

The Royals offense is the second-worst in the American League, but they've got several talented and relatively young hitters, led by Mike Moustakas, who's hitting .278/.345/.497 so far. Alcides Escobar and Billy Butler are also putting together solid seasons.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout. For more on the Royals, there's Royals Review.

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