TONIGHT: Royals, Orioles are both finding way back under new leadership


The Kansas City Royals and the Orioles, who meet in the opener of a three-game series tonight (7:35, HTS) at Memorial Stadium, have a few things in common.

Both are last in their respective divisions. Both have new managers. Kansas City is 8-7 under Hal McRae's command despite dropping their last three and the Orioles are 7-10 under John Oates.

McRae, a former Royals star, left his job as a Montreal Expos coach to return to Kansas City when John Wathan was dismissed after the team stumbled to a 16-23 start.

By a happy coincidence, McRae's leading RBI man is his son Brian, 23, who has driven in 26 runs despite hitting leadoff most of the season. In 93 games in centerfield since he was summoned from the minors last year, McRae has yet to make an error. The Royals' top hitter is rightfielder Jim Eisenreich (.309).

Some familiar names dot Kansas City's roster. Kirk Gibson, batting .224, has seven home runs and needs one to become the 13th player in history to accumulate 200 homers and 200 stolen bases. The only three active players with those numbers are Dave Winfield, Andre Dawson and Robin Yount.

George Brett, who had a season-high four RBIs Saturday, has nine hits in his last 23 at-bats to raise his average from .209 to .248. With 2,734 hits, Brett is No. 37 on the all-time list, one behind Goose Goslin.

A former Oriole, Mike Boddicker, is not expected to appear in this series. Boddicker (5-5) lost to the Chicago White Sox Sunday in his third appearance since spending 15 days on the disabled list with a sore elbow.

Another righthander returning from arm problems goes tonight when Mark Gubicza (1-3) opposes the Orioles' Jose Mesa (4-6).

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