As the Chicago Cubs attempt to build some consistency heading into what's expected to remain a tightly-contested race in the National League Central Division, manager Joe Maddon continues to preach the importance of starting pitching.
Maddon also knows that his team's ability to play fundamentally sound will be important, but says that how well the Cubs' starting rotation performs will play a key role in whether or not the Cubs can capture their third straight division crown.
The Cubs are coming off a 10-6 loss to the San Diego Padres on Sunday when Jon Lester again struggled and allowed five runs over five innings in a no-decision as Chicago's roller coaster ride continues.
Like Maddon, Lester said that he and his fellow starters will factor greatly in the Cubs' postseason chances and that they will have to work together, understanding that just one person can't carry the load.
"You're not always going to have all five guys clicking," Lester said after Sunday's loss. "Some seasons you are, some seasons, you aren't. We just have to keep taking our turns and figure it out as we go."
After Hamels (6-9, 4.53 ERA) was sparkling in his Cubs debut when he didn't allow an earned run and struck out nine against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, he will look to follow up on that performance against the Royals.
Hamels could play a key role in the Cubs' rotation, which has struggled to string together solid performances throughout the season. Lester has struggled of late while Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana have been hot and cold during different stretches.
For Hamels, whom the Cubs acquired from the Texas Rangers to bolster their rotation, having the opportunity to be a difference maker made coming to the Cubs a simple choice.
"Being able to come here to Chicago and play all those years in the National League, you're a little more familiar [with the ballpark]," Hamels told reporters, according to MLB.com. "What they've done the last couple years, this place has become a pretty nice venue, and not only for the fans but us players."
Hamels is 4-2 with a 3.00 ERA in seven career starts against the Royals.
The Royals will enter Monday's series opener having lost four straight games, including a 6-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
After falling behind early, the Royals battled back to within 6-5 but then squandered scoring chances in the final two innings as their losing streak continued.
Now, they'll face a Cubs team that is motivated to maintain a lead in the NL Central after splitting a four-game series against the last-place Padres.
Kansas City expects to have infielder Adalberto Mondesi back in the lineup.
Mondesi missed the past two games after aggravating his shoulder while diving for a ball. Royals manager Ned Yost kept Mondesi out of the lineup Sunday as a precaution and used him as a pinch-runner. Yost is confident to have Mondesi back on Monday.
"He could have played. I didn't even ask him today," Yost told reporters on Sunday, according to MLB.com. "[I] figured I'd give him another day and [he should be] ready to go tomorrow."
Jakob Junis (6-11, 5.12 ERA) will start for Kansas City and is coming off his first victory since May 18 when he allowed four runs and struck out five over five innings against the Chicago White Sox. Junis will face the Cubs for the first time in his career.