After an eventful weekend at ‘The K’, there was hope as Minnesota came into town that there would be a tad bit more normalcy to kick off a new week for the Kansas City Royals. Luckily, normalcy was the “modus operandi” and the Royals came away with another series win, winning games 1 and 2 in the series while being shutout in game 3 on Wednesday night. Then again, as much as things seemed normal, that doesn’t mean everything made total sense. I mean, this was against the Twins, a team that has caused the Royals fits over the years. Seriously, just last week the Twins ended the Royals winning streak while also delivering Kansas City their first losing series of the season. So it makes sense that things veered a bit off the beaten path when the Twins came to town. With that said it is time to look back at what was.
Series MVP: Mike Moustakas
When the season started manager Ned Yost inserted Mike Moustakas into the 2 hole in the lineup, a move that got many(myself included) to shake their heads and wonder why. Sure, Moose had a great spring training and was consistently hitting the ball to the opposite field, but we’ve been down this road before; the road where Moustakas has a great spring and elevates our hopes for him for the season. With that said, so far so good when it comes to his new approach at the plate and it continued in this series. Moustakas would go 4 for 13 against Minnesota this week;Chris a homerun in game 2 and 3 RBI’s(including the game winning hit on Tuesday night). Moose also collected a big opposite field double in game 1 that helped get some runs on the board. I still want to see if this new approach will last throughout the long summer, but so far he looks amazing at the plate and has made me start to believe that maybe he is for real. Add in his solid defense and quiet leadership and he might end up being the building block we hoped he was when he was drafted.
Pitching Performance of the Series: Chris Young
After a rough outing in Minnesota last week that saw the scoreless streak of the Royals bullpen go up in smoke, Young bounced back this week with a solid 2 innings in Tuesday’s night game where he gave up 0 hits and 0 runs with 1 strikeout, as he picked up the slack of starter Jason Vargas who exited the game in the 6th inning. In fact since Young and Ryan Madson gave up 3 runs in the final game of the series last week against the Twins, the Royals bullpen has yet to give up another run, so another scoreless streak has begun. A nod also goes to Yohan Pino and Edinson Volquez in this series. Pino went 3 scoreless innings on Wednesday night and pushed his scoreless streak to 7.2 innings; it definitely seems as if he is making the case of keeping a roster spot when closer Greg Holland returns from the DL. Volquez had another solid start on Monday night, allowing 5 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and 5 strikeouts in his 7 innings of work. Volquez has easily been the Royals most consistent starter so far this season and has really meshed well in the clubhouse as well. So far the bullpen has been amazing for Kansas City while the rotation has had a few questions early on in 2015.
Other notes from this series:
I’ve mentioned the last few years how Jeremy Guthrie is a modern marvel, allowing many a baserunner while letting very few cross home plate, as his numbers seem to defy logic. One wonders if Guthrie has started his regression as he has yet to post a quality start yet in 2015. Guthrie struggled again on Wednesday night, only throwing 5 innings, allowing 6 hits, 6 walks(1HBP) and somehow only 3 runs. The Royals do have options if Guthrie can’t bounce back(Pino, Young) but the preference is to have him rebound and pitch more like he has the last 2 seasons. Guthrie still has this and next year on his contract, so I can’t imagine him being let go or traded if he doesn’t improve. It does appear the Royals will give him a long leash, so an improvement is needed sooner rather than later.
- Kyle Gibson finally looked human against the Royals on Monday, tossing 5 innings, giving up 4 hits, 3 earned runs with 4 walks and zero strikeouts. The Royals seemed a bit more patient with him and that helped provide enough offense to knock him out of the game and take the victory. The Twins hurler has dominated Kansas City in the past but hopefully they have found a chink in his armor, as the team will have to face Gibson a few more times before the season is done.
- A big kudos going out to Christian Colon and his at bat in the 8th inning on Tuesday night that helped spark the comeback against the Twins. It wasn’t an at bat that will show up in the box score but he worked the count against Casey Fien before eventually grounding out to second base to get Dyson across the plate and tying the game. It was a professional at bat where Colon did what he had to do to help get a run across the plate and not just a wasted out. Colon would also get an RBI double in the 6th inning to help the team keep it close against Minnesota. With second baseman Omar Infante dealing with a groin issue(and with his injury history), the Royals need Colon to be a solid replacement for moments like this. Colon will probably never be more than an average hitter, but he is versatile and plays good defense. Add in a solid bat and you have a guy who could keep a major league job for quite some time.
- Speaking of clutch hitters, Paulo Orlando continues to impress at the plate for Kansas City. Orlando now has 5 triples on the year and got a big single in that 8th inning on Tuesday night. He would proceed to steal second and put himself into scoring position. Orlando might have had to wait until he was 29 years old to get a major league job, but so far he is taking advantage of his opportunities. To me he has locked himself into a roster spot and is more of a 4th outfielder at this point than Jarrod Dyson is.
- If we are handing out kudos, a big one also needs to go to Eric Hosmer and his approach at the dish as of late. Hosmer got 6 walks in this series and officially only had 5 at bats. In the last week Hosmer has walked 9 times and despite not driving the ball much he is still getting on base and contributing. We’ve been gushing about Moustakas all season but a little gushing Hosmer’s way is deserved as well.
- Alcides Escobar returned to the lineup on Monday and was 4 for 12 in this series. There is still a noticeable limp when he runs but he appears to at least not be letting the injury slow down his hitting.
- The Royals were hit by pitches 2 more times this series. I can promise you neither one was intentional.
- And Alex Gordon chimed in with his first home run of the season on Tuesday night. I think a hot streak from A1 is just around the corner.
So that is how you extract revenge. The Twins won the series last week and the Royals returned the favor this week. I think the biggest worry so far into this season is the shaky starts from the back end of the rotation, as Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie makes one wonder just when Kris Medlen could contribute to this team. The Royals will now head to Chicago and take on the White Sox, who they swept in Kansas City the first week of the season. Kansas City will continue the tour of the Central Division with 4 in Chicago, then 3 in Cleveland next week before headed home for 4 against Detroit. May is creeping up and our Royals seem to be a contender, one that will be in the race all season. A good series in Chicago would go a long way toward setting up a great matchup next weekend against the Tigers.