Over the last couple seasons, whenever the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers get together to slug it out, it feels like a big time event. It’s not just because the two teams have been the driving force in the American League Central. No, it’s also because these two teams feel much more evenly matched as more and more time goes by. Plus, lets be honest here; whenever you play a team 18-20 times a year, you know more about their flaws than sometimes even your own. So yes, we are just a few weeks into May, but having the Royals and Tigers lock up felt like a big event this weekend, one that brought forth 3 really good games in Motown.
Series MVP: Alex Gordon
As has become the norm in May, Alex Gordon has started heating up the last few weeks. Gordon is a notorious slow starter and add in the offseason wrist surgery and he was bound to get a slow beginning to his 2015 season. Luckily for the Royals, he has started hitting and he came up big for the Royals in the rubber game on Sunday night. But he also came away with a big single in Friday night’s game:
This would tie the game for Kansas City in the 7th inning and it would stay that way until the bottom of the 9th. The Royals would unfortunately lose that game but not because of Gordon, who had a stellar night on Friday, going 3 for 4. In fact Gordon was 4 for 9 in this series, driving in 2 runs and scoring the winning run on Sunday night in extra innings. In fact, Gordon got on base that inning thanks to a hit by pitch, his 2nd in the series. He also received 2 free passes in this series from Tigers pitchers and was basically on base more than he was not. This series raised both his On Base Percentage and his slugging over 20 points, which is a big boost. It was tough to pick an MVP for this series, since as a group the offense had a good one and numerous players were considered, but Gordon felt like he was a notch above everyone else while in Detroit and was a vital cog in the team’s run scoring efforts.
Pitching Performance of the Series: Jeremy Guthrie
This was about a welcome surprise as anything else this season. It’s been chronicled many times(seriously, just go back and read about every series wrap-up, where I mention how ineffective Guthrie has been this year) so it was nice to see Guthrie go out and shutdown the Tigers on Saturday afternoon. He threw 7.1 innings of 8 hit, 2 run ball, only allowing 1 walk and 3 strikeouts. Yes folks, that was Guthrie’s first quality start of the season and a lot of it was the ability to keep the Detroit batters off-balance. Guthrie compiled 19 fly balls and 8 ground balls, which is about the norm for him, although compared to his last outing against Detroit he had more fly balls than line drives by a healthy margin. Guthrie is never going to blow anyone away, but if he can perform something close to this on a fairly regular basis, he will have earned his spot in the rotation and help the Royals in a time when the starting pitching has been struggling.
Mother Nature and the Royals Bullpen
Sunday night the Royals were put into a peculiar situation. Kansas City was tied with the Tigers going into the bottom of the 9th inning and they had already announced that Luke Hochevar was coming into the game for the Royals. Instead the tarps came out and the game was halted do to the storm that was passing through. The delay went for almost 90 minutes and left Kansas City with a decision to make; let Hochevar still pitch or bring in anothe reliever. Hochevar had just been activated this past week, as it would have been his third game back after being out for the last year due to Tommy John Surgery. He had pitched the day before against the Tigers, but had thrown only 3 pitches, thus negating any worry about using him 2 days in a row. The Royals erred on the side of caution, instead bringing Jason Frasor in once the delay had been lifted. More than anything the team doesn’t want to take the chance of re-injuring Hochevar, so for the time being they will be extremely cautious with him. It was a smart choice, but it also left Kansas City with one less reliever. Because he was announced as coming into the game before the rain delay was announced, it was official and left the Royals with one less reliever once the game resumed.
Considering how much the bullpen has been used as of late, this was not a scenario the Royals really wanted to be stuck with. Luckily, Kansas City would score a run in the top of the 10th and brought Greg Holland in the bottom of the inning to close it out. That brings up another point…
Notes, notes and more notes from a stellar May matchup:
- If you have a weak heart, Sunday night’s game might not have been for you. The bases were loaded by Detroit in both the bottom of the 9th and 10th and were unable to score any runs. Jason Frasor and Greg Holland wiggled out of these jams and came out spotless. It wasn’t fun to watch though. One wonders if the weather played a part in it, as Frasor walked 2 and Holland 3. Their pace wasn’t very good either. Those last couple innings were the epitome of ugly baseball and after bringing it up I think I will now purge it from my memory.
- Omar Infante tried to make a ridiculous behind the back flip to first base on a ground ball in the 3rd inning Sunday and cost the Royals a run. I’ve watched it over and over and still can’t figure out what he was thinking.
Look, Chris Young is tall…but he isn’t that tall!
- Speaking of Young, another great outing for him against Detroit. 6 innings, 3 hits, and 1 unearned run while walking none and striking out 3. For now he has Jason Vargas’ spot in the rotation while he is on the disabled list, but there has to be some talk of giving Young a more permanent spot if the rest of the rotation doesn’t start shaping up.
- Mike Moustakas missed the series, as he was put on the bereavement list. I have not heard what it was for(I have been asked multiple times this past weekend) but I do know his mother has been sick the last few years. Hope everything goes well with whatever the issue was. Moustakas should be back on Monday.
- The Royals did make a flurry of roster moves before Friday’s game:
- Drew Butera made his Royals debut on Saturday, starting in the place of Salvador Perez. In fact, Butera(son of former big leaguer Sal Butera)played the entire game, which means a complete day off for Perez. Why am I making a big deal of this? Because even if the backup catcher starts a game in Salvy’s place, it is almost inevitable that he ends up in the game before it is all said and done.
I personally like Butera; good game caller, and works well with the pitching staff. His only downfall is he can’t hit worth a lick.
- I know there was some uproar in Friday’s night game because Yohan Pino was brought in to pitch the 9th instead of Greg Holland. I more than anyone hate the idea that manager’s have where you can’t bring in your closer unless it is a save situation. I believe more in you bring in your best pitcher when the situation is more dire. But I also realize most managers think this way and that isn’t going to change anytime soon, so a pass here for Ned Yost. I also didn’t have issue with it since Pino to that point had not allowed a run in over 10 innings of work and Holland had just come off the disabled list earlier in the week. It wasn’t like Yost had brought in a reliever that had been stinking the place up as of late(see: 2014 Crow, Aaron). It was a move that just didn’t pan out, as Detroit would get on base and score the winning run off Pino.
- Alex Gordon might have been my MVP of the series, but another good series for Eric Hosmer. Hosmer was 4 for 14 with 2 RBI’s. The biggest thing is he continues to hit the ball to the opposite field, a sign that he is locked in and seeing the ball good.
- It was also a good series for the returning Alcides Escobar. He went 4 for 15, including his first ever leadoff home run on Saturday to start the Royals rally against notorious “Royals Killer” Anibal Sanchez.
- Kelvin Herrera started serving his suspension during this series and should be back this week against the Rangers.
- Speaking of suspensions, Yordano Ventura returned from his on Friday, and continued to underwhelm. Ventura went 6 innings, giving up 8 hits and 4 runs with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. Between Ventura and Danny Duffy, James Shields presence is surely being missed by these youngsters.
Tweets of Royalty
So now the Royals lead the American League Central by 1.5 games over the Tigers, with the Royals headed to Arlington to take on the Rangers. Four against Texas this week and then 3 at home against the New York Yankees this weekend should make for an interesting week. More than anything, the Royals need the rotation to stabilize this week, and Danny Duffy is the first up for that task on Monday. If the pitching doesn’t work, I suggest touching Adrian Beltre’s head; it seems to distract him. A positive week should go a long way toward extending their lead in the central; a bad week might push them behind Detroit. Think positive and we will be discussing the first place Royals for another week.