Coming off of a disappointing series against the Boston Red Sox(which between that and the fact I am on vacation I chose to not write about), the Kansas City Royals ventured to the West Coast and started the week with a 3 game set against the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have been a major disappointment so far this year and most of the hope was that Seattle wouldn’t start finding their way back during this series. There were a number of positive developments in these 3 games for Kansas City, many of which helped them take 2 of the 3 games. So how did they do it? Let’s venture onward into a series that kept the Royals in first place in the American League Central.
Series MVP: Alcides Escobar
I’ve made no secret over the years that Alcides Escobar is one of my favorite Royals and has been since his acquisition from Milwaukee back in December of 2010(for some guy named Greinke; what is he up to lately?). There have been a lot of questions surrounding Escobar and whether he should be hitting leadoff for Kansas City(and I go back and forth on this topic) but if the main purpose of hitting at the top of the order is getting on base, then Escobar did that in spades in this series. Escobar went 7 for 13 in these 3 games with 2 RBI’s and a BAbip of .583. He would also score 3 runs and raise his average to .285 on the year. Escobar was a big part of the 7 run 4th inning on Wednesday night and his double later in the game pretty much sealed the deal. Escobar has been All-Star caliber this year and looks to be finally getting the recognition he has been deserving of these last few years. As long as he gets on base at a clip like this I am okay with him batting at the top of the order and helping to make things happen offensively for the Royals.
Pitching Performance of the Series: Joe Blanton
I think we all knew when this series started that Joe Blanton would outduel “King” Felix Hernandez on Monday night in Seattle. Um, you didn’t? Well, pretty safe to say none of us would have. Blanton was flat out dealing on Monday, going 6 innings, 2 hits and 1 run while walking none and striking out 7. In fact, Blanton held Seattle in check after Robinson Cano’s home run in the bottom of the first inning and didn’t allow another hit until Austin Jackson’s double in the top of the 7th inning, which lead to him being taken out of the game. This was only the second start for Blanton this year and he would put up a game score of 71 with this sparkling start. In fact, in Blanton’s last 6 appearances(2 starts, 4 relief outings) he has gone 19 innings, given up 2 runs, striking out 19 and allowing batters a BAbip of .229. Blanton’s signing has looked like a genius move by GM Dayton Moore and has shown that added depth within any and all organizations is a must. The Royals have been hit hard by pitching issues so far in 2015, and luckily the Royals had a Joe Blanton tucked away in Omaha to start the year and pick up some of the slack. Sure, Joe Blanton isn’t going to any All-Star games any time soon(although we Royals fans would vote for him, wouldn’t we?) but that doesn’t take away from his importance to this ballclub. Who knows how many more starts Joe will get, but he has at least shown that if the Royals need him he can be a very serviceable replacement in a tight squeeze.
Now onto some news and notes on the Royals 3 games in the Pacific Northwest:
- Omar Infante had a big 3 run double in Wednesday night’s game and within the last couple weeks has not looked like the guy we’ve all wanted to take a long walk off a short cliff this season. Since the beginning of the Milwaukee series, Infante is hitting .395, driving in 5 runs while getting 4 doubles in that span. Before that Infante hadn’t gotten an extra base hit since he had a double in New York on May 17, almost a month before. I don’t know if the All-Star balloting has lit a fuse under him or if is just seeing the ball better, but if the Royals are stuck with his contract for 2 more years, they are going to need more hot stretches like this to validate his spot in the lineup.
- Mike Moustakas put together another solid series, going 5 for 13 with a home run on Wednesday night and 3 runs driven in. Moose would also have a pair of 2 hit games in this series, 25 multi-hit games so far this season. To break that down by month, he had 11 such games in April, 6 in May and 8 so far this month. I know there has been some concern about Moustakas’ power and how it seems to have been sapped a bit by his new approach to hitting the ball to the opposite field, but if that means he sacrifices some power and gets on base more, I am all for that. To top off all the great Moose talk(and so far he has been my favorite story to follow this year), he is now sitting at 83 hits on the season. In 2014 he got 97 hits total. Total. Chew on that for a bit.
- Danny Duffy returned to the team on Wednesday and threw a very positive outing on his return. Duffy only went 4.2 innings, giving up 8 hits and 1 earned run while walking none and striking out 4. His pitch total was a bit high(88 pitches through not even 5 innings) but in a lot of ways this start wasn’t about 3/4 of these numbers. What was most impressive was that at some point during his stint on the disabled list he worked on his motion to the plate and smoothed it out. In fact, that is the smoothest I have ever seen Duffy throw. I don’t know if this was worked on in his side sessions with the team, or if it was worked on while he was in the minors, but whomever got in his ear, “kudos”. The one stat that was the most evident of this new motion was the zero in the walks column. Duffy has long had issues with control, but he was consistently ahead in the count in this start and it proved to benefit him well. Now, let’s see just how consistent this makes him…
- Former Royals prospect Mike Montgomery shut down Kansas City on Tuesday night, throwing his first major league shutout. Montgomery went 9 innings, giving up 5 hits and no runs while walking zero and striking out 10. Montgomery was once a top prospect in Kansas City’s farm system but started having control issues in 2010 and seemed like a lost cause by the time he was packaged in the James Shields deal in December of 2012. Tampa Bay dealt him to Seattle this spring and has found some success so far in Seattle. I’m really glad to see him make it to this point but a part of me can’t help but wonder if he would have been able to turn things around with Kansas City.
Tweets of Royalty
Last week there was two ways to look at the series against Milwaukee and Boston; either worry about the way Kansas City played against Boston or figure the team went 5-2, which is a record I will always take every week. So far this week, the team is 2-1 with 3 games scheduled against Oakland this weekend. You know, that A’s team that Kansas City had issues with back in April. You don’t remember? Here is a refresher article if you forgot what happened that series. I know I’m hoping for a calm 3 games where no fireworks are set off(we have a week before that holiday hits). Also, the All-Star balloting is still going on and obviously we are all voting Royal and last week I took a look at how ridiculous people are being about the voting. Finally, it will be nice to see former friend Billy Butler this weekend, but anything less than winning the series this upcoming week will be considered less than a success. The Royals are up 3.5 games over Minnesota as of this writing and hopefully that can be stretched out to 4 or 5 games by Sunday. Let’s get off the West Coast and head back to the midwest on Monday against Houston. This very well might be the Royals longest stretch this year on the road and the team won’t be back at home until July 2nd against Minnesota. Until then, the Royals are stuck living off the road and fighting off the competition.