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Bleeding Royal Blue

Inside the mind of a Kansas City Royals fan

Month

August 2015

Wicked Mediocre: Royals, Red Sox Split Series

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Going into this series in ‘Beantown’ we all knew what loomed in front of the Kansas City Royals. The Royals had gone 7-10 against Boston the last three seasons, including 1-2 against the Red Sox earlier this year at Kauffman Stadium. Logic would tell you that with Boston holding down the American League East cellar(and it’s not even close) and Kansas City dominating the American League Central, well, it seemed like everything would come up blue this series. But that is why they play the games, right? The Royals were able to get out of town splitting the series 2-2 which after Friday seemed like a minor miracle. But this series wasn’t all tea parties and marathons. Nope, we also got some big league baseball in. Trust me, read on.

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas follows through on a two-run double against the Boston Red Sox during the ninth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Series MVP: Mike Moustakas

If I was going purely off of batting average(and no one should do that), I might have picked Alex Rios for this honor. No, really. But after Sunday’s game, there was only one player who deserves this. Moustakas was 5 for 12 this series with 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 5 RBI’s, a walk and 4 runs scored. But the bigger story from this series was how impactful he was to the Royals victories on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, Moustakas would sharply single to left in the 6th inning after a Kendrys Morales walk to keep the rally going. Salvador Perez would then line a 3-run homer to the right field bullpen to take a 5-0 lead. Moustakas has become pull-happy again the last couple months and it was a nice sign to see him take the ball the other way, which was the main reason for his success in the first few months of the season. Then on Sunday, he would hit an ‘Oppo Taco’ in the 6th inning over the Green Monster, another pitch taken the opposite way. If you are wondering why all of a sudden he has returned to this new-old approach, it is all thanks to hitting coach Dale Sveum. Sveum has been working with Moose as of late to start hitting the ball the opposite way, as Moustakas had been trying to add some power to his game that was missing those first few months. The best thing would be for Moose to meld these two things, which is kind of what Lorenzo Cain has done this year with better pitch recognition. But this is a new road that Moustakas is venturing down, so it could take some time to mix both into his game. That being said, his at bat in the 9th inning on Sunday was the crown jewel of his work this series. The bases were loaded in the 9th with the score tied and Moustakas at the plate:

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The at bat would go 9 pitches, as Moustakas would foul off numerous pitches before getting the one he could drive, which turned into a 2-run double into right center that would end up being the game winner.

It was a fabulous at bat and one that only a couple of Royals(Gordon, Zobrist) would probably have been capable of having. Moose would get 3 hits in this game, driving in 4 and continuing his improvement from his woeful 2014 season. It would turn out to be a great series for the ‘Man Called Moose’, both offensively and defensively.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Yordano Ventura

Since the early parts of this season we have wondered ‘which Yordano Ventura are we getting this start?’. Are we getting the one who could dominate hitters last year with his mix of triple digit heat and off-speed magic? Or the Ventura that leaves the ball out over the middle of the plate? Or the one who can’t find the strike zone? In a lot of his starts this year we’ve gotten some hybrid of all of these things. On Saturday though we got an efficient and quality style start from Yordano. Ventura went 6 innings, giving up 6 hits and 1 run while walking 1 and striking out 6. It was another quality start for ‘Ace'(his third in a row) and helped push him to a game score of 61.

The best part of the start was his improvement the last few starts to get himself out of jams with very little if any runners crossing the plate. It also appears as if Ventura is getting more confidence with his off-speed pitches, which is a must for him. Sure, he can dial up the 100 MPH heater and try to blow it past hitters. But a big league hitter can time a fastball and will sit on it, as they have been this year. But if he has confidence in his change-up and curve, that makes one more weapon in his arsenal and make the batter less comfortable in the batters box. He still isn’t quite back to old form, but like Ned said after the game:

“Looks to me like he’s starting to get his swagger back. He’s executing his pitches and getting his confidence back.”

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The Strike Zone(And Bad Defense) And the Damage Done

Thursday night was not a good game for the boys in blue. Early on it was evident that the strike zone from the last series might have creeped over into Boston:

Now, part of this wasn’t on Danny Duffy. Obviously the umpire had a smaller strike zone than normal and was causing some problems for Duffy. But he was also favoring the low strike and Duffy didn’t adjust. After sitting through Wednesday’s abomination, I wasn’t in the mood for another long, drawn out ‘Ump Show’:

It didn’t help any that the Royals defense was not on point like they normally are. Paulo Orlando misplayed a few balls in left field and overall the Royals just didn’t look like themselves. By the time it was all said and done, Duffy was able to go 5 innings(which I didn’t imagine would happen early on in the game), giving up 7 hits, all 4 Boston runs while walking 2 and striking out 3. It felt like a step back for Duffy, who had been trending upwards over his last few starts. It was bad enough that for about an inning and a half Denny Matthews and Ryan Lefebvre discussed Toronto, Kansas, a small town about half an hour from where I grew up. Trust me when I say that Toronto is not worth an inning and a half of discussion. Just trust me on this one.

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Time now for the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from the four game set in Boston:

  • One of the big reasons that Boston is in last place and why Kansas City is in first in their division is defense. The Royals are the best defensive team in the league. Boston is not:

I remember before the season started MLB Network claimed Hanley Ramirez was the best left fielder in baseball. Offensively we all knew he could be a force. But you have to factor defense in there and he has looked even worse than Manny Ramirez did out there. Offense is good but a great defense is good for the long haul.

  • It was announced when we would finally see Kris Medlen start a game for the Royals:

Jeremy Guthrie has been moved to the pen, as Medlen will take his spot in the rotation. This has to be a move to see if Medlen can contribute as a starter in postseason play. I think it’s a good move, since Medlen has pitched good in relief and he has shown he can be a top shelf starter in the past. Hopefully all goes well and we are talking about Kris starting a game in October.

  • Omar Infante went 0 for 31 before getting a hit on Sunday:

Infante would try for an inside the park home run in the top of the 9th of that game, but would get thrown out at home thanks to a nice throw from left fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. It was not a pretty slide at home. Mud will stop a man.

  • Speaking of Omar, him and Alex Rios finally found out how long their leash would extend:

Rios would contribute by getting back to back multiple hit games while Infante would contribute with 2 hits on Sunday. Yost seemed to have lit a fire under their butts; let’s hope they continue to play above what they have done up to this point in 2015.

  • I mentioned earlier that Salvador Perez hit a big home run in Saturday night’s game at Fenway. It was not only a crucial blow to the Red Sox, but also a milestone for Perez:

Personally, I loved the fact the ball was jacked to right field, which means Salvy went oppo. Like Moustakas, Perez has become very pull-happy, although this goes back a couple of years now. It would be nice to see Perez start using the opposite field a bit more, since it would help his declining offensive numbers over the last few years. Even a little bit would make a big difference.

  • Finally, Johnny Cueto easily had his worst start in a Royals uniform on Friday night and his worst start of 2015. Cueto went 6 innings, giving up 13 hits and 7 runs(6 earned) while walking none and striking out 3. This lead to a game score of only 23(his previous worse game score was 35 back in May against Atlanta) in a game that Boston dominated. The bottom line is that starts like this happen; as long as they aren’t the norm there is nothing to worry about. But what everyone wanted to talk about when it came to Cueto this weekend was a radio interview where he said he would be interested in signing with Boston in the offseason because he wants to play with a “championship caliber team”. First, I don’t worry too much about players who will be free agents discussing possible destinations. It is a part of the game at this point and most players are fairly used to it. Hardly any player stays with one team for the duration of their career in this day and age. Second, Cueto is still new to the Royals so he isn’t heavily ingrained into the fabric of the Royals team chemistry. Third and finally, yes it was dumb of him to say Boston was a championship team, forgetting that Boston is in last place and Kansas City is in first. Yes, ignoring what the Royals have done this year is dumb. But we all knew when he was traded to the Royals he wouldn’t return to Kansas City next year. This is just him keeping his options open. Nothing to see here. Move on.

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Tweets of Royalty

Kansas City Royals' Salvador Perez (13) celebrates his three-run home run with a fan during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
                    (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

So the magic number now sits at 27 with with 39 games remaining this season. It seems like almost a guarantee that the Royals will wrap up the division and do that fairly soon. Kansas City has no time to rest, as the Baltimore Orioles are headed to town for a four game rematch of last year’s ALCS. We all remember what happened the last time Baltimore was at ‘The K’:

Sorry, just wanted to watch it again. I’m sure the Orioles remember this very clearly and will looking to gain back a pound a flesh in the form of a few victories. The Orioles are currently fighting for a wild card spot in the American League, as they are about a game a half out of the spot and about six games back in the American League East. It should be a fun series with lots of defensive action, as the Orioles are near the top of the defensive leader-board with Kansas City and Tampa Bay. I don’t normally predict anything before the series, but I will go ahead and do it here: Royals will take 3 out of 4 from the Orioles. If I am wrong I’m sure I will hear about it…and be forced to watch hours of Jonah Hill movies, which would be my own personal hell.

 

 

 

The Hunt For Blue October: Royals Sweep Reds

Cincinnati Reds' Jason Bourgeois (30) dives safely back to first base as Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) applies the tag on a pick-off attempt during the third inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
(AP Photo/Gary Landers)

The Kansas City Royals traveled to Cincinnati this week for a short two game series that could be a short but sweet set. Instead, you got some ugly baseball, a 13 inning affair on Tuesday, a rain delay and on Wednesday the umpire made it to where the game could have been referred to as “Honey, I Shrunk the Strike Zone”. The Royals came away with a two game sweep but these two games felt like the two longest games played the entire season, even though they weren’t. Time to meander into this series and look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

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Series MVP: Ben Zobrist

If you are a Royals fan and aren’t gushing about Ben Zobrist, what are you waiting for? Zobrist dominated this series, going 6 for 11 with 2 doubles, a home run and 3 RBI’s. The fun part was that it wasn’t just how often Zobrist got on base, but when he would get his big hit. First was his big home run against Aroldis Chapman in the 9th on Tuesday to tie the game:

Once again, this was off of Aroldis Chapman!

Zobrist’s day was not done yet as he would extend the Royals lead with a single in the 13th inning:

Yes, even Ben Zobrist can get an infield hit. Ben would follow that up with a four hit game on Wednesday to help pace the Royals to another ‘W’ and the series sweep:

Since coming over to the Royals from Oakland, Zobrist is hitting .379/.468/.636 with 5 doubles, 4 home runs, 13 RBI’s and 12 walks. I was a big fan of Zobrist’s ability to get on base and his versatility on the diamond before he became a Royal. Now that he is in Kansas City, that admiration has grown:

Zobrist seems to have a lock on the second spot in the lineup and with Alex Gordon about a week and a half away from returning to the main roster we could start seeing Zobrist getting some more playing time at second base. There has been a lot of talk about how big acquiring Johnny Cueto has been for the Royals, but getting Zobrist has added another dimension to this team’s lineup and opened up the possibilities for this team come October.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Edinson Volquez    

It almost is getting redundant mentioning ‘Edinson Volquez throws another quality start’. You almost wonder where the Royals would be if Dayton Moore hadn’t taken a flyer on Volquez this offseason and brought him into the fold. On Tuesday, Volquez started against his former team, throwing 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 run while walking 3 and striking out 7. Volquez got himself into a few jams but was able to wiggle his way out of them, including a little help from Mike Moustakas to wrap up the 6th inning:

It’s a pretty good estimate to say Volquez will be the #2 starter going into the playoffs this year(unless Yordano Ventura starts rattling off some gems) and he has definitely earned it. You always have to worry a tad about bases on balls with Volquez, but when he just throws and allows the Royals stellar defense to do the rest, he is as good as gold.

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Nothin’ Worse Than Some Ugly Baseball

If you tuned in to Wednesday night’s game, you probably realized pretty early on that it was going to be a long night. Not just because of the close to two hour rain delay, but because both teams were working with a tiny strike zone. All you have to do is point to Chris Conroy’s minuscule strike zone to see why we saw such an ugly brand of baseball that night. Sprinkle in a couple of mediocre pitchers(Keyvius Sampson for Cincy, Jeremy Guthrie for Kansas City) and you have a recipe for a game that I felt would never end:

By the end of the 3rd inning Sampson was close to 80 pitches while Guthrie had surrendered multiple home runs. Now to be fair, Conroy was consistent with his strike zone, as it was tight for both pitchers, as noted by manager Ned Yost:

“Just struggling with his command, wrestling with his command all night long,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Guthrie. “The zone seemed really tight, but they were calling pretty much balls for both guys.”

Yes, lots of balls. There were 9 total walks in this game, a game that last 3 hours and 38 minutes but felt like 13 hours and 38 minutes. It didn’t help any I was stuck listening to Steve Physioc call the play by play for the duration of this game; that’s enough to drive any person crazy! This got me to thinking. You hear people who don’t like baseball mention that it takes too long and that the game can be very boring. Most of us scoff when we hear that; we love baseball and love that it works at its own pace. We also love the little things that someone who only occasionally watches doesn’t notice or realize why this move is made for this reason. We love the intricacies. But even I hated what was going on Wednesday night. I mentally was done with this game in the 5th inning, and folks, that just doesn’t happen very often. This was ugly baseball that no one should have to appreciate. I don’t normally rag on the umpires(for the most part I think they do a good job) but umpires with tiny strike zones befuddle me. It makes no sense. Major League Baseball wants to pick up the pace of the game, which is fine. But maybe they should look at umps like Conroy, who make a game drag on by making a pitcher work with a strike zone the size of a moist towelette.  Bigger is better, at least when it comes to the strike zone.

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It was only two games, but there was more to digest. Let’s divvy up some news and notes from the ‘Queen City’:

  • If you are making plans for October and want to know when the Royals will be playing in the World Series(hey, we are allowed to be a bit brazen) here ya go:

If there is a Game 7, it would be on November 4th. I don’t know about you, but baseball should be done before November 1st. MLB needs to fix this for next year. I’m afraid we are getting closer and closer to a World Series game being played close to Thanksgiving.

  • In the 9th inning on Tuesday it looked like the Royals had taken the lead thanks to some nifty moves by Lorenzo Cain:

Alas, after review Cain was called out and the game would continue. I only wish I had half of Cain’s move. I would have killed it at pickle:

  • I’m not much for individual wins; much like saves I think it is an overstated stat. That being said, both Kris Medlen and Luke Hochevar got their first wins in the big leagues since 2013 in this series:

Both pitchers sat out 2014 with Tommy John Surgery and both made their returns this year. The ‘W’ is more about them being able to persevere and make it back successfully than an indication of their greatness. Kudos to both, as they have been pluses for this Royals team this year.

  • Finally, word got out this week that left fielder Alex Gordon would be going on rehab assignment starting Sunday. Gordon will be there for about a week before hopefully returning to the Royals lineup. You’re on notice, Omar Infante.

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Tweets of Royalty 

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The Royals now venture to Boston for four games with the magic number of 29. The Twins are long in the rear-view mirror so the Royals are playing more at this point to secure home field advantage through the playoffs. As we get closer to October, there are some questions that Royals manager Ned Yost will have to answer. How long of a leash does Alex Rios and Omar Infante get? Where all will Ben Zobrist play once Alex Gordon returns? How long does Jeremy Guthrie keep his spot in the rotation? Will Kris Medlen get a start before the season is done? And what will those Duke boys do now to get out of this sticky situation? Okay, maybe not that last one. The rest are legit and could be answered sooner rather than later. The Royals have nothing but American League East opponents this next week and a half, which the Royals have had issues with these teams so far this year. A good showing is strong support in case they have to face any of them come playoff time. Right now is all about keeping the course while also keeping an eye on October. It is a great spot to be in with just over a month left in this 2015 season.

Singed Wings: Royals Take 3 of 4 From Angels

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Sometimes a little competition is nice. With the Royals soundly dominating the American League Central and with the regular season winding down to about six weeks left, it seemed as good a time as any to have the Los Angeles Angels stroll into town. The Angels are currently in second place in the American League West and are in the conversation for one of the wild card spots in the league. Plus, the Angels have the best player in baseball, that wily veteran Mike Trout. So on paper this looked like a good matchup with the possibility of some very good baseball…and very good baseball is what we got.

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 14: Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals runs to first hatter hitting a two-run home run against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the sixth inning at Kauffman Stadium on August 14, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Eric Hosmer
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Series MVP: Eric Hosmer

Eric Hosmer has been on fire. I don’t know what magic potion he took during the All-Star break, but since coming back he has been a dominant force. In these four games, Hosmer went 6 for 15, with 2 home runs, 6 RBI’s, a double, 4 walks and my adulation. First, there was this single plating a run on Thursday:

There was also this blast on Thursday night; just listen to the sound of the ball off the bat!

Hosmer is hitting right now like most of us felt he would when he first got the call to the big leagues. Since the start of the second half, he has a line of .397/.457/.655, driving in 26 runs in 31 games and has raised his wRC+ to 142(16th best in MLB). He has also driven in a run in 10 consecutive games:

There are so many things to gush about right now when it comes to Hosmer that I almost don’t know where to start. His patience at the plate, quiet hands, driving the ball and understanding the situation of the game have all been elevated in the last month and has turned him from a solid bat and glove at first base to a middle of the order basher. In fact, he is just punishing the ball right now:

I had mentioned 4 years ago how I felt Hosmer could one day be an MVP candidate in the very near future. He seemed to have taken the long way there, but he might have finally arrived at his expected destination. He also has great hair:

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Johnny Cueto

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Cueto has taken this category for two straight series. The funny thing is the Royals got quality starts out of all four of their starters this series and their game scores reflected that. Cueto’s line was most impressive: 8 innings, 8 hits and 1 run while hitting a batter and striking out 4. This lead to a game score of 66, which was just one point higher than Yordano Ventura’s on Sunday. This start was another example of why the Royals acquired Cueto; they needed a starter at the top of the rotation who can shut down an offense and give the bullpen a rest from time to time. Cueto accomplished all of those things on Saturday and with his last two starts has shown what he is capable come October.

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Walk-Off Wonders 

Up until July 3rd, the Royals had not gotten a walk-off win all year. Since then, they have piled up a number of memorable walk-off’s, none more memorable than Sunday night’s victory. One reason why it will probably stay etched in my brain for awhile is the fact that after the 1st inning the Royals didn’t get another hit until the 10th inning(33 batters in that span). Even in the bottom of the 9th inning, where the Royals rallied to tie the game on an Alex Rios sac fly, the Royals cobbled together three walks(more on that in a bit) but no hits. So finally the Royals broke through in the bottom of the 10th, as Ben Zobrist singled to right. That was followed a few batters later by a walk to Eric Hosmer(who had 3 walks in this game!) before Kendrys Morales ended the proceedings:

I almost wanted to yell at the players to Leave.Morales.Alone. He just has a bad history of celebrating walk-offs(no, I will not post that video here). These two teams dueled for 10 innings, turning the final game of this series into a nice pitchers duel for the most part. Even more, a chance for Morales to get the recognition he deserves for a great season so far:

Outside of maybe Zobrist or Hosmer, there is no one else on that team I would rather have up in that situation. Morales had a chance in the 9th to win, but hit a dribbler in front of the plate. An inning later, he redeemed himself and put another memory into what has been a magical season for these Kansas City Royals.

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This four game set was chalked full of nice little tidbits. Let’s dive into the rest of what happened over the weekend in Kansas City:

  • After the Royals bullpen lost the game on Wednesday night against Detroit, the pen would lose another the next night against the Angels. Greg Holland, making his first appearance in five days, looked less than sharp and gave up 4 runs while not even getting a batter out:

Now, Holland has not looked like his normal dominating self for most of this season. But as of late his velocity has been on the incline and his arm slot has seemed a bit more consistent. There was a belief amongst the Royals coaches that part of the problem was Holland needs regular work to be consistent:

So the thinking is to pitch Holland more often, save situation or not. This was put to the test immediately:

There was a lot of talk this past weekend about the Royals bullpen and how it might be cracking. I’m not totally for sure I buy into that, if for no other reason than the fact that Holland hasn’t been his normal self all season. Add in that no team is going to hold a “perfect” pen and you have a few days where the bullpen under-performed. It happens.  Like Greg Holland, lets move on and not worry about this until it becomes a weekly thing.

  • Salvador Perez returned to the lineup on Saturday and proceeded to hit a home run in his first at bat back:

He would also get the first ejection of his career on Sunday:

His ejection might have actually been a godsend, as Drew Butera would come in and draw a walk in the 9th inning that helped prolong the inning and allow the Royals to tie up the score. I’m glad Salvy is back, but I also felt like the rest was good for him.

  • The Royals have been doing something recently that we are not accustomed to them doing:

I am a big proponent of walks, since it does two things; it puts a runner on base and it also drives up the pitch count of the pitcher(and leave the pitcher more likely to make a mistake). I have long wanted this team to walk more, but for the most part had given up any hope of this becoming an arsenal in their offensive game. It does appear in some non-connected way that Ben Zobrist is rubbing off onto his new teammates:

I don’t want to give Zobrist all the credit, but he has lead the charge. It would be wise for this team to continue this philosophy, since it plays well in the postseason.

  • I mentioned earlier about the great starts by the rotation this series, as all four starters achieved quality starts. Guthrie and Duffy went 6 innings apiece while Ventura would go 7 innings, to go with Cueto’s eight. It has been nice to see both Duffy and Ventura improve from start to start, as they are a key part of this team when it comes to the playoffs. Cueto has been a nice influence on Ventura, as Ventura’s only real concern at this point is working on his location. These guys might not have quality starts every outing, but if they can compile numbers close to what they did this weekend they will help this team win more often than not.
  • Mike Sweeney was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame on Saturday and there really couldn’t be a more deserving player to be given this honor:

Unfortunately for Sweeney he played on some awful Royals teams, so he didn’t get to experience postseason play until after he left Kansas City. There is no one who was more deserving of getting to experience the Royals return to the playoffs than Sweeney. He bleeds Royal blue, folks. Here is clips from his Hall of Fame ceremony:

  • Jarrod Dyson celebrated his 31st birthday on Saturday the best way possible. Dyson went 3 for 4, drove in 3 runs and stole 2 bases. Dyson probably will never be a fulltime starter, but as a 4th outfielder and injury replacement he is perfect. If he could only hit lefties…

  • Speaking of Dyson, there has been a push as of late to replace right fielder Alex Rios with a Dyson/Paulo Orlando platoon, especially once the playoffs come around:

Trust me, there is a reason that a number of us prefer this scenario:

I don’t know if it is the thumb and/or wrist injury, or just the normal regression of a player his age, but Rios is at a point in his career where he has zero power and his defense is average at best. Dyson and Orlando are both much superior defenders and offensively they won’t be a major upgrade, but they tend to get on base more than Rios. I say make the move before October; we will see if that happens or if Yost rides Rios through the rest of the regular season.

  • Finally, the Royals added depth to their pitching staff in AAA:

I doubt either makes a serious impact with the big league club, but you can never have enough depth. Plus, they could eat some innings in September, letting some of the other pitchers get some rest. Chamberlain in particular could see some serious time out of the pen, if necessary.

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Tweets of Royalty 

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Only 45 games are left in the season and at this point it feels like the Royals will spend September loading up and getting all their ducks in a row for the playoffs. This week the Royals will have two games against Cincinnati, then wrap up the week with a four game series with Boston. The offense, defense and pitching all clicked for Kansas City this past weekend and they will need that to continue this week. Sure, the Reds and Red Sox are out of the race, but both teams can still cause problems. I really like of late that Ned Yost has been resting his starters on a regular basis, even if he always seems to rest Lorenzo Cain when I go to a game! There is a game plan in place and it looks to be unfolding as expected. It’s been a magical season in Kansas City this summer, but there is still some leg-work left to do before another ‘Blue October’!

 

 

 

Thorn in the Paw: Royals Pounce on Tigers

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After a series sweep of the White Sox, the Royals welcomed the Detroit Tigers to Kauffman Stadium. Last week, Detroit took two of three games from the Royals and overall made Kansas City not look like the team with the biggest divisional lead in the major leagues. The Royals so far this year have been remarkable better at home than on the road(39-20 to 29-26) so the hope was this series would not be a repeat of the one in Detroit. In fact, it was not, as the Royals would take two of three from the Tigers and were it not for a lead blown by the bullpen on Wednesday night, this might have been a sweep for the Royals. It was a banner series, so let’s slide into this set and look at the preceedings.

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Series MVP: Lorenzo Cain

For the second straight series, Lorenzo Cain showed why he is an honest to goodness MVP candidate this year. Cain was 8 for 12 in these three games, getting 3 doubles, a home run that might still be in flight, and 3 RBI’s. His slugging percentage this series was a ridiculous 1. 167 and  almost raised his OPS this series 30 points. I talked about the numbers Cain has put up this season earlier this week and the numbers keep popping up for Cain:

We’ve heard the last few years from manager Ned Yost that Cain showed much more power in batting practice then he would during the game. This year, Cain’s pitch recognition has vastly improved, to where he understands which pitches he can drive and which ones he can’t. It has made a drastic difference in his offensive production and has kept him in the 3rd spot in the batting order this year. You add in his top shelf defense(which is in the top 15 of baseball in defensive runs saved) and you have the biggest driving force in the Royals lineup. Having a bat like Cain’s(and his consistency most of this year) has to make Royals management comfortable, knowing he can lead the team offensively come October.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Johnny Cueto

Amazingly, there are still some fans who don’t understand why the Royals needed Johnny Cueto. On Monday night, he showed why Kansas City was so adament about acquiring him for their postseason run. All Cueto did in his third start as a Royal is pitch a complete game shutout, giving up 4 hits, walking none and striking out 8 on 116 pitches. If this didn’t make him endear himself toward you, nothing will. His game score of 87 was his highest since July 7th against Washington and overall his second best this season:

Still not sold on Cueto? Well, consider this when compared to the rest of the Royals rotation so far in 2015:

Cueto was also introduced to a Royals favorite: the postgame ritual!

While Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura have been up and down, having Cueto makes two solid starters(with Edinson Volquez) that the Royals can count on in October. Cueto won’t do this every start, but the fact he is capable of doing it in a high stakes game late in the season, well that alone makes his acquisition more than worth it.

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Death By Defense  

On Tuesday night, the Royals put on a defensive clinic to remind the Tigers why they are on the top of the American League Central…and why the Tigers aren’t. First there was a great relay throw from Alcides Escobar to nail James McCann at the plate:

Not only a great assist from “Shortstop Jesus” but also not his first:

Trust me, it was beautiful(and I wish I could show it, but MLB has limitations. Come on, MLB!). It was so great that even Neddy approved:

Oh yeah, I approved as well:

Later in the game, Salvador Perez picked Anthony Gose off base:

There would also be a dazzling play by Alcides Escobar later in the game as well. The Tigers would also do something amazing on defense, although not in the good way. A fly ball would get hit to left fielder Tyler Collins later in the game and it would bounce off the palm of his glove and veer to the corner. It was the perfect description of the differences between these two teams. The Royals lead the American League in defensive rankings, while Detroit is in 4th place. But it’s not as close as 1st to 4th place, as the Royals have a 51, the Tigers 10.9. That is a rather huge gap. Within the division, Chicago is last in the league while Cleveland sits in 11th place and Minnesota 9th, all in the negative rankings. Sure, the Royals have had a good offensive season and the bullpen is about as good as they get. But the defense sets them apart from everyone else in the division and is why the Royals are at the top with everyone else looking up.

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Oh, but there is more! With that said here are the news and notes portion of this series:

  • One of the most asked questions this season has been “how long will the Royals go with Omar Infante at 2B?”. It’s easy to see why this question continues to get asked:

Yet, we have seen a llllloooooooooooootttt of Omar this season:

But Ned has confidence:

Oh, speaking of big hits:

I think it’s safe to say his defense is what is keeping him in the lineup. In fact, defensively he has having his best season since 2012(5 DRS and a UZR of 4.3). Sure, he doesn’t take walks and any punch he used to have seems to have gone by the wayside. But don’t fret; when(if?) Alex Gordon comes back in September, I have a feeling we will be seeing more of Ben Zobrist at second base. Oh, and Infante did get a day off this week; on Tuesday, Zobrist started in his place and made an error. I don’t think that proves Infante is the better option; that is more of a sign that the universe likes to mess with our heads.

  • Wade Davis did not see any action during these three games:

I’m sure some will point to not having Davis available on Wednesday cost the Royals the game(Yost went with Volquez into the 8th inning and the Royals would end up losing the lead and the game), but it is a good thing that Kansas City can be cautious with Wade. I made the comment last series and will say it again; I would rather have a healthy Davis in October than use him injured and lose him for longer than just a week.

  • What a weird start for Yordano Ventura on Tuesday. Ventura would go 6 innings, only giving up 2 hits and no runs. Looks good, right? But Ventura also walked 6 and struck out 8. Rare, huh?

Ventura was able to get out of a couple of dicey situations, which is improvement. He has had issues pitching with runners on base this season, but on Tuesday he kept a calm head and dealt his way out of it. Sure, the 6 walks is a scary number; but I will take the improvement and hope that continues over the next couple of starts.

  • Over the years the Royals have had issues dealing with Anibal Sanchez. Not anymore:

I don’t have answers for why the Royals seem to handle the best pitchers in the league better than the lesser known pitchers, but I will take it. It is a vast improvement over where the Royals were just a few years ago.

  • Salvador Perez had to leave Tuesday’s game in the 6th inning due to a wrist injury:

Perez hasn’t played since the injury and is still being evaluated. You lose a little bit offensively with Drew Butera behind the plate, but not a bunch on defense. There were some fans angry with Butera on Wednesday night but he is a solid defensive catcher, in fact he is a well above average fielder over his career. This injury might just be a good sign; all that rest that Perez has needed the last few years might be caught up on.

  • Eric Hosmer continues to dazzle. Hosmer had a slash line of .333/.333/.750 in this series and is hitting .366/.414/.545 since the beginning of July. I can’t tell you if Hosmer has finally figured it out or not(he has been a streaky hitter throughout his career), but I will say the power he has shown in this span has made me think that he actually could contend for an MVP award at some point in his career, and I haven’t thought that in a long time.

  • Finally, the Royals streak of 111 games won when leading after 7 innings is over:

The Royals were only 4 wins away from the record, held by the 1998-99 New York Yankees. Damn Yankees!

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Tweets of Royalty

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto, left, is hugged by catcher Salvador Perez, right, following a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Monday, Aug. 10, 2015. The Royals defeated the Tigers 4-0. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) ORG XMIT: OTKOW
(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

So the Royals still have a double digit lead in the American League Central as they welcome the Los Angeles Angels to town for a four games series this weekend. Interesting note, out of the teams currently holding leads in either a division or the wild card, the Angels are the last one of those teams the Royals will face this season(outside of a make-up game late in September against the Cubs). A question was posed to me the other day, asking if there should be any worry that the Royals would get too complacent with this big a lead. I said there is always the chance, but these players seem to be pretty driven. The other good thing is that Kansas City can rest a guy like Wade Davis and let him heal better than if they were fighting for a playoff spot. There are pluses and minuses to having this big a lead, but as of right now I don’t see anyone slacking off on the field. That is a good thing, since we are only about six weeks away from the regular season wrapping and what appears to be another ‘Blue October’ for the Royals!

 

 

 

South Side Sweep: Royals Take the Broom to the White Sox

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Coming off of a ten game road trip that saw the Kansas City go 4-6, the Royals returned home this past weekend to take on division rivals the Chicago White Sox. The Royals last played Chicago in the second city to kick off the second half of the season, a series the Royals won. Would the same happen in Kansas City? Would the Royals bounce back from a rough series in Detroit? Would Salvador Perez get a Gatorade sponsorship? And would the Royals need Jedi help in their rotation this past weekend? All these answers lie ahead(well, most of them anyway!).

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Series MVP: Lorenzo Cain 

Friday night was a spotlight stealing night for Lorenzo Cain, as he would get a double, a triple and an RBI to help pace the Royals to a victory. Big night for Cain, but overall he would put forth a stellar series, going 3 for 7, while also scoring a run, stealing a base and slugging at an .857 clip. It really shouldn’t have been a surprise that Cain would step up this weekend:

I’m also pretty sure he saw some fastballs against Jeff Samardzija, who you could probably call Cain’s nemesis:

Looking at Lorenzo’s numbers this season breaks it down even more how much he has improved the last few years. Strikeouts are down, walks are up, average still sitting above .300 while already setting a career high in triples and home runs. Add in 20 stolen bases and a career high WAR of 5.9 and OPS+ of 133 and you have the making of an all around above average player. I think sometimes we take what guys like Cain and Hosmer do on defense as just daily plays that are the norm. They are the norm, but that does not mean they are ho-hum. Cain has elevated his game so much this year that it’s not hard to see him take the mantle of ‘best player on the Royals’ once Alex Gordon is no longer in Kansas City. Actually that day could come sooner than that, much sooner. The good part is that Cain isn’t eligible for free agency until 2018; the bad part is he could be quite expensive by then. Trust me, it is a good problem to have.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Kris Medlen

With credit going to Edinson Volquez’s great outing on Friday night, I was overjoyed with the performance of Kris Medlen on Sunday afternoon. After Danny Duffy left the game in the fourth inning, Medlen would come in for his first outing since Thursday(although in that contest he would face only one batter and throw only three pitches) and would shut down the White Sox. Medlen would go 3.2 innings, giving up no hits, and no runs while walking 1 and striking out 3. Medlen threw 69% strikes on Sunday and looked like the former ace he was in Atlanta. As much as we would all love to have Medlen in the rotation, we do have to remember he is coming off of Tommy John Surgery and at this point should just be thankful that he is healthy and able to pitch for the team. In a dream world, Medlen would be in the rotation come October, and we are not alone in that thinking:

I was just happy with how good he looked this weekend. He seemed to have good velocity on his fastball and he seemed to have a good feel for his off-speed pitches. We can’t expect Medlen to pitch like this every outing, but if this is what we see the majority of the time, then the rotation has sunnier day’s in their future.

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Thanks For the Hugs, Melky 

If you remember early in the season, whenever Melky Cabrera would get on base, he would hug some of his former teammates. Didn’t matter if it was Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar or Salvador Perez, Melky would proceed to embrace his friends. It was not only amusing to watch a grown man act like a child and show his affection, but it also seemed to drive Rex Hudler bonkers(calm down, Rex; the game has changed since you played). But while watching Melky this past weekend I started thinking about how much he loves these guys and I started pondering how much fun he would have if he was still with Kansas City. The thing is, he could have been a Royal again. This past winter, the Royals were on the hunt for a new right fielder to take the place of Nori Aoki. They had tried Torii Hunter but he returned to Minnesota. They had also talked to Melky about coming in, even offering him a contract fairly similar to what he got from Chicago. Chicago eventually won the Melky sweepstakes, but I found it interesting why he chose the White Sox over the Royals:

 Cabrera “really wanted to win,” Rick Hahn, White Sox GM recalled. “(He said) ‘But with all due respect are you guys really in a position to win and am I really a difference maker for you?’ ”

So Chicago’s winter moves swayed Melky, or at least he felt like they had a better chance to win. The funny thing is, the Royals offered a deal somewhat similar to what Chicago gave him. I believe it was one less year, and possibly a few million less. But here was my thought this weekend: with the Royals in about the same situation as Chicago, at least when pertaining to their chance of winning, why would he not take a little less money to be around a bunch of guys that he really enjoys playing with? Now, Seattle did offer Cabrera an extra year, so maybe the years weren’t as big a deal but with the Royals offering something in the same ballpark, I just find it odd that he wouldn’t try to come back to Kansas City. I’m sure that White Sox locker room is full of quality guys; I don’t doubt that a bit. But the chance to win a championship and do that with a bunch of guys you think fondly of? I tend to think you can’t beat that. But obviously it was not meant to be, and instead the Royals end up with Alex Rios who looks about the same as the Alex Rios that was sapped of power last year in Texas. We can only imagine how much better this Royals team would have been with Melky roaming right field…

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Time to slide on over and review some news and notes from this weekend sweep for Kansas City:

  • So Yordano Ventura has been an enigma this year. How has the guy who dominated the Giants in Game 6 of the World Series now have issues facing even lower level teams in the American League? Well, we might have finally have gotten a peak into what has been plaguing Yordano:

The entire article is here and it definitely goes into some major detail as to what ails “Ace”. It’s been noticeable that with runners on Ventura has been leaving more pitches out over the middle of the plate. His Babip has also been crazy this year, .309 to last year’s .288. The biggest obstacle Ventura is going to run into is figuring out how to get hitters to quit sitting on his fastball and forcing them to swing at the off-speed stuff. As frustrating as it has been, he is still young and has plenty of time to adjust and return to form. It would just be nice if that could happen before October.

  • Good news on the Alex Gordon front; he is now taking batting practice:

Just imagine a September lineup with Gordon back in left field and Ben Zobrist at second base. Yep, hard not to get excited about what we could see in October with this team.

  • Over the years, John Danks has confused Kansas City hitters. Before this year, Danks was 9-0 against Kansas City and had only given up 28 runs in 104 innings against the Royals. So far this season, Danks is 2-2 against the Royals, giving up 10 runs over 23 innings. The Royals haven’t completely solved Danks, but it’s no longer a guarantee that he will put up a ‘W’ whenever throwing against Kansas City like it used to be.
  • Wade Davis did not pitch in this series as his back continues to give him problems:

If this was last year, Davis would probably be asked to pitch through it and increase the chances of injuring himself even further. Instead, with a big lead in the American League Central, Davis can sit out and heal. Davis, at this point, is more important in October than August.

  • Saturday night, Greg Holland looked like the “Dirty South” of old. His breaking pitches  had proper dive and his fastball was popping, reaching 97 mph on the radar gun. Holland has been hovering around 93 mph most of this year, so seeing the uptick in velocity is a definite plus. It’s been rumored most of this season that Holland had an injury(and he still might), but Kansas City management has to breathe easier knowing Holland seems to be pitching more like his old self as we reach the last few months of the season.
  • On Sunday, Kendrys Morales would hit his 13th home run of the season, while also driving in RBI’s 79 and 80. This puts him 3rd in the American League in RBI’s and tied for second in doubles. I feel like I can’t stress enough how valuable Morales has been to this Kansas City team. He drives in runs in the middle of the order and as much as most of us loved Billy Butler, he had really quit doing that last year. I don’t even want to imagine where Kansas City would be without Morales’ bat in the middle of this lineup.
  • Sunday was ‘Star Wars Day at the K’, as the Royals finally dipped their toes into what has become a popular promotion over the years for most other major league teams. There was no way I was going to miss this, since the two things I am most passionate about are baseball and Star Wars. This also led to scenes like this at Kauffman Stadium:

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Sure, the in-between skits on the field were hokey and it felt like it would have been nice to have more Star Wars characters floating around all sections of the stadium, but it was still a fun time and I was just happy Kansas City finally took the plunge. Here’s to hoping this becomes a regular promotion for the Royals!

  • Finally, let’s go back to Sunday afternoon’s game. The Royals have runners on second and third with one out and Omar Infante at the plate in a tied game. On an 0-1 count, Infante would flair the ball in between the pitcher and first baseman:

Yes, it wasn’t the farthest hit ball Omar has ever had. But here is the thing; it was a difficult play for the defense to make, which hurt the White Sox chances of making the play. To further that thought, Alex Rios took off at contact. If he doesn’t do that he probably doesn’t score in that situation. It wasn’t the most dramatic hit but was the perfect description of how the Royals season has gone to date. They just find a way to win. At the end of the day, that is all that matters.

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Tweets of Royalty

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So with the White Sox in the rear-view mirror, the Royals look ahead to a three game series against Detroit. Last week, the Tigers were able to beat the Royals 2 out of 3 in the ‘Motor City’, and one has wonder if things will be different this time at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals have an 11.5 game lead in the Central, which is just mind blowing if you have watched this team the last few years. This hasn’t been done by a Royals team since 1980, and it conjures up memories of those late 70’s team that were ousted in the playoffs by the Yankees. In some ways this big lead gives them a chance to rest regulars on a consistent basis or guys who are injured(like Wade Davis); you just hope they don’t become complacent before they get to October. We are in uncharted territory but this isn’t a bad thing; in a lot of ways we have earned this as Royals fans since we sat through a lot of awful baseball for all those years. The rewards have now become a regular occurrence; let’s just hope this team is as hungry as they were before the season started.

 

 

The Battle Over Proper Baseball Etiquette: Royals Lose Series to Striving Blue Jays

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Leading up to this past weekend, the Royals had been building some positive momentum. They were still on top of the American League Central. They still had the best record in the American League. Then there was the two giant acquisitions they made earlier in the week to acquire Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist, which you would think puts Kansas City right in line for favorites to be in the World Series. Then the Blue Jays went out and got Troy Tulowitzki. And Ben Revere. And Mark Lowe. And oh yeah, that David Price guy. A lot of the Royals thunder went to Toronto by the end of the week and many felt like this was a series that could be a window into a bigger playoff picture. This was a loaded four game series that was not weak for the heart, so let’s dive in.

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Series MVP: Ben Zobrist

Well, that didn’t take long. In Zobrist’s first games as a Royal he showed why fans like me have been praising his value for so long. Zobrist was 5 for 15 in this series, with 3 home runs, 6 RBI’s, a walk, a double and his slugging percentage went up over 40 points to .480. Zobrist hit two of those home runs on Saturday, one from each side of the plate:

To me that wasn’t even the part of his game that got me super excited. No, what I really loved seeing in this series was Zobrist work a count. I don’t know how many 2-2 or 3-2 counts I saw, but it is nice to see considering how most of the rest of the Royals are free swingers. Zobrist started out the series batting down in the sixth spot in the order, which seemed like a misuse of his on-base talents. Luckily, by the last two games Mike Moustakas was on the bench so Zobrist got a shot at the second hole. He seemed to really enjoy being near the top of the order, as was evidenced by his 4-7 in those two games with all 3 of his home runs and 4 of those 6 RBI’s:

If Zobrist continues to perform like this the Royals won’t miss Alex Gordon as much as expected, with the team feeling most of his loss on defense. I’m already excited to see Zobrist float around defensively; left field one game, right field another, then some time spent spelling Omar Infante at second. It is still early, but if the Royals are unable to re-sign Gordon this offseason, they should definitely take a long look at keeping Zobrist. I have a feeling his bat in this lineup would be a major plus while his glove would be paramount.

TORONTO, CANADA - AUGUST 2: Edinson Volquez #36 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch in the first inning during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays on August 2, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Pitching Performance of the Series: Edinson Volquez

Edinson Volquez has been the rock of the Royals starting rotation in 2015. While Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura have been inconsistent, Volquez has picked up the slack. When Jeremy Guthrie has had trouble keeping the ball in the ballpark, Volquez has slowed the other team’s offensive attack. That success continued on Sunday, as Volquez would compile his 10th quality start of the year, throwing 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs while walking 3(and hitting a batter; more on that in just a bit) and striking out 4. Volquez did a good job of moving the ball around, in and out and then up and down. He kept the batters off-balance by constantly changing the view and was very adamant about pitching inside. In fact, that leads us to the biggest news story from this series…

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Sunday Afternoon is Alright For Fighting

Here we go again. First there was Oakland. Then there was Chicago. Now Toronto? First, let’s look at what happened. In the first inning Edinson Volquez got a pitch a bit too inside and plunked Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson:

Now, Donaldson has been red hot as of late and had been killing Kansas City during this series. I don’t fault Volquez for pitching him inside and as far as I could tell that wasn’t intentional, although after listening to Volquez postgame there is a chance it was done on purpose(sidenote: there was also a feeling amongst the Royals that Toronto was stealing signs during this series):

At that point the home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Fine by me, nip it in the bud as fast as possible. Then in the 3rd, Volquez came back up and in with an off-speed pitch to Donaldson. No intent there, it was just a pitch that got away. If you know your baseball, you are aware that no pitcher is trying to hit a batter with an off-speed pitch; that is just illogical and defeats the purpose of what you are trying to accomplish. I can understand why Donaldson would be frustrated, but no way he was being thrown at, although that didn’t stop him from throwing a little swag into his walk to first:

Onto the bottom of the 7th inning and Ryan Madson is now in the game for Kansas City. Madson, on the 7th pitch of a 2 strike at bat, would hit Tulowitzki, which many felt thought should have been an automatic ejection. Once again, there was no intent there, as there was no way, that deep into the at bat and with a runner on second, that Madson is intentionally hitting Tulo. It was just a pitch that got away. Donaldson was up next, and on a 2-2 count he would come up and in on Donaldson. Once again, I get why Donaldson would be frustrated, but no way Madson is trying to hit him with two runners on base and the Royals still in a position that they can win the game. Donaldson at this point is irate, flat out screaming at Jim Wolf:

Look, at this point in the game I 100% agree with how Wolf had called the game. Wolf did a great job of figuring out what was intentional and what was just pitches that got away. Wolf even understood why Donaldson was so livid and let him yell at him; I can’t imagine many umpires letting a batter show him up like that, even considering the situation. This brings us to the top of the 8th and with 2 batters out and none out, Aaron Sanchez uncorked a pitch that would get him ejected from the game:

I believe that pitch was intentional on Sanchez’s part. I even understand that Toronto felt like they needed to retaliate. But Wolf was going purely off of intent at this point, and Sanchez’s pitch was intentional and that was why he was ejected. This leads me to a whole other topic that bothered me watching this game; the hitters(more specifically, Donaldson) getting angry about a pitcher throwing inside. I get any balls thrown at or near one’s head; no hitter likes that and I don’t blame them. But Donaldson seemed to have a major issue with the Royals pitching him inside and I am sorry but no hitter owns that plate:

Not only that, but the Blue Jays hitters are notorious for leaning out over the plate. No pitcher wants a guy getting that comfortable at the dish and no hitter should be diving out over the plate and not expect to get plunked:

All I kept thinking watching this was a)If these guys did that to Bob Gibson or Don Drysdale they would probably be in a hospital somewhere and b)this whole thing made Josh Donaldson look like a child. Back in April I felt like the Royals were being babies during that A’s series that got out of control. On Sunday it felt like the Blue Jays were being oversensitive to a normal part of the game. All hitters take note: the plate is not yours and yours alone. A pitcher is allowed to pitch inside, especially if you crowd the plate with all of your body armor. You dive over it, you get nailed. I personally felt like Jim Wolf did a great job in this game and understood what was going on. That being said, there was a part of me that wished someone would have gotten thrown out on the Kansas City side just so this whole mess hadn’t escalated. Even impartial baseball fans like Grant Brisbee felt like Wolf called a good game but might have been better off just throwing Volquez out. I know there was a lot of discussion that this could be an interesting matchup in the playoffs, but I would rather not revisit this. There was more nonsense that went on after this on Twitter, but I’m not even going to discuss that. Here are some more tidbits from Sunday’s melee:

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But wait, there is more! Time for the news and notes from this four game series:

  • I’ve been chronicling Mike Moustakas’ hit total as of late, since he toppled his 2014 total with a few months of baseball remaining. What I haven’t mentioned is his struggles over the last month. In July, Moose hit .188/.271/..306 in 23 games. The power has been there, as he has clobbered 3  home runs while driving in 8, but Moustakas has gotten away from what worked earlier in the season, which was hitting the ball to the opposite field. During July, Moose has pulled the ball 36% of the time, hit to center 37%, and only hit the ball to left 26% of the time. It seems simple to me, but if Moustakas can start taking advantage of the whole field again, I think we could see him start to climb out of his current slump. Moustakas ended up sitting out both Saturday and Sunday; Saturday he pinch hit and was hit by a pitch, which caused him to sit out the next day.
  • If(if) the Royals have to face off with Toronto in the playoffs, it might be best to keep Ryan Madson off that roster. In 4 games this season against Toronto, Madson has thrown 1.2 innings, giving up 9 hits, 7 runs(5 earned) while hitting a batter and striking out 3. Yes, that gives him a glorious 27.00 ERA this year against the Blue Jays. Whatever it is, it appears Toronto has his number.
  • Once again, Mark Buerhle stifled the Royals offense on Saturday. In fact since 2013, Buerhle has held the Royals to 9 runs in 5 games. Buerhle isn’t going to blow anyone away but he hardly walks anyone(4 walks during those 3 years against Kansas City) and knows how to pitch. It goes to show you, kids, it’s all about location, location, location.
  • Hold on to your seat; Wade Davis gave up a home run!!!

Now, Davis also had some back stiffness this weekend. I am going to go ahead and blame it on that:

Hey, credit to Jose Bautista to turn on that high 97 mph heater. But still, it was because of Wade’s back. That is my story and I am sticking to it.

  • For not being a base stealer(like, ever), Kendrys Morales sure knows how to slide:

He also knows how to properly celebrate:

Okay then.

  • Yordano Ventura was breezing along on Saturday before giving up a couple of blasts to Bautista and Donaldson in the 4th inning.  Overall, he allowed five runs on six hits and two walks over seven innings. Ventura seemed to hit a wall in that inning and was forced to fight his way out of it. He seemed to be throwing his off-speed pitches a bit more in this game, but he was still leaving his fastball out over the middle of the plate. Ventura is still young and I’m sure will find his way but right now he is learning it’s not as simple as having a fastball that reaches triple digits. It might not be this season, but he will get there. This is the second straight start I saw improvement and I think it was good that manager Ned Yost kept him in to figure it out. It’s the only way he will learn.
  • Johnny Cueto had a decent outing in his first game as a Royal. Cueto went 6 innings, allowing 7 hits and 3 runs while walking 2 and striking out 7. It doesn’t matter how many times I see him pitch, all I see is Luis Tiant. He even did a butt-wiggle in mid-windup to try and throw the Blue Jays hitters off.
  • Eric Hosmer’s 14 game hitting streak was snapped on Sunday. Hosmer has been red hot most of July, hitting .375/.417/.554 since July 1st. Hopefully we will see more of the same throughout August.
  • Finally, Aaron Brooks, a former Royals dealt in the Zobrist deal, had a great first outing in Oakland:

Congrats, Aaron. Hope this means an extended stay in the majors is in his future.

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Tweets of Royalty

Jul 31, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Home Plate umpire Angel Hernandez (55) calls Kansas City Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales (25) safe at home plate during the first inning in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-216426 ORIG FILE ID:  20150731_ajw_bt2_047.jpg
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY

So the Royals are still leading the American League Central after losing 3 of 4 to Toronto, now ahead of Minnesota by 8.5 games. The team will have a much deserved day off on Monday(their first since the All-Star Break) before opening a three game series in Detroit against the Tigers. It will be nice for Kansas City to not have to face David Price or pitch to Yoenis Cespedes during these three games. Hopefully they can win this series before heading home to take on Chicago for three at ‘The K’. Normally, August is when teams that are going to fade start doing just that; at this point I don’t expect to see Kansas City slip too much in the standings. Hopefully there is regular rest during one of the hottest months of the year for their starters and players like Moustakas and Sal Perez can get out of their slumps. It’s a new month but the Royals should have the same game plan; win the whole thing.

 

 

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