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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Tweets of Royalty
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’!