Jet City Jaunt: Royals Win Series Against Mariners

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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.

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 22:  Alcides Escobar #2 of the Kansas City Royals scores on an RBI double off the bat of Mike Moustakas in the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 22, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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.

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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.

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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.
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 23:  Center fielder Lorenzo Cain #6 of the Kansas City Royals makes a running catch on a ball off the bat of Dustin Ackley of the Seattle Mariners in the seventh inning at Safeco Field on June 23, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Tweets of Royalty

 

Kansas City's Alex Rios beats the throw home to Seattle catcher Mike Zunino, scoring on the bases-clearing 3-run RBI double by Omar Infante.  Kansas City scored 7-runs in the inning.   The Kansas City Royals played the Seattle Mariners Wednesday, June 24, 2015, at Safeco Field in Seattle.

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.

 

 

 

 

Calm Down, It’s just an All-Star Game

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If you follow baseball in any manner, then I am sure you have heard the anger, the scorn, and the horrow spewed out by baseball fans who feel the voting for this years All-Star Game in Cincinnati is “making the game look bad” and “is not fair” to all the players who really deserve to go. You see, at this point there are eight(yep, 8!!) Kansas City Royals that would be starting in this year’s ‘Mid-Summer Classic’ and if you ask most fans they would tell you that is a travesty. That is, except for us Royals fans. We love it. We love that we are eerily close to starting our entire starting nine this year despite the fact that two of those players(Omar Infante and Alex Rios) have no business being in the Great American Ball Park on July 14th unless they have bought a ticket. But once again, we love it. Everyone else seems mad about this but they really shouldn’t be and I’m about to tell you why…

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Let’s start with the most obvious reason: this is an exhibition game. Seriously folks, this is a game played in the middle of the season that does not count in the standings and is purely just a chance to watch all the best players in the American League take on all the best players in the National League. Before interleague play it was one of the few chances to see players from your favorite team play against players you never see because they are in the other league. So if you were a Royals fan you never got to see guys like Tony Gwynn, or Dwight Gooden(in his early years) because they were National Leaguers. Nowadays though, it is no big deal to see guys from the other league, as there is a good chance you already played them during the season. Just look at last year’s World Series; the Royals and Giants played each other in August, so it was two teams who had faced off just a few months earlier. This game is purely for fun and players just aren’t going 100% for the most part, as they don’t want to get hurt in a pointless exhibition. But what about home field advantage going to the winner of the game?

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Before 2003, home field advantage in the World Series switched off every year. Odd years was the American League, even years were the National League’s. But after the 2002 All-Star Game ended in a tie, Major League Baseball decided to switch things up. You see, before then, the All-Star game really didn’t matter; sure, it was great for your first couple times you appeared in it or if you were playing in your home park. But otherwise, it was a game that was getting in the way of a couple days off and it was played as such. Back then, most managers tried to get as many of the players into the game so they would get an All-Star appearance in. Now, MLB tries to play it as “the game matters”. Problem is, the players still would mostly prefer four days off. Sure, you won’t hear them publicly say they don’t want to play in the “game that matters”. Hell, they’ll even say in public that the game is important and might give their team home field advantage in the World Series. But go look back year by year; players continually sit out the game. Sure, there are starting pitchers that can’t play because they started the weekend before the game. Some have legitimate injuries and need the extra days of rest. But a lot of them just don’t care because they understand it’s an exhibition. Sure, the guys like to be there, cheer on their team or watch the Home Run Derby; it is still an honor and they appreciate it as such. But many players take it for what it is: a game for the fans that doesn’t count in the big picture. Home field advantage is great, but if you get that far into the season, you should be able to win anywhere, road or home.

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There is also the argument that you should want the most deserving players to start in this game, the players who have had the best seasons up to this point. I get this argument and for years I fell in line with that. You don’t have to look far to see a perfect example of a player getting voted in that shouldn’t have: Derek Jeter in 2014. I know someone just threw their keyboard across the room right now by me saying that(probably a Yankees fan) but the fact is Derek wasn’t the best shorstop statistically in 2014. In fact, if we are going by just their play on the field, Jeter wouldn’t have even belonged on the All-Star roster. But Jeter was in his final season in the big leagues and it was a way of honoring him. Fine, I get that and even accepted it last year. But don’t fool yourself; this proves once again it is more about the exhibition than the home field advantage. For years, Hall of Fame caliber players have appeared in the All-Star Game for one last hurrah. I am perfectly fine with this, as I understand the game is just for fun. But if you are going to be okay with a player like that being honored and appearing in the mid-summer classic, you have to also acknowledge that whomever starts the game really doesn’t matter either.

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The other part of this silliness is the fact that most players who start the All-Star game normally only last the first 3 innings. That’s right, all this uproar about the Royals players starting and most of them will only play the first few innings. Yep, sure worth all that anger that is consuming you, huh? Maybe this would be a bigger problem if the starters played all 9 innings but they very rarely do. So you prefer Jose Altuve to Infante at second base? Well, more than likely Altuve will be in late in the game when it might matter more and it will completely negate the argument of having him start. In games like this it almost matters more on who finishes the game rather than who starts it.

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As a Royals fan I think I shoud clarify something here. I agree with most of you in saying Infante doesn’t deserve to start in this game and is purely getting in because of the Royals rabid fanbase. Look at it this way, non-Royals fans. Before 2014, our team really didn’t matter much for close to 20 years. We have seen some absolutely putrid baseball in that span and for quite awhile we were the laughingstock of the sport. But now we matter and it has re-energized the fans. Sure, I wore my Royals appearal all the time in this span; I am a die-hard. I will be here till the end and I have no problems with that. But some fans needed a little poke. That poke was winning. The Royals are a good baseball team now and have given the fans a reason to support them and be proud. The voting has been so skewed toward the Royals because this is a hungry fanbase. We’ve been starving for years for good baseball and now that we are getting it, it is causing everyone to step up and vote. Hey, we are even doing it legitimately ! Trust me, even I thought there was some sneakiness going on, but outside of a few instances of writers getting suspicious e-mails , it appears voting is truly on the up and up. Winning causes fans to be more involved, and Royals fans had 30 years of no playoff baseball; just imagine how most of us feel,  like this might not happen again for a very, very long time. So as fans, we are taking advantage of the team’s success.

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The one other thing to remember here is that outside of Infante, the other 7 possible starters are legitimate candidates for the All-Star Game this season. Sure, a few of them might not be having the best season at their position, but they are all putting up numbers worthy of an All-Star selection. Look at someone like Mike Moustakas, who has turned his career around this season and is having a career year. Sure, Josh Donaldson is raking this year and is probably having the better year, but Moose is still an All-Star in my mind. Go ahead, go down the list-Cain, Gordon, Escobar, Hosmer, Morales and Perez; all worthy of being at the game in July. This would be a different case if they were having bad seasons, but they aren’t. Starting or not, these guys all should probably be All-Stars-except for Infante. Even we don’t really want him on our team. But we want our guys at the All-Star game and unfortunately, he is a Royal.

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15:  Kansas City Royals Fans hold up giant heads of Alex Gordon #4 and Salvador Perez #13 of the Kansas City Royals in the stands during Game Four of the American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

So all you non-Royals fans, calm down. This is a one year anomaly that even we acknowledge will probably never happen again. Let us have this moment. I was fortunate to be at the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City and as much as I talk about it being an exhibition, it is still a fun exhibition and a game that I am glad I can say I was in attendance. I highly recommend everyone who is not a Royals fan to go online and put your votes in; this is a fun exercise and one in which you can celebrate your team’s best players. How does the old adage go? “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”. So join us and let’s see just how competitive the voting can get. Instead of getting angry about the results it might be better to just join in and try to topple this monster we have created. Trust me, the rules for the balloting is the same for you guys as it is for us; we are just taking advantage of it more. Let this be fun instead of sounding like old men telling kids to get off their lawn. The whole point of this is purely fun. Also, if the voting doesn’t change before it is all said and done, I think we should make Mike Trout an honorary Royal and give him his on Kansas City uniform. Just a thought. I have to go now; I have important things on my schedule:

Remember #VoteRoyals(and #VoteNori) and vote often at http://www.royals.com and http://www.mlb.com . Let the good times roll.

 

 

 

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