Canadian Kerfuffle: Royals Take Series From Blue Jays

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It was the last series before the All-Star Break, and by design it should be a simple three games before a large contingent of the Kansas City Royals(active roster and coaching staff) take off for Cincinnati. Instead it was three games that packed as much action, excitement and insanity that a series could. No way, right? Um, read on. It was crazy.

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Series MVP: Eric Hosmer

I have issues with Eric Hosmer. Seriously, peruse through this blog. You will find more words written about Hosmer than any fan should probably ever consider writing. But I have gone down that path and it’s because the guy mystifies me. One minute, he looks like a major leaguer that completely forgot how to hit, mechanics and all. The next minute he looks like a perennial All-Star and someone who could regularly compete for an MVP. So which one is he? I think after all this time he is actually both. He is obviously someone who’s mechanics at the plate get messed up while his pitch selection seems to go south for weeks on end. Luckily it seems as if Eric is starting to come out of a prolonged slump and start to get on base consistently. Hosmer was 6 for 12 in this series, with one double, 2 RBI’s and a BAbip of .545. Sure not ‘blow the doors off the barn’ numbers, but I like that he was getting on base, including a 4 hit game on Friday night:

I do have one wish of Hosmer, and that is for him to drive the ball more. His Line Drive % is up this year(23.1 to last year’s 16.9) which is promising, but there is a stat that is insanely higher for Hosmer this year that scares me. Hosmer’s IFH% (Infield Hit Percentage) is sitting at 6.2% this year, compared to last year’s 1.9%. Now in the past he has had a % in that 5-7% range, so the outlier number might be last year’s, but it just feels like we have seen Hosmer get a lot of infield hits this year. Over the last week we have seen him pull the ball with some authority a bit more, which his Pull% this year is down just a tad(34.9% to 36.8%) from last year. I know the Royals have been pushing to have Hosmer turn on the ball more than he does, but it also seems like he is at his best when he is driving the ball to left-left center. The improvement this past week is a plus, but I think we could see an even more potent Eric Hosmer and hopefully that guy will show up just around the corner. Otherwise I will accept the guy who gets on base at a .500 clip during a series. Getting on base is half the battle.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Danny Duffy

Before the season started I stated that I felt like Duffy could very well be the key to how the Royals performed this season. My thinking was since he was going to be a bigger part of the rotation this year, the Royals would need for him to be healthy and pitch like he did last year. So far he has struggled to do either of those things(and the Royals are still on top of the American League Central), but if he pitches like he did on Friday it could go a long way toward adding another piece to the rotation puzzle. Duffy went 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and no runs while walking 3(while also plunking a batter) and striking out none. Yep, look at that line again and you would wonder what happened to the Duffy that would rack up the strikeouts while also adding to his pitch count in the process. This lead to his second best game score this season and a victory over the Jays. He still hasn’t quite looked like 2014 Danny Duffy, but there is at least progress and he seems to be getting closer and closer to that guy after every start. It wasn’t a Cy Young performance, but it was exactly what the Royals needed.

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You Wouldn’t Believe Me Even If I Told You… 

How would I describe Sunday’s game? Crazy, absurd, mind-boggling, unreal and sometimes ugly. Yep, the rubber game of this series was one of those games that made no sense.  Let’s start from the beginning. In the bottom of the 1st inning, the Royals tacked on 6 runs, including a mammoth home run from Kendrys Morales:

Instantly, I figured the game was over. Silly me. The Royals were up 7-0 in the 6th inning when the Blue Jays would score 8 times and put them ahead 8-7. Craziness really did ensue at this point, as the Royals had collected 3 errors. I can’t even remember the last time Kansas City had 3 errors in one game. The Royals would counter and go up 10-8 in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by a Jose Reyes 2 run error. Watching this series, I wasn’t too impressed with Reyes’ defense. Remember the bad throw last year in Toronto that helped the Royals come back with a big victory? It just felt like Toronto was going to do everything it could to hand this game to the Royals. The Blue Jays would strike back in the 7th inning, thanks to another Kansas City error:

It could have been even worse for Kansas City in the top of the 7th inning if it wasn’t for Salvador Perez and his ability to see everything laid out on the field:

I loved Martin’s comment after the game about Perez:

“If you look at it, I really wasn’t that far [around third],” Martin said. “That kid has a cannon arm. What I did recognize was the pitcher was kind of lazy to get to and cover home plate. I’m rounding third base with a full head of steam and thinking aggressively.”

Wade Davis would come in for the 8th inning, and how many of us instantly thought “Nothing happening this inning”? Except Davis did a very un-Wade Davis thing to do, and gave up a run(which ballooned his ERA up to 0.46). Seriously, I don’t think I would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. Then it would get crazier; with a runner on first base,  Jose Bautista would get himself ejected from the game:

It would stay tied going into the bottom of the 8th when Paulo Orlando continued his magical week:

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, there was the old ‘strike ’em out, throw ’em out’ to end the game:

So the Royals came away with another victory in one of the wackiest games I have ever seen:

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Now here is some news and notes from the final series of the first half of the 2015 season:

  • I know we have all been frustrated by Alex Rios’ play since he returned from his hand injury, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Over the last two weeks, Rios has a line of .304/.333/.348, and has six 2 hit games in that span. The biggest worry is his lack of extra base hits, which he did have 2 doubles in this Toronto series and hopefully that is a sign of greater things to come. If not, the Royals will be on the lookout for another outfielder, especially with Alex Gordon gone for 8 weeks.
  • Mark Buerhle shut down the Royals again on Saturday and it got me wondering just how much he has dominated Kansas City over the years. In 53 career games started against the Royals, Buerhle has won 26 games, compiling a 3.53 career ERA against Kansas City and a WHIP of 1.245. It isn’t quite as dominating as I remember, but it is nothing to sneeze at. Hopefully the Royals can skip him when they travel to Toronto at the end of the month.
  • Dee Gordon of Miami injured his thumb this weekend sliding into first base and all I kept thinking of was how that just as easily could have been Eric Hosmer. There is no advantage to sliding into first base and can lead to a hand injury. I wish Hosmer would stop doing it before he ends up hurt.
  • I got the chance to watch 3/4 of the Futures Game on Sunday, and it was great to Royals prospects Raul Mondesi, Cheslor Cuthbert and Balbino Fuenmayor. It was my first time seeing Fuenmayor and I was impressed. He seemed to have solid batting tools and agreed with what the announcers said, which was that his stance and batting style was reminiscent of former Royal Billy Butler. Hopefully he can contribute at the major league level in the near future, although not too near.
  • Finally, it was great to see Mike Moustakas win the Final Vote and procure himself a spot on the American League All-Star roster. The #VoteMoose stuff was great on Friday and he earned that spot based on his great performance in the first half of this season. He returned to the team on Friday and we also officially found out that his mother has been ill, which is why he has been away a few times this year. I’ve been asked that question numerous times the last few months, and I always said that I knew she was sick, but didn’t know for sure if that was the reason he had a leave of absence. Hopefully she is getting better and all of us in Royal Nation send our positive thoughts her way:

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Tweets of Royalty

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So there you go, as the first half of the baseball season is in the books. The Royals are currently sitting in first place in the American League Central, 4.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins. The Royals will return to action on Friday against the White Sox, as they will have a doubleheader on Friday, one being a makeup game from earlier in the season. We are getting close to the trade deadline, so it will be interesting to see if the roster does some fluctuation over the next couple of weeks. If you remember last year the Royals picked up a couple players during August, which means they had to go through waivers. We also have a good chance of finally seeing Kris Medlen make his Royals debut in the second half, which will hopefully strengthen the pitching staff. It’s too early to say this team will be in the playoffs come October, but so far so good. One half down, one half left to go. I’d like to go to another playoff game this October; lets make that happen Kansas City!

 

 

 

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The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates=The 2014 Kansas City Royals?

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The Pittsburgh Pirates are guaranteed their first .500 season since 1992 and are now setting their sights on a playoff spot, also the first since ’92. For all the talk about how great this is for the city of Pittsburgh and their fans, this is also a sign that with the right pieces, some smart moves, and great drafting, a team can pick themselves up and push toward the top of their league. In fact, the Pirates model this year might just be the one the Royals should copy going into 2014. I’ll even go a step further; the Pirates and Royals have a lot of similarities, which makes me think Kansas City could be in the same spot Pittsburgh is in come one year from now.

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For instance—the Pirates have an All-Star outfielder who is both fabulous at the plate and in the field in Andrew McCutchen. The Royals have Alex Gordon. Pittsburgh has a pitching staff led by a few veterans littered with a couple of younger arms. With the return of Danny Duffy to the Royals staff, you can say the same thing about Kansas City. The Pirates have a closer that no one could have ever envisioned he’d be locking down games for them. Not many saw Greg Holland doing much but being a setup man for the Royals, and he’s turned into one of the best closers in the game. Russell Martin is a solid pitch caller behind the plate that Pittsburgh’s pitchers love to throw to. Ditto Salvador Perez. Pittsburgh even has a third baseman that looks to be a clone of Mike Moustakas in Pedro Alvarez, a guy who many thought was a bust before he finally started showing some pop in his bat.

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At the end of the day, the Pirates are a team that have a nice mix of youngsters and veterans, cast-offs and surprises. Sounds like a certain Kansas City team, doesn’t it? In fact, the Pirates and Royals seem so much alike that a part of me wonders if the Pirates have a second baseman in their minor league system that they keep saying they are going to give him a chance when the reality is they just aren’t that into him. Now, if I had to pick a difference, it would be that Pittsburgh built their team with smart front office moves and are led by a manager who has been there before and understands how to get a team prepared every game to go out there and win. Dayton Moore has made some solid moves over the years, but I’m not for sure if I would say he is at the level of the Pirates GM, Neil Huntington, although both have taken the long way to get to a winning season. Meanwhile, Royals manager Ned Yost is no Clint Hurdle. I think the Royals will go for some improvements in the off-season, and I could easily see manager being one of them. I could throw out a lot of names right here, but it is all conjecture until Yost is gone from his post.

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Whichever way you view it, the Kansas City Royals are looking at being serious contenders next year, and with Pittsburgh’s success it appears their chances aren’t just a shot in the dark. As happy as I am for Pirate’s fans, I think all of us are ready for our turn, the Royals first shot at real contention since 1994. Time to break those chains, Royals fans. Following a successful model like the Pirates have shown seems to be a solid way to gain what we all want-playoffs.

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