Putting Out the Fire: Royals Take Out Tigers

eDETROIT, MI - MAY 08:  Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals waits on deck during the fifth inning while playing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on May 8, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Over the last couple seasons, whenever the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers get together to slug it out, it feels like a big time event. It’s not just because the two teams have been the driving force in the American League Central. No, it’s also because these two teams feel much more evenly matched as more and more time goes by. Plus, lets be honest here; whenever you play a team 18-20 times a year, you know more about their flaws than sometimes even your own. So yes, we are just a few weeks into May, but having the Royals and Tigers lock up felt like a big event this weekend, one that brought forth 3 really good games in Motown.

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Series MVP: Alex Gordon

As has become the norm in May, Alex Gordon has started heating up the last few weeks. Gordon is a notorious slow starter and add in the offseason wrist surgery and he was bound to get a slow beginning to his 2015 season. Luckily for the Royals, he has started hitting and he came up big for the Royals in the rubber game on Sunday night. But he also came away with a big single in Friday night’s game:

This would tie the game for Kansas City in the 7th inning and it would stay that way until the bottom of the 9th. The Royals would unfortunately lose that game but not because of Gordon, who had a stellar night on Friday, going 3 for 4. In fact Gordon was 4 for 9 in this series, driving in 2 runs and scoring the winning run on Sunday night in extra innings. In fact, Gordon got on base that inning thanks to a hit by pitch, his 2nd in the series. He also received 2 free passes in this series from Tigers pitchers and was basically on base more than he was not. This series raised both his On Base Percentage and his slugging over 20 points, which is a big boost. It was tough to pick an MVP for this series, since as a group the offense had a good one and numerous players were considered, but Gordon felt like he was a notch above everyone else while in Detroit and was a vital cog in the team’s run scoring efforts.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Jeremy Guthrie

This was about a welcome surprise as anything else this season. It’s been chronicled many times(seriously, just go back and read about every series wrap-up, where I mention how ineffective Guthrie has been this year) so it was nice to see Guthrie go out and shutdown the Tigers on Saturday afternoon. He threw 7.1 innings of 8 hit, 2 run ball, only allowing 1 walk and 3 strikeouts. Yes folks, that was Guthrie’s first quality start of the season and a lot of it was the ability to keep the Detroit batters off-balance. Guthrie compiled 19 fly balls and 8 ground balls, which is about the norm for him, although compared to his last outing against Detroit he had more fly balls than line drives by a healthy margin. Guthrie is never going to blow anyone away, but if he can perform something close to this on a fairly regular basis, he will have earned his spot in the rotation and help the Royals in a time when the starting pitching has been struggling.

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Mother Nature and the Royals Bullpen 

Sunday night the Royals were put into a peculiar situation. Kansas City was tied with the Tigers going into the bottom of the 9th inning and they had already announced that Luke Hochevar was coming into the game for the Royals. Instead the tarps came out and the game was halted do to the storm that was passing through. The delay went for almost 90 minutes and left Kansas City with a decision to make; let Hochevar still pitch or bring in anothe reliever. Hochevar had just been activated this past week, as it would have been his third game back after being out for the last year due to Tommy John Surgery. He had pitched the day before against the Tigers, but had thrown only 3 pitches, thus negating any worry about using him 2 days in a row. The Royals erred on the side of caution, instead bringing Jason Frasor in once the delay had been lifted. More than anything the team doesn’t want to take the chance of re-injuring Hochevar, so for the time being they will be extremely cautious with him. It was a smart choice, but it also left Kansas City with one less reliever. Because he was announced as coming into the game before the rain delay was announced, it was official and left the Royals with one less reliever once the game resumed.

Considering how much the bullpen has been used as of late, this was not a scenario the Royals really wanted to be stuck with. Luckily, Kansas City would score a run in the top of the 10th and brought Greg Holland in the bottom of the inning to close it out. That brings up another point…

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Notes, notes and more notes from a stellar May matchup:

  • If you have a weak heart, Sunday night’s game might not have been for you. The bases were loaded by Detroit in both the bottom of the 9th and 10th and were unable to score any runs. Jason Frasor and Greg Holland wiggled out of these jams and came out spotless. It wasn’t fun to watch though. One wonders if the weather played a part in it, as Frasor walked 2 and Holland 3. Their pace wasn’t very good either. Those last couple innings were the epitome of ugly baseball and after bringing it up I think I will now purge it from my memory.
  • Omar Infante tried to make a ridiculous behind the back flip to first base on a ground ball in the 3rd inning Sunday and cost the Royals a run. I’ve watched it over and over and still can’t figure out what he was thinking.

Look, Chris Young is tall…but he isn’t that tall!

  • Speaking of Young, another great outing for him against Detroit. 6 innings, 3 hits, and 1 unearned run while walking none and striking out 3. For now he has Jason Vargas’ spot in the rotation while he is on the disabled list, but there has to be some talk of giving Young a more permanent spot if the rest of the rotation doesn’t start shaping up.
  • Mike Moustakas missed the series, as he was put on the bereavement list. I have not heard what it was for(I have been asked multiple times this past weekend) but I do know his mother has been sick the last few years. Hope everything goes well with whatever the issue was. Moustakas should be back on Monday.
  • The Royals did make a flurry of roster moves before Friday’s game:

  • Drew Butera made his Royals debut on Saturday, starting in the place of Salvador Perez. In fact, Butera(son of former big leaguer Sal Butera)played the entire game, which means a complete day off for Perez. Why am I making a big deal of this? Because even if the backup catcher starts a game in Salvy’s place, it is almost inevitable that he ends up in the game before it is all said and done.

I personally like Butera; good game caller, and works well with the pitching staff. His only downfall is he can’t hit worth a lick.

  • I know there was some uproar in Friday’s night game because Yohan Pino was brought in to pitch the 9th instead of Greg Holland. I more than anyone hate the idea that manager’s have where you can’t bring in your closer unless it is a save situation. I believe more in you bring in your best pitcher when the situation is more dire. But I also realize most managers think this way and that isn’t going to change anytime soon, so a pass here for Ned Yost. I also didn’t have issue with it since Pino to that point had not allowed a run in over 10 innings of work and Holland had just come off the disabled list earlier in the week. It wasn’t like Yost had brought in a reliever that had been stinking the place up as of late(see: 2014 Crow, Aaron). It was a move that just didn’t pan out, as Detroit would get on base and score the winning run off Pino.
  • Alex Gordon might have been my MVP of the series, but another good series for Eric Hosmer. Hosmer was 4 for 14 with 2 RBI’s. The biggest thing is he continues to hit the ball to the opposite field, a sign that he is locked in and seeing the ball good.
  • It was also a good series for the returning Alcides Escobar. He went 4 for 15, including his first ever leadoff home run on Saturday to start the Royals rally against notorious “Royals Killer” Anibal Sanchez.
  • Kelvin Herrera started serving his suspension during this series and should be back this week against the Rangers.
  • Speaking of suspensions, Yordano Ventura returned from his on Friday, and continued to underwhelm. Ventura went 6 innings, giving up 8 hits and 4 runs with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. Between Ventura and Danny Duffy, James Shields presence is surely being missed by these youngsters.

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Tweets of Royalty

 

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So now the Royals lead the American League Central by 1.5 games over the Tigers, with the Royals headed to Arlington to take on the Rangers. Four against Texas this week and then 3 at home against the New York Yankees this weekend should make for an interesting week. More than anything, the Royals need the rotation to stabilize this week, and Danny Duffy is the first up for that task on Monday. If the pitching doesn’t work, I suggest touching Adrian Beltre’s head; it seems to distract him. A positive week should go a long way toward extending their lead in the central; a bad week might push them behind Detroit. Think positive and we will be discussing the first place Royals for another week.

Deja Vu All Over Again: Royals Take 2 of 3 Games, Win Series Over Indians

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The last few weeks have had a deep focus on the Kansas City Royals goal of winning the American League Central, as the team has faced off with almost exclusively all central division opponents. In fact, the Royals have been real chummy as of late with both the Tigers and Indians, as they faced them both last week, and face both this week as well. Interestingly enough, the Royals took both series against the Indians, just finishing off Cleveland winning 2 out of their 3 game series, much like Kansas City did last week in Cleveland. Some things were different though, and what better way to start than with the straw that stirred the drink in these last 3 games.

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Series MVP: Eric Hosmer

Eric Hosmer has obviously hit a hot spell, as this is the second straight series that I have given him the title of ‘Series MVP’. I mentioned last week how Eric has improved in many areas of his game, most notably at the plate. Hosmer was 5 for 12 in this series, with 2 home runs and 8 driven in. In all he had 4 extra base hits this series(add in a double and a triple) and his home run in game 1 of this series was huuuuuge:

It seems minor to mention this, but a lot of Hosmer’s success as of late seems to be connected with his approach at the plate and the lack of movement while in the batters box. Last year you saw him take a big stride as the pitch approached and saw his body have a lot of movement in the process. This year, a more simplified approach has been taken as he takes a short step forward in the box before unloading and attacking the pitch. I honestly believe this has made him a better hitter, one who’s head isn’t flying off the ball and a body that isn’t flailing everywhere. It has definitely kept him locked in this past week as he just punished the ball as of late. If you go back and read the last Detroit series post, I mentioned how Hosmer has been coming up big this year in high leverage situations. Case in point: he not only had the home run showed above, but also this triple late in the game:

So could Eric finally be reaching the potential that we have all discussed for years now? I’m not ready to completely say yes to this, as I want to see how he handles his first slump of the season, as he seems to mentally struggle when that happens. But if he can keep his swing consistent, then we might just be seeing the Hosmer I was starting to believe we were never going to see.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Jason Vargas

The biggest worry for this Royals team early in the season has been the back end of the rotation. Hell, it should probably just be the rotation in general. The two biggest worries have been Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie. Luckily, Mr. Vargas finally came through with a solid outing on Tuesday night, his second quality start of the year. Vargas was roughed up a bit in the first inning, giving up 2 runs, but after that he was a rock. His final line had him throwing 6 innings, giving up 2 hits and 2 runs, while walking 2 and striking out 5. Ten of Vargas’ 18 outs were from fly balls and he kept his pitch count around 80. Vargas won’t blow hitters away but if he can locate his pitches(which has been his big issue so far) and not allow many base runners, he can be a consistent force in the back of the rotation. Unfortunately, Vargas has gone on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle and looks to be missing 2 to 3 starts. Normally that is a precursor for Tommy John surgery, but it appears that there is no damage to the ligament and a little rest and then some light tossing should do the trick. For now, Vargas’ spot in the rotation will be taken by Chris Young, who will start on Sunday against Detroit.

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Now onto a few more thoughts as the Royals stay their ground with Detroit in the American League Central:

  • Coming off of his best start of the year, Danny Duffy struggled mightily on Wednesday night. In fact it was easily his worst start of the year, as he only got 3 outs, giving up 6 hits and 4 runs while hitting 2 batters and striking out no one. Duffy didn’t really have control of any of his pitches, as his location was way off and his slider was the cause of the 2 hit batsman. All the way around it was an ugly start from a pitcher who the Royals really need to step up and be a stabilizing force at the top of the rotation. Hopefully Duffy can bounce back when he starts on Monday in Texas.
  • Speaking of rough outings this week, Edinson Volquez would fit that criteria on Thursday afternoon. Most of this season Volquez has kept his walk totals down, which has always been a bit of a hindrance for him throughout his career. On Thursday, Volquez went only 3 innings, giving up 2 hits, and 3 runs with 6 walks and 2 strikeouts. It was hard not to worry that the ‘old’ Volquez had reared his ugly head but it turns out there was a reason for Volquez’s loss of control in the 3rd inning:

Yep, that baby exploded in the 3rd and caused Volquez to fall of the rails. Apparently this happens about twice a year for him and it’s always in               the same spot, on the knuckle’s inside, right below the fingernail. Neither Volquez or manager Ned Yost are worried he will miss his next start,               even if that means pitching through a hardened blister. That is good news, as Volquez has probably been the most consistent pitcher the Royals             have had this year.

  • Backup catcher Erik Kratz went on the disabled list this week with a left foot ailment(I know, I would have figured it was splinters in his rear end, from sitting on the bench so much) and the Royals went and acquired backup catcher Drew Butera (he of the famous catching Butera family)from the Angels. I like the move, if for no reason other than the fact that Butera is a good defensive catcher who works well with pitchers. He’s not going to hit a lick, but he can provide Salvador Perez  day off…I know, crazy talk, right?
  • Alex Gordon continues to swing a good stick, as he went 3 for 11 in this series, mainly from the leadoff spot. He has been filling in there for Alcides Escobar, as he recovers from getting hit in the head in Cleveland last week. Gordon was also hit by a pitch on Thursday, the 7th time this year he has been hit.
  • Closer Greg Holland returned from the disabled list this week, sending Yohan Pino down to Omaha. The Royals bullpen also saw the return of Luke Hochevar in Thursday’s game, throwing an inning of work, giving up no hits and striking out 2. If the key part of this pen stays healthy, it could be scary good. Holland, Davis, Herrera, Madson and Hochevar by themselves is a frightening thought for opposing teams. As much weight as we’ve put into the rotation needing to go deeper into games, the same argument could be made that as long as the starters go 5 innings, the bullpen can pick up the rest of the heavy lifting. Scary thought, folks.

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Tweets of Royalty    

 

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So another series win for the Royals and that will lead into a big weekend in Detroit, as Kansas City takes on the Tigers for 3 games. Methinks this will be a fun series that will have the feel of a pennant race, as it should. Yordano Ventura should return on Friday night, off suspension, and Sunday night the game will be on ESPN, which most of us longtime Royals fans know doesn’t happen very often(are the Red Sox/Yankees not playing this weekend?). A series win in Detroit would be huge, especially since the Royals will continue their road trip to Texas for 4 games next week. You have to love this feeling, that of a Royals team that is contending and is near the top of the division. In all honesty, that is all I’ve ever really wanted. The Royals and Tigers games should be considered a big deal, as it has become a big rivalry the last 2 years. Now lets take 2 of 3 and leave Detroit in first place!

 

In the Eye of the Tigers: Royals Split Series With Division Foe Detroit

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May came in with a flurry on Friday and it also meant the Detroit Tigers were in Kansas City for a 4 game series against the Royals. I can’t even remember the last time a series in May(May!!) brought this much excitement, as many believe the American League Central could come down to these two teams in September. Not only was this a big series early on, but the fans of Kansas City showed up at ‘The K ‘ as if the division was on the line. In fact attendance has been spectacular so far in 2015, as even night games in the middle of the week are showing good attendance numbers. But the games still have to be played and this series had a little bit of everything in it. As a longtime Royals fan, it was nice to have this kind of excitement and the ‘October Buzz’ floating around this early in the series. So what all went down? Venture on for an in depth look at October feelings in May.

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Series MVP: Eric Hosmer

It wasn’t a blow away series for the Royals offense this past weekend, but it was a very productive one for Eric Hosmer. Hosmer went 5 for 16 this weekend, accumulating 3 extra base hits, including his 3rd home run of the season. It was probably his best series of the year, as he stockpiled 10 total bases, and slugged at a .625 clip with 2 RBI’s. Maybe the most impressive stat on Hosmer this series was a BAbip of .444. To me, having Hosmer excel in a big series(even in May) is what the Royals need and hopefully he continue his consistency as of late. He still sometimes swings at pitches that he shouldn’t even be acknowledging, but his approach at the plate has improved and the numbers show that so far. My favorite stat of his so far this year are his numbers in high leverage situations. The last few years Hosmer has struggled in clutch situations, but so far in 2015 he has looked like a different batter when it really matters. He is only hitting .176 but he has an OBP of . 364(thanks to 5 walks in the clutch) and a slugging percentage of .588. He has 2 of his 3 home runs in these tight spots, driving in 6. The numbers show a batter who has been a little bit ‘all or nothing’ in these spots(mainly homers and walks), but overall we might be seeing a batter start to really show the potential we have been salivating over for the last 5 years. I will take these numbers from Hosmer every time Detroit and Kansas City clash; at this point lowering his strikeouts would be about the only complaint I really have with Hos.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Danny Duffy

I’ve been a little down on Duffy so far this season. He hasn’t pitched horribly, mind you. But he has looked more like the Duffy who had high pitch counts and wasn’t very efficient than the Duffman we saw in 2014, the one who felt like a legitimate top of the rotation starter. On Thursday night he looked like last year’s Duffy and it was glorious. Duffy threw 7 innings, giving up 7 hits and 1 run while walking 2 and striking out 7, all in 101 pitches. In the biggest series to this point in the season, Danny Duffy went out there and was very gnar.  I think we all hope at this point that this is  the Duffy we will see the majority of the time going forward. The Royals rotation definitely needs it and I still believe that Duffy is the key to this season. The rotation has had question marks as of late and Duffy’s start was one of 3 really great starts in this series. More on that in just a moment.

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When Kelvin Met Miggy 

Friday night had one of those epic moments that make you love being a baseball fan. There is nothing quite like a fastball pitcher battling it out with the greatest hitter of this generation(I’m assuming no one is going to argue with me on that point?). In the 8th inning on Friday, with the Royals up 4-1 over Detroit, Kelvin Herrera would walk Ian Kinsler, bringing Miguel Cabrera up to the plate with the bases loaded. I can’t do this at bat justice, as it was easily one of the best things I have seen so far in 2015, but Craig Brown of Royals Authority did a great piece on the 10 pitch battle, really going in-depth and breaking down the at bat. Good stuff. At the end of the day, Herrera would get the better of Miggy and send him back to the dugout. Herrera was shaky that inning, but in the end he kept things in line and left Kansas City with the lead. Just an amazing at bat, and one you should watch if you have not already seen it. The look on Cabrera’s face at the end is worth another view, even if you have seen it.

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Now, onto more newsworthy notes of this epic battle between the 1st and 2nd place teams in the American League Central:

  • I mentioned earlier that Danny Duffy’s start wasn’t the only great start of this series, and in fact there were 2 other great candidates for the pitching performance of this series. On Friday, Chris Young got his first start as a Royal, filling in as Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura were both serving their suspensions. He only went 5 innings, gave up 0 hits, 0 runs, walking 3 and striking out 9. Just a phenomenal start for a guy who is basically the 6th starter for the Royals(in other words, the guy you use to ‘break glass in case of emergency’). Sure, the no-hit thing is great, but 9 strikeouts?? From a guy who only throws in the high 80’s? Just awesome. Then on Saturday night, Volquez returned from his suspension and pitched a classic pitchers duel against Detroit’s David Price. Just another quality start for Eddie, going 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs while walking 3 and striking out 4. The walks were a bit up for Volquez but he was able to get out of some tight spots. This weekend showed that when the rotation wants to it can be a plus for the team. Now they just need Guthrie and Vargas to pick up some slack.
  • Alcides Escobar was placed on the 7 day disabled list at the beginning of this series, but Christian Colon has looked like a very competent replacement. Colon is riding an 8 game hitting streak at the moment, going 4 for 13 this series and playing some sparkling defense as well.
  • Lorenzo Cain dropped his appeal of his 2 game suspension on Sunday, meaning he will return to action on Wednesday night against Cleveland.
  • Yohan Pino continues to excel out of the bullpen for the Royals. In 10.2 innings, Pino has given up only 7 hits, 0 runs, no walks and 8 strikeouts. This from a guy who was basically signed to be insurance down in Omaha. There is unfortunately a roster crunch if closer Greg Holland comes back this week and it looks like Pino might be the one who gets sent down. Even if so, I have a feeling we will be seeing him again this season.

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Tweets of Royalty

 

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So the Royals split this series with the Tigers and the Royals will travel to Detroit this upcoming weekend for 3 games in the Motor City. I know I should be happy with a split, but after those first 2 games of the series I was really hoping for a series win. The Royals have Cleveland up next, as the Indians are in for 3 at Kauffman Stadium and one can only hope this series goes like the one in Cleveland last week. The Royals will get Cain back from suspension on Wednesday and Yordano Ventura should be back on Friday. May has always been a tough month for the Royals and hopefully they are able to not endure the cesspool that has been May the last two years. If it does, Dale Sveum should start looking for work. The Royals now sit in 2nd place in the Central, just 1/2 a game out of first. A solid week could return them to first as they battle within their own division. Contending baseball is fun folks. This is what Kansas City Royals baseball is in 2015.

 

Drama Free For Three in KC: Royals Down Twins, Win Series

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After an eventful weekend at ‘The K’, there was hope as Minnesota came into town that there would be a tad bit more normalcy to kick off a new week for the Kansas City Royals. Luckily, normalcy was the “modus operandi” and the Royals came away with another series win, winning games 1 and 2 in the series while being shutout in game 3 on Wednesday night. Then again, as much as things seemed normal, that doesn’t mean everything made total sense. I mean, this was against the Twins, a team that has caused the Royals fits over the years. Seriously, just last week the Twins ended the Royals winning streak while also delivering Kansas City their first losing series of the season. So it makes sense that things veered a bit off the beaten path when the Twins came to town. With that said it is time to look back at what was.

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Series MVP: Mike Moustakas

When the season started manager Ned Yost inserted Mike Moustakas into the 2 hole in the lineup, a move that got many(myself included) to shake their heads and wonder why. Sure, Moose had a great spring training and was consistently hitting the ball to the opposite field, but we’ve been down this road before; the road where Moustakas has a great spring and elevates our hopes for him for the season. With that said, so far so good when it comes to his new approach at the plate and it continued in this series. Moustakas would go 4 for 13 against Minnesota this week;Chris a homerun in game 2 and 3 RBI’s(including the game winning hit on Tuesday night). Moose also collected a big opposite field double in game 1 that helped get some runs on the board. I still want to see if this new approach will last throughout the long summer, but so far he looks amazing at the plate and has made me start to believe that maybe he is for real. Add in his solid defense and quiet leadership and he might end up being the building block we hoped he was when he was drafted.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals

Pitching Performance of the Series: Chris Young

After a rough outing in Minnesota last week that saw the scoreless streak of the Royals bullpen go up in smoke, Young bounced back this week with a solid 2 innings in Tuesday’s night game where he gave up 0 hits and 0 runs with 1 strikeout, as he picked up the slack of starter Jason Vargas who exited the game in the 6th inning. In fact since Young and Ryan Madson gave up 3 runs in the final game of the series last week against the Twins, the Royals bullpen has yet to give up another run, so another scoreless streak has begun. A nod also goes to Yohan Pino and Edinson Volquez in this series. Pino went 3 scoreless innings on Wednesday night and pushed his scoreless streak to 7.2 innings; it definitely seems as if he is making the case of keeping a roster spot when closer Greg Holland returns from the DL. Volquez had another solid start on Monday night, allowing 5 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and 5 strikeouts in his 7 innings of work. Volquez has easily been the Royals most consistent starter so far this season and has really meshed well in the clubhouse as well. So far the bullpen has been amazing for Kansas City while the rotation has had a few questions early on in 2015.

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Other notes from this series:

  • I’ve mentioned the last few years how Jeremy Guthrie is a modern marvel, allowing many a baserunner while letting very few cross home plate, as his numbers seem to defy logic. One wonders if Guthrie has started his regression as he has yet to post a quality start yet in 2015. Guthrie struggled again on Wednesday night, only throwing 5 innings, allowing 6 hits, 6 walks(1HBP) and somehow only 3 runs. The Royals do have options if Guthrie can’t bounce back(Pino, Young) but the preference is to have him rebound and pitch more like he has the last 2 seasons. Guthrie still has this and next year on his contract, so I can’t imagine him being let go or traded if he doesn’t improve. It does appear the Royals will give him a long leash, so an improvement is needed sooner rather than later.
  • Kyle Gibson finally looked human against the Royals on Monday, tossing 5 innings, giving up 4 hits, 3 earned runs with 4 walks and zero strikeouts. The Royals seemed a bit more patient with him and that helped provide enough offense to knock him out of the game and take the victory. The Twins hurler has dominated Kansas City in the past but hopefully they have found a chink in his armor, as the team will have to face Gibson a few more times before the season is done.
  • A big kudos going out to Christian Colon and his at bat in the 8th inning on Tuesday night that helped spark the comeback against the Twins. It wasn’t an at bat that will show up in the box score but he worked the count against Casey Fien before eventually grounding out to second base to get Dyson across the plate and tying the game. It was a professional at bat where Colon did what he had to do to help get a run across the plate and not just a wasted out. Colon would also get an RBI double in the 6th inning to help the team keep it close against Minnesota. With second baseman Omar Infante dealing with a groin issue(and with his injury history), the Royals need Colon to be a solid replacement for moments like this. Colon will probably never be more than an average hitter, but he is versatile and plays good defense. Add in a solid bat and you have a guy who could keep a major league job for quite some time.
  • Speaking of clutch hitters, Paulo Orlando continues to impress at the plate for Kansas City. Orlando now has 5 triples on the year and got a big single in that 8th inning on Tuesday night. He would proceed to steal second and put himself into scoring position. Orlando might have had to wait until he was 29 years old to get a major league job, but so far he is taking advantage of his opportunities. To me he has locked himself into a roster spot and is more of a 4th outfielder at this point than Jarrod Dyson is.
  • If we are handing out kudos, a big one also needs to go to Eric Hosmer and his approach at the dish as of late. Hosmer got 6 walks in this series and officially only had 5 at bats. In the last week Hosmer has walked 9 times and despite not driving the ball much he is still getting on base and contributing. We’ve been gushing about Moustakas all season but a little gushing Hosmer’s way is deserved as well.
  • Alcides Escobar returned to the lineup on Monday and was 4 for 12 in this series. There is still a noticeable limp when he runs but he appears to at least not be letting the injury slow down his hitting.
  • The Royals were hit by pitches 2 more times this series. I can promise you neither one was intentional.
  • And Alex Gordon chimed in with his first home run of the season on Tuesday night. I think a hot streak from A1 is just around the corner.

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So that is how you extract revenge. The Twins won the series last week and the Royals returned the favor this week. I think the biggest worry so far into this season is the shaky starts from the back end of the rotation, as Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie makes one wonder just when Kris Medlen could contribute to this team. The Royals will now head to Chicago and take on the White Sox, who they swept in Kansas City the first week of the season. Kansas City will continue the tour of the Central Division with 4 in Chicago, then 3 in Cleveland next week before headed home for 4 against Detroit. May is creeping up and our Royals seem to be a contender, one that will be in the race all season. A good series in Chicago would go a long way toward setting up a great matchup next weekend against the Tigers.

 

Misguided Anger: Royals Win Series Against A’s, Put Target on Their Own Back

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When this series started out I had some feel good vibes. Billy Butler was back in town, we would be reminded of the great Wild Card game last year against the A’s and more than anything we were going to see two good teams lock horns. Instead, those vibes left the building early on and by the end of the series I wanted to forget the last 3 days even happened. We will get to the insanity in a moment, but I’d like to bring back a few good feelings first.

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Series MVP: Eric Hosmer

A part of me didn’t want to pick anyone, just for the fact that no one really stood out. Friday was a good night for the offense, with 3 batters getting 3 hits apiece, but Saturday the bats were virtually silent and Sunday it took 3/4 of the game to get much going. Yes, the Royals offense this weekend looked more like the 2014 edition of the Royals. That being said, Eric Hosmer had a good series, going 6 for 10, with an RBI, and 2 walks, including a big base on balls in Sunday’s contest that helped fuel the rally in the bottom of the 8th inning. The only downside to his 6 hits was that they were all singles and continues to not really drive the ball much. Hey, I’m glad the guy is starting to find some holes and get on base(both good things), but as a cleanup hitter a few extra base hits would go a long way toward getting his power numbers to get in a upward projectory. All in all a good series for Hos and hopefully one he can grow on with Minnesota coming into town.

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Pitching Performance of the Series: Yohan Pino

I would have loved to give this nod to one of the starting pitchers in this series. Unfortunately, all 3 were way off from giving the Royals quality starts. One pitcher that did excel over the weekend was Yohan Pino, who was recalled from AAA Omaha on Saturday to take the roster spot of closer Greg Holland, who would go on the 15-Day DL. Pino would almost immediately be called upon, as he would replace Yordano Ventura in the 4th inning after his implosion set off a number of bad decisions. All Pino would do in his Royals debut is go 4. 2 innings, giving up only 3 hits while walking none and striking out 3. The Royals needed someone to come in and right the ship and Pino did just that. I don’t know how long we will see Pino up with the big league club, but for now he has earned the right for at least a few more outings. Good to see there was at least some good news on the pitching side of things during these 3 games.

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There Goes Any Good Feelings I Had This Weekend

I guess it’s time to address the elephant in the room. If anything is going to be remembered from this past weekend, it is the bad blood that boiled over between the Royals and A’s. It all started Friday night as a ball glanced off Kelvin Herrera’s foot and was picked up by Mike Moustakas. Moose would attempt to get Brett Lawrie out at second base, which caused Lawrie to start his slide into second late, catching Alcides Escobar and injuring him. Some feel it was a dirty slide; I tend to agree with Ned Yost on this(Yes, I know. You don’t hear those words from me very often). Let’s let Neddy explain:

The worse thing Lawrie did there was to come in with his spikes up. Once again, I didn’t then nor now feel like there was any bad intentions on Lawrie’s part, nor do I feel like any of it was malicious:

So this led to Saturday night, where most baseball fans felt like Lawrie was probably going to be hit at some point, even if I’m not even 100% for sure he deserved it. In his first plate appearance Yordano Ventura did throw a pitch that was up and in a bit. Honestly, that was good enough for me. Message sent and hopefully we can all just move on from the stupidity of what was an aggressive slide that ended up injuring someone. Instead, after Josh Reddick rocked a Ventura pitch into the right field bleachers, Lawrie would step up to the plate and would get hit by a 100 mph pitch in the elbow. Ventura, obviously upset that his night was soon coming to an end, decided that was the right time for “revenge”. As I sat in the outfield at Kauffman Stadium, listening to the other Royals fans cheer their heads off, all I could keep thinking was that this whole thing was stupid. Fine, stick up for your guy, but if you are going to pay Lawrie back, do it in the first at bat. Otherwise, choosing to do it after giving up a home run makes you look immature and letting your emotions decide your decisions. Obviously, I felt like the weird fan in the crowd who felt like Lawrie didn’t even do anything majorly wrong, or at least not to put up with this circus. By the way, Lawrie did a good job after he got hit of just walking to first base and staying there while the benches and bullpens emptied. It did seem as if at that time he kept the cooler head. Ventura was ejected(rightfully so) and the game moved on. My serious hope was that we were done with all the shenanigans and Sunday’s game would be a contest just about baseball.

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Unfortunately, Sunday’s game wouldn’t be any better. In the bottom of the first inning, A’s pitcher Scott Kazmir hit Lorenzo Cain in the foot with a pitch. This led to the Royals bench chirping at Kazmir while the umpires dished out warnings to both teams. I’ve actually heard people say they think Kazmir hit Cain intentionally. Really?

As far as I am concerned, Kazmir went a bit more inside than he wanted and caught Cain’s foot. It happens. There was no reason to eject Kazmir, as it wasn’t done on purpose and a pitcher should still be allowed to pitch inside. Manager Ned Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland were both ejected, which led to a nice argument between Yost and the umpires, including Yost throwing out his gum(nice touch). Trust me, I like that this team will stick up for each other and have each other’s back, but you have to distinguish between an intentional pitch and a pitch that just got away. Things seemed to be dying down when in the 8th inning Kelvin Herrera would come in, getting a bit inside with his first pitch to Lawrie. On his next pitch, Herrera would throw one behind Lawrie’s back at 100 mph. Amazingly stupid. There was no reason for it and at that point I just couldn’t defend what my team was doing. Herrera would also point to his head, which Lawrie took as he would get one in the head the next time(which is even worse than everything else that happened in this series):

Lawrie did lose his cool after this, and even started arguing with fans near the A’s dugout. Just horribly stupid. This whole thing could have been avoided if everyone would have just focused on playing the game rather than getting into a some macho feud with no actual intention. I call a spade a spade on this one, and the Royals were in the wrong. I get being upset that they have been hit 14 times in the first 12 games of the season, but I look at that as a gift. Other than maybe a couple against Chicago the first series of the season, the rest of the hit by pitches have not been intentional. In fact, these have all been free baserunners for the Royals, many of which helped keep rallies going and helped Kansas City score runs. Yes, it’s not fun to get hit that much, but take the free base and make them pay for doing that. The proper revenge in any of these scenarios is to go out there and get Lawrie out. That is the best revenge.

By the way, welcome back, Billy Butler…

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Onto other thoughts from this series(and I am done discussing this feud until the Royals visit Oakland in June):

  • My favorite part of the weekend was Billy Butler getting his American League Championship ring. A lot has been said about Billy the last few years but even at the end he didn’t want to leave. There is something to be said for him wanting to stay in Kansas City.
  • One of the nice things that probably went unnoticed this past weekend was how we started seeing a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to Omar Infante and Alex Gordon and their offensive woes. Infante went 4 for 8 in the series with 2 RBI’s and has pushed his average up to .250. Unfortunately, he also left Sunday’s game with a groin strain so we will see how much action he sees against the Twins. Gordon went 3 for 8, including a 2 hit game on Saturday night. Gordon is still a bit behind because of his wrist surgery this offseason but it is just a matter of time until he starts getting hot.
  • As mentioned earlier in the pitching performance section, the Royals starting pitchers did not have a good weekend. Jeremy Guthrie looked like a batting practice pitcher on Friday, Ventura had control issues on Saturday and Danny Duffy looked very unfocused this afternoon. The offense and bullpen won’t be able to pick this team up every time the rotation falters, so there is a need to see some quality starts as we get closer to May.
  • Closer Greg Holland going on the disabled list is never a good thing, but if there is a preferred time for it to happen, it would be now. The team has plenty of depth, and with Luke Hochevar probably coming back in May it could get even deeper. Hopefully Holland will only be down for a bit and is able to get back to action soon.
  • Erik Kratz not only got into a game, but he appeared in 2 games this week! Kratz got the start on Sunday, but as always, was replaced by Perez late in the game. I know Kratz looked like a guy who hadn’t appeared in a game in 3 weeks…because he hadn’t! Plus, if you don’t allow Perez to get a full day of rest, they are going to be back in the situation they were in late in the seasonlast year, that of Salvy looking tired and his offense suffering. Kratz is not such a bad defender or hitter that a few extra innings of him will cost the Royals any games.
  • Anyone else think Salvy’s hit down the third base line on Friday night was eerily similar to his game winning hit in the Wild Card Game?

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Out of all of this mess is has probably been forgotten that the Royals won the series, 2 games to 1. The Royals are sitting at 9-3, a game behind Detroit in the American League Central. The Twins are coming to Kauffman Stadium to kick off a 3 game series on Monday and hopefully the results are different than last week’s trip to Minnesota. Oh, and Kyle Gibson is pitching for Minnesota on Monday, which is not good. Let’s hope the Royals keep their excitement for this series while holding back any deep thoughts of revenge or retribution. Oh, and I’m looking forward to saying ‘Plouffe’ this week. I can neither say nor deny whether or not that Trevor’s name is my ‘safe word’. So onward and upward we go, to a land where we only discuss the baseball played on the field, not the extracurricular activities. Hey, a guy can dream!

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