It seems pre-destined at this point. The Royals would somehow, someway find their way to last place in the American League Central. They actually played pretty well on the road this week, but it didn't translate into wins. They went 2-4 in Oakland and St. Louis and dropped a game below the Minnesota Twins in the standings. It's depressing, sure, but it's not unexpected. This season wasn't about contending, but taking a step forward for the franchise. In that regard, it's been a mixed bag but overall things are going as expected. My advice is to just take a step back, ignore the scores and watch the young players develop.
2 Tigers -1.0
3 White Sox -5.5
4 Twins 8.0
5 Royals -9.0
Game 67: Royals 7 @ Athletics 4
This might be the most illustrative game so far of how the youth on the Royals can impact the games. Starter Danny Duffy went 6 innings while only giving up 2 earned runs. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas both collected a pair of hits, while Alcides Escobar gathered 3 of his own. It's a small example of how the young players all can put together solid outings to help a team win on both sides of the ball. It's something we should expect in the future as the rule rather than the exception.
Game 68: Royals 1 @ Athletics 2
Staring pitching was the name of the game on this night. Luke Hochevar for the Royals and Josh Outman for the Athletics both wen 7 innings. However, Hochevar gave up 2 earned runs while Outman gave up none. Alcides Escobar continued his hot streak going 3 for 3 with a double. It wasn't enough though, as the Royals lost in a pitchers duel.
Game 69: Royals 4 @ Athletics 8
The Royals hit 5 doubles and stole 3 bases, yet somehow only managed to score 4 runs. On this day, that wasn't nearly enough as Jeff Francis had a disaster of a start, giving up 6 runs in only 3.1 innings. The Royals were never able to climb out of that early hole.
Game 70: Royals 5 @ Cardinals 4
At this point, it's time to ask: "Who are you and what have you done with the real Alcides Escobar?" The weak hitting but slick-fielding shortstop has suddenly become a one-man offensive juggernaut. He went 2-for-4 in the win against the Cardinals. Felipe Paulino got the start, and other than one bad inning he kept the Cardinals offense under wraps giving them their 7th straight loss.
Game 71: Royals 4 @ Cardinals 5
It seemed that the Royals had this game in the bag. They had a one-run lead, but the Cardinals had been scoreless since the 3rd inning. The Royals took a 4-3 lead in the top of the 7th but with their bullpen it always seems safe. Unfortunately, both Tim Collins and Greg Holland allowed runs and the Cardinals took a lead they would not surrender. Oh, and ho-hum, Alcides Escobar collected two more hits including a triple.
Game 72: Royasl 4 @ Cardinals 5
This game was representative of the entire series in St. Louis. A constant back and forth, resulting in a one-run win that neither fan-base felt comfortable with until the final out. It made for interesting baseball, although this loss put the Royals in last place in the AL Central for the first time this season. Danny Duffy had an odd pitching line as he went 3.2 innings, struck out 9 and walked only 1. He was removed with a pitch-count of 90 and the bullpen was put into action early. Alcides Escobar hit his first home-run as a Royal on his way to another multi-hit game. But even that was not enough as the Royals dropped the finale and ended a rough road trip with a loss.
Position player of the week: Alcides Escobar
An absolute no-brainer of a choice. Escobar hit .545/.583/864 in the last seven days. No, that's not a mis-print. He had a home-run, a triple and two doubles and even stole 4 bases last week. Combined with his defense, he had an M.V.P. type of week. Sure, it's only 7 days in a long season, but what a 7 days.
Starting pitcher of the week: Danny Duffy
He gets a little bit of the nod here for starting two games over just one for Luke Hochevar. However he had one solid outing and one good but weird and short outing. The biggest reason I chose Duffy is the fact that he struck out 11 while Hochevar struck out 0. As we've seen with Sean O'Sullivan, strike outs are vital. The kid also got his first "win" this week. While this blog generally considers that statistic to be meaningless, it is something the kid will always remember and deserves some recognition.
Relief pitcher of the week: Joakim Soria
Joakim Soria pitched 2 innings, but struck out 3, walked one and allowed only one hit. He seems to have re-found some of what he lost earlier in the season. The strikeouts are the most important number for him right now, and he's putting some on the board. What he needs now are more save opportunities to convert.
On the farm
In his last 10 games, Johnny Giavotella (2B) has hit .415/.455/.634 and he's hit 2 home runs for the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA). He's inching closer to the point where he's forcing the Royals to promote him.
Lorenzo Cain (CF) has hit .368/.415/.763 with 4 home runs in his last 10 games for the Storm Chasers. He's a Melky Cabrera trade away from being the every-day center fielder at the Major League level.
Wil Myers (OF) has recovered from his knee bruise and is hitting .289/.372/.500 in his last ten games for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA).
Salvador Perez (C) has broken out of a slump and is now 11 for his last 31 with a home run and two doubles for the Naturals.
In his last start, Chris Dwyer (LHP) went 6 innings while striking out 9 and allowing no earned runs for the Naturals.
Jake Odorizzi (RHP) bounced back from a rough start by striking out 11 and allowing no earned runs in 5.2 innings for his last start with the Wilmington Blue Rocks (A+).
The week to come
The Royals will be back at home this week. They have two inter-league series against the Diamondbacks and Cubs, fortunately they will get to use the DH and won't have to choose between Hosmer and Butler.
6/21-6/23 vs Diamondbacks
6/24-6/26 vs Cubs
After the way the Kansas City Royals have been playing the last two weeks, the bar for a successful week was lowered quite a bit. Even under the higher standards of earlier int he season, this was a pretty good week. The Royals went 4-3 and didn't lose a series. It was a nice rebound from getting swept in four games by the Minnesota Twins. In major news this week, highly-touted prospect Mike Moustakas was promoted from Triple-A. The Royals also drafted their 2011 class which was lead by local kid Bubba Starling.
1 Indians - tie
1 Tigers - tie
3 White Sox -3.5
4 Royals -6.5
5 Twins -9.0
Game 60: Blue Jays 2 @ Royals 3 - boxscore
Newly acquired pitcher Felipe Paulino continued to excel as a starter. Against the Blue Jays he threw 6.2 innings while allowing only a single earned run. He lowered his American League ERA to 0.56 as a member of the Royals. The bullpen held the Jays scoreless to keep the Royals struggling offense in the game. The offensive player of the game was Eric Hosmer, as he walked in the tying run in the 7th and singled home the winning run in the 11th. Joakim Soria got the win as he was placed back in the closers role after a brief demotion.
Game 61: Blue Jays 8 @ Royals 5 - boxscore
Vin Mazzaro returned to the Royals in what looks like a prodigal visit. His first start after being demoted for a historically rough outing was an improvement, though not improved enough. He threw five innings and gave up 6 runs. The Royals tried to claw back and eventually scored 5 runs on 11 hits, but it wasn't enough to win the game.
Game 62: Blue Jays 9 @ Royals 8 - boxscore
Danny Duffy has shown flashes of brilliance surrounded by the struggles of a young pitcher. The rookie was inefficient again with his pitches and was unable to get to the 5th inning as he surrendered 5 runs while striking out only 1 and walking 4. Homeruns by Melky Cabrera in the third Billy Butler in the 8th allowed the Royals to keep the game close, but they came up a run short.
Game 63: Blue Jays 2 @ Royals 3 - boxscore
This was a game that it seemed the Royals had to have. Ending the home-stand with a split four-game series rather than a losing one is a big difference. It's situations like these where a team counts on their "ace", in the Royals case that's Luke Hochevar. On this day, he proved he was worthy as he pitched 7 innings and gave up 2 earned runs whiel walking 3 and striking otu 3. The Royals then relied on their setup man Aaron Crow and their re-minted closer Joakim Soria. Everything in the game just seemed to go according to plan. Eric Hosmer collected a pair of hits and an RBI and Jeff Francoeur plated two runs on a single to right. It was the kind of game that can make the players and the fans take a deep breath and think "ok, this team isn't that bad", which is just what we all needed.
Game 64:Royals 4 @ Angels 2 - boxscore
Jeff Francis has been the most important off-season acquisition the Royals have made. He continued to prove his worth and increase his trade value as he went 6.1 innings while striking out 3, walking 1 and surrendering only 2 runs in the opener with the Angels. That, combined with a scoreless 2.2 innings from the bullpen was all the pitching the Royals would need, thanks to homeruns by Cabrera and Butler, and RBI hits by Chris Getz and Alcides Escobar. The most significant part of the night was the debut of Mike Moustakas, who went 1-for-3 with a walk in his first game as a Royal.
Game 65: Royals 5 @ Angels 7 - boxscore
It was one of those weird games where piecing together what happened after-the-fact can be difficult. Royals starter Felipe Paulino went 5 innings and gave up 5 runs, but only 2 earned while he walked 1 and struck out 5. Reliever Tim Collins gave up 2 earned runs on 2 walks and 0 hits. Mike Moustakas hit his first Major League home run, light-hitting Alcides Escobar had a single and a double. In the midst of all these odd happenings, the Royals ended up losing a game they never lead, but were close the whole game.
*Game 66: Royals 9 @ Angels 0 - boxscore*
It's been a while since the Royals won a laugher, a game where they just run away with it and don't let the other team get close. For a team that's struggling, and one that's on the road it is probably some of the best medicine. It's exactly what the Royals got against the Angels. They turned five double-plays and scored 9 runs. Starter Vin Mazzaro was owed by the baseball gods and should now be evened-up. He allowed 0 earned runs in 7 innings while striking out 0, walking 5 and allowing 5 hits. Usually, those kinds of starts don't end so well, but for Vin, on that day it did. En route to scoring 9 runs, Gordon, Butler, Getz and Escobar (yep, Escobar) all had multi-hit games.
Position player of the week: Billy Butler
I really wanted to go with Alcides Escobar, who hit .400/.423/.520 this week, because he'll probably never have a better week in his career, but Butler just flat out hit him. Butler hit .320/.452/.600 with 2 home runs and 6 walks. On top of that, people are starting to talk about how they don't think Butler is useful in the middle of the Royals order. It's an idea which is quite absurd. If you don't value what Butler does, I'm not sure you're paying attention.
Starting pitcher of the week: Luke Hochevar
Hochevar is one of the most enigmatic pitchers I can remember. He can go from brilliant to awful in seconds. He can cruise along not allowing hits and then POW he gets lit up for 5 in an inning. He only had one start this week, but he got through his rough patch quickly and kept the Royals in the game. He's proving he belongs on a contending staff. Not necessarily at the top, but at least in the mix.
Relief pitcher of the week: Joakim Soria
I'm not sure he's taken home this award yet this season. He's battled himself the entire year and was even demoted from the closer role. At the beginning of this week he was re-inserted into the role and he was somewhat close to his old self. He threw 4 innings and didn't allow an earned run. More importantly, he struck out 4 and walked only 1. Here's hoping he's back.
On the farm
The draft happened last week and most notably the Royals drafted local outfielder Bubba Starling from Gardner-Edgerton. He has yet to sign, but all indications are that he will, eventually.
In his last 10 games, Johnny Giavotella (2B) has hit .391/.417/.652 with 2 homeruns. On the season he's hitting .307/.370/.428 for the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA). He's on the short-list of guys to be promoted to the big league club next.
Mike Montgomery (LHP) continues to struggle as he adjusts to the Triple-A level. It's not something to worry about, he's a young kid getting his first taste of this level of competition. He's going deep into games and shows all the signs of someone who can adjust and continue his climb up the organizational ladder.
Wil Myers (OF) had his first week back after being on the D.L. with a knee injury. He's hit in 5 of his 9 games since returning and now has a line of .266/.331/.358 for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA).
Last years 1st round draft pick, Christian Colon (SS) has hit .314/.415/.457 in his last 10 games for the Naturals. He's the kind of guy who isn't likely going to be a superstar, but rather someone who can do lots of things pretty well and provide value to a Major League team for a number of years.
Cuban defector Noel Arguelles continues to impress for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (A+) as he has 32 strikeouts and only 5 walks in 49.1 innings of work.
Cheslor Cuthbert (3B) is having a very nice go of things for the Kane County Cougars (A-). He's hitting .296/.363/.521 with 4 home runs. Not bad for the teenager from Nicaragua. He's a name to keep a close eye on, I've been impressed with him for the past 2 years.
The week to come
The Royals are on the road this entire week as they visit Oakland and then St. Louis for some inter-league action. How the Royals utilize Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer when they lose the DH for the three game series against the Cardinals will be of interest.
6/14-6/16 @ Oakland
6/17-6/19 @ St. Louis
The Kansas City Royals promoted highly-touted third base prospect Mike Moustakas. In Triple-A, Moustakas wa hitting .287/.347/.498 with 10 home runs and 15 doubles. To make room for him on the roster, they optioned infielder Mike Aviles to Omaha.
I predicted that the Royals would promote Moustakas at some point in June, now that the date for Super Two status has passed. I figured they would wait until the next home-stand so he could make his debut in Kansas City, but instead he'll make his debut in Anaheim near his hometown of Los Angeles.
What I wasn't able to predict was exactly who was going to be moved to make room for Moustakas.I thought that there might be a trade including Wilson Betemit or Mike Aviles, but in the end it was a demotion for Aviles. He'd been struggling lately with the bat, but he's been a pretty reliable offensive performer for the Royals. He's also the only player on the bench that can play a middle infield position. It seems to me as if the Royals aren't done making moves. They can't go too long without having a backup infielder.
In the end, Mike Moustakas is ready to be tested in the Major Leagues. He can learn much more facing Big League pitchers than he can from facing Triple-A pitchers. This was the one promotion that I fully expected to see come prior to the season. The Royals are starting to look like the young and talented team that they are destined to be in the near future.
In the last inning of last night’s Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays game, the Royals were down by two runs with the bottom of their order due to bat. Every team’s last three batters are the most woeful on the team, but the Royals last three are worse than average. Chris Getz, Brayan Pena and Alcides Escobar currently have on-base percentages of .318, .295 and .241. So, the odds of overcoming the two run deficit were looking slim.
Predictably, Chris Getz grounded out to second base for the first out. However, Brayan Pena stroked a ball to center field for a single which put the tying run at the plate. A tying run which was represented by Alcides Escobar and his .210 batting average and matching .242 on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He isn’t just the worst batter on the Royals, he’s likely the worst option in the Majors to bat in that situation..
A logical strategy in that moment would have been to utilize the well-known Rule 3.03:
A player, or players, may be substituted during a game at any time the ball is dead. A substitute player shall bat in the replaced player’s position in the team’s batting order
However manager Ned Yost decided to waive his right to use Rule 3.03 and left significantly better hitters Mike Aviles and Mitch Maier on the bench.
Escobar watched the first pitch go by for a called strike and fouled off the next two offerings attempting to go to the opposite field. The fourth and final pitch of the at-bat was a called strike that looked to be outside, but seemed to be a good pitch to hit the other way. The strikeout was followed by an RBI double by Alex Gordon and a just-too-short bloop by Melky Cabrera to end the game.
When asked after the game if he thought about pinch hitting for Escobar Ned Yost replied:
"Do I think about pinch-hitting for him every time in those situations? Yes, yes, I’m dying to. But I know it’s in our best interest right now, that we don’t do it -- for big picture thought."
But thinking about it and doing it are clearly two different things. He also said:
“Not right now, I’m not gonna do it. I don’t care what anybody says, I’m not gonna do it.”
“This is a kid that I think is going hit some day and I want him getting as many at bats as he can get, because one day there’s going to be in line to win a championship and I want him to be able to handle himself in those situations.”
Leaving Alcides Escobar in to hit in that important game situation wasn’t a matter of inept managing; it was a development philosophy. It’s easy to scream at the manager for making a bone-headed decision, and in the context of last night’s game, that’s exactly what it was.
This decision goes deeper than that, what’s better for the Royals as a franchise: a 15% increase in the probability of getting the tying run on base in a relatively meaningless game in June, or trying to improve a player who is going to be a contributor for the next five years?
The answer depends on who are. If you are fan who goes to a couple games a year and last night was one of them, then you want to see that walk-off win – screw the development of Alcides Escobar. It’s just one at-bat! If you are building a franchise and you feel that Alcides Escobar is an important component, then things look a bit different. That slight increase in probability for a single game becomes much less important.
Context matters, sometimes you have to lose a battle to win the war. It’s not a guarantee that Escobar will eventually turn around his offensive game. Leaving him out to fail in clutch situations could eventually crush his confidence. It’s all a calculated risk.
I believe it's a risk worth taking. What does the Royals franchise gain in the long haul from giving Mike Aviles or Mitch Maier that chance last night? At best, they win one game -- a game that will be forgotten in a week's time. Neither of those players are going to be on the Royals when they are in the playoffs, while Alcides Escobar just might. Developing him at the cost of a small win probability increase is the right call.
On the bright side, the Kansas City Royals won twice as many games last week as they did in the week prior. On the not-so-bright side, that means they only won two games in the last seven days. The one thing this team had been doing well this season was playing at home. The series against the Angels continued that trend, however losing four straight to the Twins was enough to dash the hopes of even the most optimistic fans. With the team falling so far out of contention, the beginning of the MLB Draft couldn’t be better timed. The first round begins tonight at 6:00 p.m. and fans around the league can begin to look to the future, again.
2 Tigers -2.5
3 White Sox -7.0
4 Royals -9.0
5 Twins -12.5
Game 53: Angels 10 @ Royals 8 - boxscore
The Royals were finally back at home where they've had some success this season. Early on, things seemed to be going their way as they took a 6-1 lead in the bottom of the 2nd thanks to homeruns by Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer. Starter Luke Hochever wasn't great but he was adequate holding the Angels to 4 runs in 5 innings. However the Angels chipped away until they were down only 1 run going into the top of the 9th. Fans everywhere covered their eyes as the Royals again summoned Joakim Soria. What would have been nearly unimaginable last year was suddenly unsurprising as Joakim Soria handed the Angles 3 runs and earned his 5th blown save, the 2nd in as many days. After the game Ned Yost announced that Joakim Soria was no longer the closer and that Aaron Crow would get the nod most often.
Game 54: Angels 3 @ Royals 7 -boxscore
It's becoming clear that when starter Jeff Francis struggles in the 1st inning, it doesn't mean he is going to strugle for the entire game. This time, he surrendered 2 runs in the 1st frame, but it was all he would give up until the Angels scored one more run in the 6th. It was plenty of pitching for the Royals who scored 5 runs in the 3rd inning on a hit-parade where 5 different Royals had RBI hits.
Game 55: Angels 0 @ Royals 2 - boxscore
When Felipe Paulino was purchased from the Colorado Rockies, he had a 7.36 ERA. In his second appearance with the Royals he was placed in the starting rotation and threw 5 innings of scoreless baseball. It was exactly the kind of start the Royals were dying for and they took advantage, barely. Billy Butler's two-run walk-off home run represented the entirety of the Royals offensive output.
Game 56: Twins 8 @ Royals 2 - boxscore
Sean O'Sullivan continued to be ineffective as he could only get through 2.2 innings while surrendering 8 hits, 7 runs and striking out only 1. He would be placed on the 15-day disabled list the next day. It was a deficit the offensively struggling Royals could not overcome. Jeff Francoeur was the lone bright spot, going 3 for 4 with 2 RBI in the loss. Joakim Soria got his first taste of non-closing action as he pitched a scoreless 8th and 9th.
Game 57: Twins 5 @ Royals 2 - boxscore
Rookie starter Danny Duffy has improved each and every start he as made, however his biggest issue has been getting deep into games. This was no exception as he completed 5 innings and had to leave with 96 pitches under his belt. He allowed 7 hits and 3 earned runs while walking 3 and striking out 3. It wasn't a great start, but one to build on for the youngster. The story again was the struggling offense. Butler had 3 hits and Hosmer had a pair, but neither had an RBI.
Game 58: Twins 7 @ Royals 2 - boxscore
Luke Hochevar started well, as he threw 5 innings and gave up 1 run. However, in the 6th and 7th the Twins plated 5 while he was on the mound. The top of the Royals order did their jobs as they got on base 7 times in 15 plate appearances. They just couldn't string hits together and get runners across. It was the third game in a row where the Royals put up 2 runs against the Twins, and the third game in a row where it wasn't enough.
Game 59: Twins 6 @ Royals 0 - boxscore
In an ugly end to an ugly series, the Royals went down without scoring a single run in the finale. Starter Jeff Francis had his typical struggles in the 1st, but settled in as he is wont to do. Billy Butler continued is torrid hitting streak by going 3-for-3. That's about where the positives end. It was a four-game sweep by the worst team in baseball, there's no sugar-coating that.
Position player of the week: Billy Butler
He's the best hitter on the team and his last week is more proof of that fact. He hit .400/.483/.520 with a walk-off home run last week.
Starting pitcher of the week: Jeff Francis
There wasn't much to be excited about in the starting pitching front, but Jeff Francis continues to deliver. He had a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings of work last week. He struck out only 3 while walking 4, but he's been successful. He should be getting lots of notice in trade talks which are the inevitable result of the way the Royals have been playing recently.
Relief pitcher of the week: Greg Holland
It could have been Blake Wood, but Holland gets the nod as he has yet to give up a run. He threw 3.2 innings last week and struck out an eye-popping 7. He's just another guy in a stacked bullpen that seems to rarely get the lead as of late.
On the farm:
The Royals announced last week that John Lamb (LHP) would undergo Tommy John surgery. It's a big setback for the team and for the young starter. It's unfortunate, but the list of pitchers who've come back from that surgery is long. He's a great kid and I'm personally rooting for a great comeback.
In his last 10 games, Mike Moustakas (3B) has hit .378/.370/.600 with 2 homeruns for the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA)
Starter Mike Montgomery (LHP) continues to struggle with command as he has given up 15 runs in his last 3 games combined. He has a 5.23 ERA in 63.2 IP for Omaha this season.
Wil Myers (OF) played yesterday in his first game back since an injury that put him on the shelf in early May. He didn't seem to miss a beat as he went 2 for 4 with a double for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA).
Jake Odorizzi (RHP) continued his dominance of the Carolina League (A+) as he now has 74 strikeouts to 14 walks in 52.2 innings. In his last outing, he went 6 innings, struck out 8, walked 2 and have up 3 hits and no runs.
The week to come:
The MLB Draft is likely the most important thing happening for the Kansas City Royals this week. The draft is extremely deep and the Royals have the 5th overall pick. The other story of local interest is where Gardner-Edgerton star Bubba Starling will end up. Some have him going to the Royals, but my guess is that it's unlikely. In terms of on-the-field action, the Royals continue their long home-stand against the Blue Jays and then go on the road to face the Angels.
6/6-6/9 vs Blue Jays
6/10-6/12 @ Angels
The week in review is a day late due to the Memorial Day holiday, I hope you will excuse the tardiness. The Royals won only a single game last week. There's no sugar-coating a week like that. This team is certainly struggling and doing so in a number of ways. One day it's no offense, the next it's no starting pitching and the next it's a flailing bullpen. The biggest change of the week came in the form of Joakim Soria losing his closer role to rookie Aaron Crow, a move which probably should have happened earlier.
2 Tigers -5.0
3 White Sox -8.5
4 Royals -9.0
5 Twins -14.5
Game 47: Royals 3 @ Orioles 6 - boxscore
The first game of the week was oddly prescient as then closer Joakim Soria gave up three runs in the bottom of the 9th to blow his third save of the season. It wouldn't be his last, but it was surely the beginning of the end. Danny Duffy toed the mound for the second time in his Big League career and he seemed significantly more comfortable in his role. He struck out 6 while walking only 3 in 5.1 innings. Alex Gordon hit his 5th home run of the season to continue his resurgence.
Game 48: Royals 2 @ Orioles 9 - boxscore
Starter Luke Hochever was cruising through the first 3 innings and then suddenly -- POW -- out comes Big Inning Luke and he surrenders 8 runs in a single inning. It's as maddening as it is inexplicable, but he's prone to it happening. The Royals were never able to overcome that deficit. The lone bright spots were Melky Cabrera and Billy Butler collecting a pair of hits.
Game 49: Royals 5 @ Orioles 6 - boxscore
Stop me if you've heard this one before. Royals starter struggles but offense keeps pace with the opponent, the bullpen gets involved and keeps the team in the game until a team wins in extra-innings. Its seems as if every other game this season follows that script. This time it was the Orioles beating the Royals in the 12th inning and starter Jeff Francis struggling. Regardless it was a hard fought game where they had a chance to win, but couldn't pull it off.
Game 50: Royals 12 @ Rangers 7 - boxscore
A WIN! It's the only one the Royals would be able to claim this week, but it was at least very entertaining. It was a tale of two games as the teams combined to score 13 runs in the first 2 innings and then only 1 more run was scored through the following 12. That one run came courtesy of an Alex Gordon home run that tied the game in the top of the 9th inning and helped send the game to extra-innings, again.
The early fireworks were the result of newly minted starter Nate Adcock, who surrendered 7 runs in 2.2 innings. Luckily, the bullpen responded by throwing 11 scoreless innings, including 4.1 innings from newly acquired pitcher Felipe Paulino. In the top of the 14th, the Royals were going to make sure they took home the W as Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, Eric Hosmer and Brayan Pena all homered in a 5 run explosion.
Game 51: Royals 1 @ Rangers 10 - boxscore
If revenge is a dish best served cold, then nobody told the Texas Rangers. They rebounded from the stunning 14 inning loss by pounding out runs on the Royals early and often. The latest Royals starter to fall victim to surrender-runsitis is Sean O'Sullivan who allowed 10 in 5.2 innings while striking out only one. The Royals offense also laid down and died as the Rangers rolled.
Game 52: Royals 6 @ Rangers 7 - boxscore
Royals rookie starter Danny Duffy had a tough hill to climb as he was facing a high-powered offense in a park conducive to offense. He performed well, giving up 3 runs in 6 innings while striking out 4. He limited the mistakes by only walking one. After an early deficit, the Royals took the lead in a 5 run 4th inning on a pair of run scoring singles and a Brayan Pena home run. The Rangers continued to chip away and tied the game in the bottom of the 8th with Aaron Crow on the mound. The Royals took a one run lead in the top of the 9th and again put closer Joakim Soria in to try and shut the door. He failed again and earned his 2nd loss and 4th blown save.
Game 53: Angels 10 @ Royals 8 - boxscore
The Royals were finally back at home where they've had some success this season. Early on, things seemed to be going their way as they took a 6-1 lead in the bottom of the 2nd thanks to homeruns by Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer. Starter Luke Hochever wasn't great but he was adequate holding the Angels to 4 runs in 5 innings. However the Angels chipped away until they were down only 1 run going into the top of the 9th. Fans everywhere covered their eyes as the Royals again summoned Joakim Soria. What would have been nearly unimaginable last year was suddenly unsurpising as Joakim Soria handed the Angles 3 runs and earned his 5th blown save, the 2nd in as many days. After the game Ned Yost announced that Joakim Soria was no longer the closer and that Aaron Crow would get the nod most often.
Position player of the week: Alex Gordon
He's begun to settle in as the lead-off hitter. In the last week he's hit .273/.333/.636 with 3 home runs and 3 doubles.
Starting pitcher of the week: Danny Duffy
He took the mound twice this week and held his own in two hitter friendly parks. In those two starts he threw 11.1 innings and gave up 5 earned runs while striking out 10 and walking 4. He seemed to be much more in contol and confident on the mound than he did in his Major League debut, which isn't surprising.
Relief pitcher of the week: Felipe Paulino
He threw 4.1 innings last week, but it was in one game in Arlington and he allowed only one baserunner. He did that only hours after being acquired from the Colorado Rockies for cash. He kept the Royals in the game and was instrumental in the only win the Royals got this week.
On the farm:
Mike Moustakas (3B) continued his hot streak as he's hit .325/.349/.400 in his last 10 games for the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA).
Lorenzo Cain (CF) has also been stroking the ball and has a .445 on-base percentage in his last 10 games. He's now hitting .304/.378/.484 on the season for Omaha.
Mike Mongomery (LHP) has given up 11 runs in his last two starts combined as he continues to have some struggles at the triple-A level.
Salvador Perez (C) has hit .316/.333/.421 in his last 10 games for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA).
Jake Odorizzi (RHP) continues to tear through High-A as he's now holding a 2.31 ERA in 9 starts with 66 strikeouts and 12 walks for the Wilmington Blue Rocks.
Cheslor Cuthbert (3B) has gotten off to a fast start for the Kane County Cougars (A-) as he's hit .314/.368/.543 with 2 home runs in his first 8 games this season.
The week to come:
With visions of a Division title in 2011 slipping away, it's time for the Royals to get down to business and just win a few games for respectability. Being at home should help, as will the possibility of a new closer.
5/31-6/1 vs Angels
6/2-6/5 vs Twins
Just last week, it was reported that Royals broadcaster and former pitcher Paul Splittorff was seriously ill. I had hoped that the reports were premature and he would be able to fight and win his battle with cancer. Unfortunately, that wasn't in the cards as he died at his family home in Blue Springs, Missouri.
Splittorff was my favorite television broadcaster the Royals have put on the air. His opinions were thoughtful, intelligent and frank. He was also a fantastic pitcher and he still holds the franchise record in Wins (166), Starts (392) and Innings Pitched (2554.2). He's a member of the Royals Hall of Fame and deservedly so.
It's certainly a sad day for all Royals fans. Paul Splittorff was a great pitcher and a better person and he represented himself and the Royals well in everything he did. He's without question the model of what every Royal should be on and off the field. He'll certainly be missed.
So far this season, Kauffman Stadium has kind to the Kansas City Royals.However, this week, their fortunes changed. A likely combination of increased competition and regression to the mean handed the Royals a 2-5 home-stand last week. To make up for injuries and to improve the roster the Royals made a series of roster moves from Kyle Davies going on the disabled list to prospect Danny Duffy being promoted. The team as it is today is quite a bit different than the one that took the field on Monday. That's something that's certainly going to continue as the wave of young talent forces it's way onto the Major League roster.
2 Tigers -7.0
3 Royals -8.0
4 White Sox -9.0
5 Twins -14.5
Game 40: Indians 19 @ Royals 1 - boxscore
It was a night that every Royals fan and player would like to forget. The division leading Indians come in to town and put on a hitting clinic. Starter Kyle Davies left after 1/3 of an inning and starter Vin Mazzaro was put in to try and eat innings and keep the Royals in the game. He failed to do that in historic fashion by allowing 14 earned runs in 2.1 innings. The Royals never came back and luckily an 18 run deficit still only counted as one loss.
Game 41: Indians 7 @ Royals 3 – boxscore
The Royals dropped both the second game of the brief two-game series with the Indians as starter Sean O’Sullivan’s inability to miss bats led to 6 runs. The Royals offense however, did seem to show signs of life as Melky Cabrera and Eric Hosmer both had two hits and an RBI.
Game 42: Rangers 5 @ Royals 4 – boxscore
The Royals promoted highly-touted prospect Danny Duffy and immediately inserted him in the rotation. His first start wasn’t as good as he’s used to in triple-A, but he held his own against Major League hitters as he struck out four in four innings while surrendering two runs. The game was tied going into the ninth inning when an Elvis Andrus single scored Rangers center fielder Craig Gentry to take a one-run lead. It was a short-lived lead as Eric Hosmer hit the very first pitch in the bottom of the ninth into the right field seats for a home-run. A wild pair of extra-innings ensued as the Royals had two consecutive players walk and get picked off at first base. The Rangers scored a pair in the top of the 11th and the Royals could only muster one in the bottom off the inning as they lost the opener to the Rangers.
Game 43: Rangers 1 @ Royals 2 – boxscore
The Royals needed an ace-like start from Luke Hochevar to stop their losing skid, and that’s exactly what they got. Hochevar went 8.2 innings and allowed only a single run while striking out four. It was barely enough as the Royals tied the game in the bottom of the ninth on a Mike Aviles single. In what should be very familiar to Royals fans this season, there were more extra innings. This time it only took one when Jeff Francoeur singled home Melky Cabrera on another walk-off victory for the Royals.
Game 44: Cardinals 0 @ Royals 3 – boxscore
Veteran starter Jeff Francis wasn’t about to let Luke Hochevar hog all of the glory as he held the Cardinals scoreless over 7.2 innings while striking out 6. A three run 7th was a team effort as four different players got hits and one got a walk. It was all the run support needed as relievers Aaron Crow and Joakim Soria held the team across the state scoreless to complete the shutout.
Game 45: Cardinals 3 @ Royals 0 – boxscore
The Cardinals must have been thinking that turnabout was fair play as their staff held the Royals scoreless and they put up three runs to produce a mirror image of the previous night’s game. Spot starter Nate Adcock held his own for five scoreless innings, but the normally stingy bullpen allowed three runs in the last inning and two thirds. No Royal had more than a single hit and none of the five hits they did get went for extra bases. It wasn’t a recipe for success as the Royals dropped the second game of the series.
Game 46: Cardinals 9 @ Royals 8
The Royals were in a six run hole going into the bottom of the 5th inning thanks to a very tight strike zone and another start by Sean O’Sullivan where he wasn’t able to strike any one out. This Royals team, however seems to always believe they can come back and they chipped away at the lead. They scored one in the 5th, three in the 6th and two in the 7th to tie the ball game at seven. The scoring parade was lead by two home runs by Wilson Betemit and one by both Jeff Francoeur and Alex Gordon. It’s beginning to be repetitive, but the Royals went to extra innings, again. This time, it benefitted the Cardinals as they plated a pair in the top of the 10th and the Royals could only muster one.
Position player of the week: Eric Hosmer
Hosmer hit .333/.355/.533 last week and lead the team in hits and total bases. He did however, strike out eight times and walk only once. It's likely that opposing pitchers are going to start throwing more balls out of the zone and make him chase. How Hosmer responds and adjusts will be very telling.
Starting pitcher of the week: Jeff Francis
The off-season free agent continues to impress. In his one start this week against the hot-hitting St. Louis Cardinals, Francis threw 7.2 scoreless innings while striking out six and walking only two.
Relief pitcher of the week: Aaron Crow
Just another ho-hum week for Aaron Crow. He threw 3.1 innings while allowing no runs and striking out five. Crow has a 0.79 ERA on the season and has averaged more than a strikeout per inning.
On the farm:
Clint Robinson (1B) has been white-hot recently as he's hit .419/.479/.698 in his last 10 games for the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA). He's now hitting .352/.434/.630 on the season.
Mike Montgomery (LHP) had a very nice start for Omaha last week as he threw seven innings and struck out seven with only two walks. On the season he has 40 strikeouts to 27 walks in 49.1 innings.
John Lamb (LHP) left his last start for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA) after getting only one out with elbow discomfort. He was placed on the disabled list as the team was trying to assess the problem.
Salvador Perez (C) has been on a hot streak in Northwest Arkansas. He's hit .324/.359/.459 in his last 10 games with a home run and two doubles.
Carlo Testa (LF) is hitting .405/.476/.676 in his last 10 games for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (A+). \
Jake Odorizzi (RHP) is sporting a 2.28 ERA with 59 strikeouts and only 9 walks for Wilmington. He was acquired this past off-season as part of the Zack Greinke trade.
Sugar Ray Marimon (RHP) combined with Chas Byrne (RHP) to throw a no-hitter last week for the Kane County Cougars (A-).
Blue Valley Northwest graduate Jason Adam (RHP) has had a fine start to his professional career. In his last start he threw 8 innings while striking out six and walking none for Kane County.
The week to come:
The Royals hit the road this week as they visit Baltimore and Texas for a pair of three-game series. Danny Duffy is slated to get two starts and how he continues to adapt to the highest level will be quite interesting. Since the Royals are 8 games out of first, watching what the first place Indians are doing isn't of much importance this week. It's up to the Royals to win a bunch of games if they want to hang in the race regardless of what any other team does.
5/24-5/26 @ Baltimore
5/27-5/29 @ Texas
I was pretty sure that the next roster move would be for the Royals to demote relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress and activate Robinson Tejeda from the disabled list. Apparenly, I'm no Kreskin (am I dating myself) because the Royals announced they were optioning speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson to Omaha and calling up relief pitcher Greg Holland.
The move makes some sense, considering the Royals emptied their bullpen yesterday and Dyson has been used almost exclusively as a pinch runner. However that leaves the Royals with 13 pitchers on the 25 man roster and therefore a very short bench. It's unclear how long they will go with a 13 man staff, but with guys like Adcock making spot starts and a young pitcher like Danny Duffy there is an argument that it is the right move. This is accentuated by the fact that Ned Yost does not really seem to like pinch hitting guys, because he rarely runs into a short bench situation.
Jarrod Dyson was probably going to last for a long time on a modern American League bench. The game has changed to the point that while he's valuable, he's expendable. Given the fact that he has options remaining and Mitch Maier didn't makes him the guy to go. I think he may resurface in the big leagues, but we may have seen the last of the 50th round pick with super-natural speed.
Greg Holland is notable because he was the first player drafted under the Dayton Moore regime to make it to the big leagues with the Royals. For the triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers he has posted a 2.08 ERA in 21.2 innings with 27 strikeouts and 11 walks. He should be a quality addition to an already stacked bullpen.
One of my favorite moments in baseball is watching a player's debut at the Major League. It's a once in a lifetime moment that the player has likely dreamed of for nearly his entire life. Many debuts are brief and most are uneventful. The vast majority of players get their first taste of the big leagues as a relief pitcher or a position player, so the debut consists of a brief inning or a handful of at bats. Last night was the somewhat rare occurrence of a player getting his first shot as a starting pitcher as Danny Duffy made his highly anticipated appearance in a Kansas City Royals uniform.
It's something that has been more rare, it seems for the Royals than for other clubs. The last Royals player to make his debut as a starter was J.P. Howell on June 11th 2005 in Arizona. The last Royal to make his debut as a starting pitcher an do so in Kauffman Stadium was Jimmy Serrano on August, 4th 2004. It's unlikely that there will be that long of a time between the next pitcher to debut as a starter, however it was a rather unique moment and the game that was played matched the uniqueness.
Duffy's first pitch was a 95 mph called strike to Rangers hitter Endy Chavez and the crowd cheered the big moment for the young pitcher. His second pitch was a 96 mph fastball which was swung on and missed. Duffy is known to have a very nice fastball, but 96 seemed to be a bit fast.
It looked as if he was over-throwing a bit and was falling off the mound pretty hard as he followed through. I'd imagine that Duffy had a little extra adrenaline flowing in that first inning, which combined with every players desire to prove that they belong was enough to put him just a tad out of his comfort zone. After the game he was asked if he was a little amped up more than usual.
"Absolutely, I think anytime in a situation like that you're going to be pumped, but I need to learn to control that."
I asked him if he felt he was over-throwing in the first inning.
"I felt like I was really under control, it was jumping out of my hand....I was amped."
The ball was jumping out of his hands as he hit 96 a few times in the first and didn't hit it again the rest of the game. He also didn't have great command of his off-speed pitches. That resulted in a couple of singles and a walk, but a double play and a weak popfly let him escape without damage other than an elevated pitch count.
As the game moved on, Duffy seemed to settle down a bit and his control and off-speed stuff returned to him. All three outs in the second were strikeouts, although he did walk Mike Napoli. It's significant because one of Duffy's biggest issues surfaced immediately when Napoli stole second base, which was his first of the season. The Rangers ended up stealing four bases on Duffy. When asked about it, manager Ned Yost said after the game:
"One of the things we're going to have tow work on is duffy containing the running game, he's a little long at times and allowed runners to go from first to second and second to third.....that's something were going to continue to work on with him, but its something we can clean up."
He ended up throwing four innings and gave up six walks while striking out four. His stuff looked very good and as he settled down he got even better. The rest of the game was a crazy series of opportunities followed by mis-steps on both sides, with neither team really doing anything to earn the win but rather seeing which team was going to lose.
It seemed to be in the Royals hands as Eric Hosmer crushed a game tying home run on the first pitch of the 9th inning against Rangers closer Neftali Feliz. Then back to back Royals batters walked and were picked off and the game went to extra innings. The Royals seemed to feel that Feliz was balking as he was throwing to first, which caught the runners off the bag. However, it's only a balk if the umpire says it is and he was silent. If Feliz does have as Ned Yost termed it "a balk move", then I can see the first player getting caught, but there's little excuse for the second.
In the end, it was a hard-fought but sloppy game. The Royals stayed in it with the defending American League champions. However staying in games isn't enough as Danny Duffy said after the game:
"I didn't come up here to keep my team in the game, I came up here to win. It's a bummer."
A bummer indeed, but staying in games is the first step. Winning, with this group of players seems almost inevitable. It didn't happen last night, but it will.