Now THAT was a nice week to be a Royals fan. Unfortunately, it all flew under the radar since the team is completely out of contention (again), and football season has ramped up and drained some focus. Still, it's a nice week when you put some real distance between the team below you in the standings and make up some on the team in front, even if it is relatively meaningless.
2 Indians -12.5
3 White Sox -14.5
4 Royals -22.5
5 Twins -29.0
Game 149: Twins 0 @ Royals 4
Beating the Twins comes with just a tad bit more enjoyment than a victory over any other team, don't you agree? On this night, the Royals starter Bruce Chen put the kibosh on the Twins offense as held them scoreless in 8 innings with 8 strikeouts. Mike Moustakas hit his 2nd homerun of the season while Alex Gordon hit his 22nd. Those two runs would be sufficient, though the Royals did add two more insurance runs to be safe.
Game 150: Twins 3 @ Royals 7
Since the All-Star break, Luke Hochevar has a 3.52 ERA in 12 games started. He has been consistent and has helped the Royals mount an impressive 2nd half of the season. He added to his resume with a solid start to help the Royals sweep the Twins as he held them to 2 runs in 6 innings. He got help from some rookies as Mike Moustakas, Sal Perez and Johnny Giavotella each had 2 RBI.
Game 151: White Sox 2 @ Royals 7
The Royals kept on rolling as Melky Cabrera had a four hit night including his 18th homerun of the season. Not to be out-done, Billy Butler hit his 19th homerun so he could maintain bragging rights. Starter Jeff Francis held the division rival White Sox at bay for 6 inning by allowing only 2 runs. It was another great night for the bullpen as Louis Coleman and Aaron Crow combined for 3 shutout innings in the victory.
Game 152: White Sox 6 @ Royals 7
Decent pitching, decent hitting and a clutch late-inning double by a rookie. It seems almost routine after the last few weeks and hopefully it's a sign of what's coming in the future. On this night, things went to plan as Felipe Paulina had a solid start and Eric Hosmer finished it with a game-winning RBI double in the 9th inning.
Game 153: White Sox 3 @ Royasl 10
The Royals extended their season high winning streak to 7 games by punishing the White Sox. It's a nice turnabout for some old wounds that the Royals have incurred at the Sox home ballpark. Everett Teaford got his second win in as many starts by holding the White Sox to a single run in 6 innings. The real fireworks came on the offensive side of the ball where the Royals scored10 runs on 18 hits. Mike Moustakas and Jeff Francoeur each had a home run while Alcides Escobar hit his 8th triple of the season.
Game 154: White Sox 10 @ Royals 5
The White Sox got some payback after the previous night by dropping a ten-spot on them in retaliation. Frequent Royalsl tormentor A.J. Pierzzynski had a two home run night and Bruce Chen got roughed up in his start. Super rookie Eric Hosmer had a three hit evening as the Royals attempted a comeback but came up far short and ended their winning streak.
Position player of the week: Mike Moustakas
The rooke hit 3 homeruns this week en route to a .524/.545/1.048 week. He looks a lot more comfortable at the plate and hopefully this is a sign of what's to come.
Starting pitcher of the week: Everett Teaford
The kid does it again. Two wins in two starts. He struck out 4 and only allowed a solo-home run in his one start this week. He's certainly working on a spot in the rotation for 2012.
Relief pithcer of the week: Greg Holland
He only pitched 1.2 innings, but he only allowed a single baserunner who reached via walk. He's been the best relief pitcher on the team this season and nothing is slowing that down now.
The week to come
Well, we're down to the final week or so of games and the final home game is on Wednesday.Every game is a division game.
9/20-9/21 vs Tigers
923-9/25 vs White Sox
9/26-9/28 vs Twins
Last week, the Royals were on the road but still won half of their games. That's a successful road trip for even the best teams. For the Royals it's reason to celebrate, because they've been miserable on the road this year (22-42). The Royals are making up ground on the Twins for 4th place in the division. It's not something to get excited about though it may signal an inflection point in the as-of-late lopsided rivalry.
2 White Sox -6.0
3 Indians -6.5
4 Twins -17.0
5 Royals -18.5
Game 129: Royals 6 @ Blue Jays 4
Before the season I said that I thought Bruce Chen would make 0 starts after the All-Star break, I'm very happy to be woefully incorrect on that prediction. Chen made two solid starts this week, and started with this one in Toronto. In a very un-Chen like performance, he struck out 9 batters and gave up only 4 hits as he allowed 3 runs in 7.2 innings pitched. The offense put on a hitting clinic as they had 16 hits including home runs by Hosmer and Butler, but yielded only 6 runs. It was enough even to overcome what seems like a customary run allowed by Joakim Soria in the 9th inning.
Game 130: Royals 3 @ Blue Jays 4
Luke Hochevar put together another quality start on the road no less. More importantly he walked only 1 Blue Jay while striking out 5. Rookie Mike Moustakas seemed to be breaking out of his slump as he went 2-for-3 with a walk, and Billy Butler had a three hit game as well. All of it went for naught since what matters in the end is which team scores more runs, and the Royals came up a run short in this 4-3 contest.
Game 131: Royals 9 @ Blue Jays 6
In the rubber match of the series, the Royals made better use of their 16 hits by scoring 9 runs rather than the 6 from the opening game. Billy Butler raised his season average to .300 with a 4 hit night, and Moustakas had another mutli-hit game to lend even more credence to the theory that he's coming around. The Royals needed nearly all of those 9 runs as the bullpen didn't hold up after Jeff Francis departed after 6 innings and 2 runs. The amazingly steady Greg Holland and the suddenly unpredictable Joakim Soria each gave up a pair of runs to turn a blowout into an interesting game.
Game 132: Royals 1 @ Indians 2
Felipe Paulino is certainly the lesser known than Ubaldo Jimenez, but both were acquired this season by the Royals and Indians and Paulino has been the better pickup so far. Jimenez did show in this game at least, that he can be an elite caliber pitcher from time-to-time. He shut down the Royals by striking out 10 and walking only 1 in his 7 innings of work. Paulino wasn't near as effective, but held the Indians to 2 runs in 6.2 innings. The rookie duo of Moustakas and Hosmer each had a pair of hits in the loss.
Game 133: Royals 8 @ Indians 7
The second game of the series went quite differently than the first. The Royals gathered 11 hits including Alex Gordon's 18th home run of the season en route to scoring 7 runs. Starter Danny Duffy was effective bug inefficient as he struck out 7 in only 5.1 innings of work. The bullpen held their own until a 3 run home run by Asdrubal Cabrera off of Louis Coleman in the 8th put the Royals down for good.
Game 144: Royals 2 @ Indians 1
Bruce Chen has found something in the past two years, and the million dollar question is whether he can keep it up. For now, though he's doing just fine. On this night, he held the Indians to 1 run in 7.1 innings which was barely enough. Relievers Greg Holland and Joakim Soria seemed to brush off their last disaster and did exactly what a setup man and a closer are supposed to do: 5 up, 5 down to close the game for the win.
Position player of the week: Mike Moustakas
I'm relieved to see the young third-baseman in this position. To say he's been struggling is very much an understatement. However, in the last 7 days, he's really turned it on. Last week, he hit .478/.520/.565 with 2 doubles and 2 walks -- raising his season triple slash line to .232/.287/.291.
Starting pitcher of the week: Bruce Chen
The amazing Panamanian lefty has been proving doubters wrong for two years and this week is a prime example of why. He started 2 games and struck out 13 batters, walked only 3 and allowed 4 earned runs. He also passed through waivers because no teams were interested in trading for him. It's possibly a sign of the lack of playoff races, but there still are doubts as to whether he can continue to do what he's been doing.
Reliever of the week: Blake Wood
It was an odd week for relievers. Lately it's been easy to just hand it to Greg Holland and be done with it, but even though he was his typical self, he did have one game that hurt him badly. So this week, I'm giving the award to Blake Wood. His week wasn't great, but he did pitch a couple of important innings and did so capably. It's nice to have a guy like that around and Wood did his job fine enough this week to net himself this digital hardware.
The week to come
The Royals continue their road-trip in Detroit where they will face the division leading Tigers and then return home for a very short weekend home stand against the Indians. While the Royals are out of the race, there will be some jockeying for position within the lower ranks of the division and soon the Rosters will be expanding and some new faces will join the fray.
829-9/1 - @ Detroit
9/2-9/4 - vs Cleveland
Yesterday, the Kansas City Royals placed starting pitcher Bruce Chen on the 15-day disabled list with a strained lat muscle in his back. In his place on the roster and in the rotation will be Vin Mazzaro.
Vin Mazzaro was originally slated to join the season the Royals rotation as soon as they needed a fifth starter, however his first game at AAA Omaha was a complete disaster. He walked 7 batters in 2.1 innings and gave up 5 earned runs and pitched his way out of the rotation and the Royals gave Sean O'Sullivan his spot.
Mazzarro's shot at sticking in the rotation begins tonight at Yankee Stadium, which is no small obstacle to overcome. He's a command pitcher who throws a low 90's fastball and relies heavily on his above average slider. He's been working on adding another off-speed pitch to his arsenal, but it's unclear at this point whether he's done so.
The interesting question is what happens if he pitches well until Bruce Chen gets back from his stint on the disabled list? I honestly don't even have an inkling as to what they would do in that scenario. Let's look at each candidate to see what might take place.
He's clearly earned his spot in the rotation. When he comes back, he's in the rotation. His injury seems minor, so he should be back soon. He is scheduled to come off the DL on May 21.
He started Opening Day and has pitched pretty well though he's still been prone to the big inning. If he's healthy, he's another untouchable guy this season.
Kyle Davies demise has been predicted for a long time by Royals fans. He's become the whipping boy of the fanbase and with an ERA of 7.08 he looks like a prime candidate for replacement. However, he's actually pitching pretty well right now. He has a team-leading and career-high strikeout rate that he's matching with a career low walk rate. He finally seems to have begun trusting his stuff and started pounding the strike zone. I know that people want him gone, but I don't envision a non-injury scenario that pushes him out within the next mont.
He pitched really well in his first four games, then terrible in the next three and did well in his last start. I don't think anyone is quite sure what the Royals have in Jeff Francis right now. He's not likely in the Royals future plans, but they would like to trade him if the season goes south. If he isn't in the rotation, he isn't going to be traded. He's a veteran presence who the Royals like in the locker room and in the rotation. However, I think he is a prime candidate to be replaced by Mazzaro. If Mazzaro pitches well, I can envision a scenario where Francis could use some time to rest and has a small tweak in his arm. He goes to the DL for a short stint and Mazzaro keeps pitching.
The real battle here is O'Sullivan vs Mazzaro. It sounds like a prize-fight from the early 1900's between two New York immigrants, but unfortunately it won't be half as intriguing. O'Sullivan's spot in the rotation belonged to Mazzaro and they will battle it out again for the rights to it. O'Sullivan has been effective, but his numbers indicate that it's all smoke-and-mirrors. His strikeout rate and walk rate are the worst in the rotation and that eventually will catch up to a pitcher. May 21 might not be enough time for Mazzaro to unseat O'Sullivan, but it's looking like round 1 of 15.
The situation is still murky and picking the starting five a month from now is exceedingly difficult. It's possible, though unlikely that the Royals could go with something less traditional like a six man rotation. Ned Yost doesn't seem like a manager who likes to get too far outside of the traditional way of thinking and I don't see him wanting to surrender another bullpen arm. It all starts tonight in Yankee Stadium, and I'm interested to see how it all plays out.