The dust and, hopefully, the emotions have settled from a demoralizing sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians. I tire of the constant ‘baseball is a long season’, the Royals have not yet played the equivalent of one NFL football game kind of talk, but there is truth to it. Every team will go through a stretch where they lose six of nine games. Every team will be swept at some point this season and a fair portion of teams will get swept at home. Yes, it is important to remember all of that.
The Kansas City Royals will play somewhere around 1,460 innings this year and might well have played the single worst one of the bunch at the worst possible time from a public relations standpoint. In front of an emotional packed house, Luke Hochevar could not locate the right parts of the strike zone, Yuniesky Betancourt could not reach a ground ball and Jarrod Dyson could not find a deep fly ball. Boom, 7-0 in the top half of the first inning of the first home game of the year.
If either Betancourt or Dyson make a play, the Royals get out of the first down 2-0 or 3-0. Given that after Hochevar was smacked on the ankle by a line drive, Everett Teaford came in to pitch four spectacular innings of relief, that could have meant a lot. Unfortunately, the Royals banged into three double plays on their way to turning 13 baserunners and two wild pitches into just three runs.
The Royals started out the game by playing three and a half innings of just crappy baseball (that’s a scientific term, by the way) and then followed it up with some inspired play that turned a 9-2 deficit into a 9-9 tie. The Royals lost when their best reliever, Greg Holland, surrendered two singles and a wind aided double that Jarrod Dyson (who did not have a good two games in the field) just could not quite reach. That one hurt, folks.
Of course, the news of Saturday really was the two bench clearing brouhahas that netted the Indians three ejections, the Royals some badly needed adrenaline and spawned a Twitter war that eventually included John Rocker and Chris Perez (two great minds at work there).
Hey, I don’t mind Shin-Soo Choo jawing at Jonathan Sanchez after being hit. It was Sanchez who obliterated Choo’s season by hitting him last year. Sure, it was not intentional and yeah, Choo overreacted, but I get it. Hell, Al Cowens once charged Ed Farmer after grounding out for similar reasons. I also don’t mind Mike Moustakas jawing at Jennmar Gomez after the retaliatory beanball.
What I do mind, however, is a career .232 hitter in Jack Hannahan injecting himself squarely into the middle of both situations. Obviously someone did something bad to Jack prior to the game as he was in the middle of both jawing sessions immediately and with great fervor. It might well be that Hannahan was doing his job as a good veteran and upholding all the unwritten rules of baseball: notably, standing up for your teammate and then smacking down a young player running his mouth. I freaking hate baseball’s unwritten rules, mainly because the enforcers of said rules are usually bad ballplayers with .232 career averages like Jack Hannahan.
A bad call at first that should have ended the third inning, coupled with a missed foul ball by Eric Hosmer, turned into a six run debacle for the Royals. That was followed by three more two out runs in the fifth and the next thing you know, Mitch Maier is pitching.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ROTATION
but you knew that already…
The Royals scored 18 runs in a three game series at home and were basically blown out of two of those games and it all really comes down to starting pitching. After a dynamic first time through the rotation, the Royals starters have dug deep and early holes for their team the second time through.
We will give Bruce Chen a pass here as he was hardly great in Oakland, but did get through five innings allowing three runs: that’s far away the best second start performance. Since then, Hochevar, Sanchez and Mendoza combined to throw 10.2 innings and allowed 24 hits, 17 earned runs (21 total), 9 walks and logged just 5 strikeouts. That required the bullpen to throw another 17.1 innings in which they were tagged for 11 more runs.
Now, we can pick and choose, take out the performance of Tim Collins and Louis Coleman and knock 7 runs off that bullpen total without breaking a sweat. All the really does, however, is point out that when you go to the bullpen before the fifth inning for three straight games (and before the sixth in four straight), a manager is eventually going to find a guy who doesn’t have it that particular day. If a good reliever is effective three times out of four and Ned Yost has to use 11 relief appearances in 3 days…well, you do the math.
The starting five is neither as good as they were in the first five games or as bad as they have been the last four (I mean, they can’t be THAT bad, right? RIGHT?!). The strain of one very average start and three bad ones strung together is very apparent, however, and could not have come at a worse time for a young team trying to get off to a quick start.
ONE YEAR IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER
Not a big fan of the ‘the Royals got off to good starts in past years and ended up with bad records so this isn’t that bad’ school of thought. I will take ten years of good starts and you can take ten years of bad starts and I bet I end up with a better overall record than you do.
The 2012 Royals bear little resemblance to the April 2011 Kansas City squad and this young group was fired up and confident entering the season. Now, they have been swept at home and lost the Oakland series in a gut wrenching and rather historical fashion. Alex Gordon is hitting .118 and Eric Hosmer has swung for the fences all the way to a .216 start.
You can point to defensive miscues in each of the last four losses that have contributed mightily to the team’s downfall and baserunning errors before that which hurt the team as well. This is a young team making mistakes and not finding a way to overcome them. This is a team that is not hitting well when they pitch well and not pitching well when they do score runs.
It is just nine games into a 162 game grind. Five point five percent of the season is gone. Halfway through the fourth quarter of the first NFL game of the season. Just past first stage separation on a journey to the moon. Two-thirds of the way through the appetizer on a date (well before you figure out she’s weird and not even close to noticing that glob of eye shadow in the corner of her eye that will preoccupy and annoy you the rest of the night).
We get all that. Even the most reactionary Royal fan gets that. This is a young team from an organization that has no recent success to fall back on in hard times. How many losses, misplays and flat out bad luck (I’m looking at you and your dink hits Shelley Duncan) can they absorb before all the swagger is gone?
Yeah, it’s early, but this team could ‘it’s just one game’ itself into being ten games under .500 before the end of April. Something good needs to happen to the Kansas City Royals and it needs to happen soon.
Something good like Danny Duffy out-dueling Justin Verlander.
We talked about the 50 wins, 50 losses, 62 games that are up for grabs principal last Thursday. I am trying to keep track of which games land in which category, but it is, of course, quite subjective. For the record, Saturday’s extra inning loss certainly goes in the ’62′ column and, despite the end result of blow outs, I am tempted to put Friday and Sunday’s losses into the ’62′ as well. Both of those games really turned on a missed defensive play (not to mention a bad call) which the Royals were unable to overcome. That is where I will put them for now, pending a good argument to move one or both.