It is starting to feel like the Royals are slowly slipping into anonymity: not good enough to be noteworthy and not bad enough to be made fun of.
Last night, Kansas City had to go to their bullpen for eight plus innings of work and quite honestly got decent enough results. Luis Mendoza allowed an inherited runner to score in the first, gave up two more runs in the fifth and Kelvin Herrera was touched for another in the seventh. That is not lock down work obviously, but it should have been good enough against Nick Blackburn and four Minnesota relievers. It wasn’t.
On a six game homestand against maybe the two weakest teams in the American League, the Royals managed to plate just 17 runs in six games on their way to a disappointing 3-3 record. All three wins came when the much maligned starting rotation combined with the much heralded bullpen to toss shutouts. Before the season, I bet you didn’t expect three shutouts in six games at any point against anyone.
Sadly, the one night that the Royals’ offense actually did have some life (Monday’s 10-7 loss to the Twins), Ned Yost pulled back on the reigns and had Alcides Escobar sacrifice with no one out to give Jarrod Dyson and Humbo Quintero a chance to drive in two runners in a tie game…in the fourth inning. Last night, as putrid as the offense performed, was still a good dose of rotten luck as the Royals, enjoying a marked advantage in the starting pitcher matchup for one of the few times all year, saw Felipe Paulino exit after facing just three batters. Monday night, however, was the crippling game of this homestand.
Four and two and all is right with the world. Three and three seems so much worse. Such is life when you are stuck in mediocrity.
Anyway, onto Pittsburgh, where the Royals are bravely forging ahead with Jeff Francouer in center, Eric Hosmer in right, Billy Butler at first and the Yunigma surely somewhere on the diamond. To be fair, even if Ned Yost goes with Giavotella at second over Betancourt, the entire right side of the diamond has the potential to look a lot like the right side of your slow-pitch softball defense. That said, why not?
The Royals aren’t hitting and, quite honestly, haven’t played stellar defense in center or exhibited great range in right. Maybe, just maybe, some quirky new defensive positions for three games might shake the cobwebs out of a lethargic offense. I don’t hate this move as much as the statistical side of me says I should. If Lorenzo Cain, who I think is dramatically better than Dyson defensively, was healthy my guess is I would hate it. As it stands, let’s give it a whirl.
The thought crossed my mind, that moving Alex Gordon to center made more sense than putting the Frenchman there, but Gordon is far less experienced and then you have four guys in different positions instead of three, plus whoever wants to throw their glove at the ball playing second. The real downside of this three game lineup changes is that Yost is likely to be more paranoid about the defense than most of us. I can see him pulling the trigger on Dyson to center, Frenchy to right, Hosmer to first as early as the sixth inning, which obviously shuffles Billy Butler out of the batting order for what might well be crucial late inning at-bats.
The other interesting news of this short trip is that it appears Clint Robinson might get called up to the bigs. Now, given the Royals are playing a first baseman in right field and a designated hitter at first, calling up another first baseman/DH type seems, at first, kind of silly. One might have opted for the versatile Irving Falu, who can play just about anywhere and would allow Yost all sorts of managerial options. Maybe that’s what Dayton Moore is trying to avoid?!
However, the Royals are likely looking to Robinson to simply pinch-hit. I don’t know of Clint Robinson can hit major leauge pitching (and getting 2 or 3 pinch hitting chances as your debut is not a very good way of finding out), but I do know he is more likely to park one than Falu or Maier or Dyson or…you get the point. If the Royals were moving to the NL for the summer, than Falu is the guy. For three games in Pittsburgh, why not Robinson?
This trip could be fun for the Royals, but it might also be a bumbling disaster. It won’t, however, be boring.