With having the best record in the American League comes the feeling that the Royals should win every game. That is a nice problem to have as opposed to the not so distant past when the mindset was ‘how will the Royals manage to lose this game?’. When your team is good, fans hold them to a higher standard and when they have a bad night, the criticisms are all the harsher. I don’t mind the hot reactors, they are good entertainment. Nor do I think just because the Royals are the reigning AL Champions and hold the best record in the American League this season that one cannot criticize them. It’s all good, react how you want and criticize how you want. That’s pretty much what being a fan is about.
That said, keep in mind that there will be nights like last night. Plain and simple, the Royals were about five runs behind before the first pitch was thrown. With Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar unable to play and Lorenzo Cain relegated to designated hitter due to a sore hamstring, the vaunted Kansas City defense was pretty well gutted. This on a night when the Royals were playing on the road…in a hitters’ park…with their number seven starter pitching.
Let’s not overlook that last sentence. Despite two good starts, Joe Blanton was the back up plan to Chris Young, who was the backup plan to anyone in the starting rotation being injured. Frankly, Yohan Pino got a start before Blanton, so maybe Joe is the Royals’ number eight starter and he was taking the hill against the team with the second best record in the AL.
Oh, and in addition to the injuries referenced above, the Royals’ lead-off hitter, Jarrod Dyson, was also playing at less than 100%. Did Dyson dog it down the first base line last night? Maybe, but he also got on base three times. The Kansas City bench last night consisted of Drew Butera, so maybe we can cut Dyson a bit of slack.
Now, I was going to discuss exactly why the Royals’ bench was Butera and no one else, but would it really have mattered if the team had also had Paulo Orlando (who I saw homer in Omaha yesterday) or Cheslor Cuthbert or Lane Adams or whomever there to keep him company? The Royals simply got caught in a minor injury plague an an unfortunate time in the rotation. Over 162 games, these things happen.
Certainly no one should be surprised if Brandon Finnegan, who pitched well in three plus innings last night, gets back on the merry-go-round and is sent down in exchange for a position player. Cuthbert did not play for Omaha yesterday afternoon, but I don’t know what significance that holds. With Hosmer out for the series and both centerfielders gimpy, simply having a body not named Butera to put into a game would likely make Ned Yost’s lunch digest a little better.
The Royals, with an eight man pen, have gone out of their way to use that eighth man. Michael Mariot has pitched and so has Aaron Brooks, but they probably did not really need to. We saw Jason Frasor, a very serviceable major league reliever, for the first time in eight days last night. We saw Luke Hochevar for the first time in six days. Sure, it is nice to have a Finnegan (or worse) to throw into a game you are nearly certain to lose, but the Royals have innings to burn before they even get into having to use HDH or HDHMM.
While the Kansas City starting rotation may be the poster child for why you need eight relievers, I am not sure even they can justify carrying eight bullpen arms all the time. Given the current roster situation, the Royals have to and almost certainly will make am move to bolster the bench. That may not change how this Houston series plays out, but it at least could give Ned Yost an option or two if the game stays close.