With a 6-3 win over Cleveland yesterday, the Kansas City Royals completed a quite successful 5-4 road trip. That is five out of nine against the then leaders of both the AL East and Central divisions, plus the New York Yankees. That’s five out of nine after starting out the trip by losing three of the first four games and going through a five game stretch where the Royals scored only 15 total runs.
Frankly, if prior to the start of the trip, I told you the following would happen, what would you have pegged the nine game record to be?
- The Royals would commit 12 errors
- Starting pitchers would go five innings or less in five of the games.
- Opposing baserunners would steal 14 bases in 15 attempts
I don’t know, 2-7 probably?
Instead the Royals, whose 16-11 road record trails only that of the division leading Orioles, White Sox and Rangers, came home a happy 5-4. Oh yeah, five wins on this road trip is equal to the number of home wins the Royals have compiled ALL year. This team is anything but boring.
This road trip really underscores that you don’t need to play perfect to play decent baseball. The Royals are not going to go on any fifteen game winning streaks playing like they did the past week and a half, but when they make the plays at the right time, they can slowly climb back to .500….despite themselves.
Yesterday, the Royals got only five marginally effective innings out of Bruce Chen. They were picked off twice, while Cleveland ran wild on the bases. Kansas City bailed a befuddled and disgruntled Jennmar Gomez out of trouble when Johnny Giavotella was picked off first base with Billy Butler at the plate. Later in the game, after rookie Scott Barnes loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter, Jeff Francoeur bailed him out of trouble by popping out on the FIRST pitch he saw. And, let’s not even get into what Jonathan Broxton did in the ninth.
The day before the Royals committed three errors behind rookie Will Smith (who also walked the first two batters of the game) and the team still cruised to an 8-2 win. On Sunday in Baltimore, Luke Hochevar did not make it out of the fifth, but the Royals still won 4-2 and the day before that, Felipe Paulino walked five in five innings and the Royals won that game, too. A team doesn’t have to be perfect to play winning baseball. In the Royals case, on the road at least, they don’t have to even come close to perfect.
Over the last thirty games – basically a fifth of a baseball season – the Kansas City Royals are 16-14. They have done so with a starting rotation so jumbled that the occupants of both the fourth and fifth starter slots are almost always in a state of flux. Although the lineup and, more particularly, the batting order has recently settled down, but for most of those thirty games it has been a roulette wheel every night. Let’s put it another way, the best two starting pitching performances of the road trip were turned in by two guys who did not make the rotation out of spring training and the biggest hit in yesterday’s game came from a player who was sent out to the minors with two weeks left in spring camp.
This is not the Royals team most of thought we would have in 2012. No one, no matter how correctly skeptical of the rotation, envisioned this team being 5-17 at home. Of course, this Royals team is not ‘5-17 bad’. The very basic whims of the baseball gods means the Royals are due for some good luck at home, it not actually destined to, you know, play better baseball on their own field.
The White Sox, by virtue of an 8 game winning streak, have surged to the lead in the Central with a 29-22 record. However, they don’t really strike one as a team that is going to play .560 baseball all year. I could be wrong – it’s been known to happen – but the longer the Tigers flounder about the more it seems like the Central Division is in play for whichever mediocre team wants to back into it.
The Royals have begun to see signs of life, or at least signs of better luck, from Eric Hosmer. Alex Gordon has started to get on base again and Mike Moustakas is emerging as a middle of the order impact bat. Is Salvador Perez as savior? Not sure, but I like him in the Royals lineup way more than Brayan Pena or Humberto Quintero and that is going to happen before the end of June.
While the Royals don’t really know what they have in Lorenzo Cain and likely won’t find out for at least another month, I still believe he is an upgrade in centerfield. Could Wil Myers find a place by mid-summer? How about Jake Odorizzi? What if Will Smith pitches another strong outing this weekend?
At the end of that awful 12 game losing streak, most of us had this season as being effectively over. Times have changed. The Royals don’t need to be perfect to win baseball games. The season is far from over.