Edinson Volquez gave up six runs in three innings last night. An agonizing 78 pitch outing in a game that was full of runs, hits and took just this side of forever to complete. A game the Royals won by eight runs and it wasn’t even a surprise.
A starter and one of your best relievers out with the chicken pox? No problem. Your All-Star leftfielder playing at something less than 100%? Not an issue. Your third baseman out with a minor injury and your regular shortstop resting? All is well. Your most consistent starting pitcher being flat out awful and leaving after just three innings? Yawn. An eight run win to go 31 games over .500 and 13 games in front of the AL Central? Of course.
Welcome to dream world, kids.
The Royals, after a tough loss to Justin Verlander on Tuesday, have used 28 position players to score 27 runs over the past two nights. Sure, Detroit only kind of sort of cares at this point, but Kansas City just plain pummeled the Tigers and did so while employing more of a Spring Training approach to the games than a ‘coming down the stretch’ style. I remember the mid to last seventies. I liked those years. 2015 feels a lot like 1976 through 1980. There was a time not long ago when I was uncertain the Royals would ever thrill us like that again.
Kansas City finds itself with a six game lead for the best record in the American League this morning and that is really about all there is to play for at this point. I think there is some importance to maintaining that advantage as I have no desire to play Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS at Toronto. Yes, I know there is a playoff series before that one and yes, I bet the Angels were thinking some about the ALCS when they ran aground against the Royals in the ALDS, but I would very much like to have home field advantage in my back pocket. I would also like to see Toronto, you know, lose a game once in a while.
Upsets can and do happen. Houston is a weird-tough matchup for the Royals (should they not win the West) and the Yankees would be interesting just from a historical perspective, but the Royals will be favored in any ALDS series. The scary team is Toronto. The one team in the league I look at and actually wonder if they might be better than the Royals is the Blue Jays. The remainder of the month is, and here is some striking new analysis, about Kansas City getting healthy and getting primed to beat Toronto.
Encouraging signs that the Royals are getting there:
- Alex Gordon is back. His bat looks good, but does anyone else feel like Alex is not quite ready to go full force after balls in the outfield? I don’t blame him and frankly, he probably shouldn’t be laying out for a line drive against the fence with his team 30+ games over .500, but at some point I think Alex has a bit of a mental hurdle to get over. That is not a criticism, it is just pointing out that Gordon is human.
- Ned Yost intimated that he might consider batting Gordon lead-off, Zobrist second and Escobar somewhere else. Just when you think Ned is stubborn and doesn’t get it, he does. Look for the Royals to actually bat their two best on-base guys one and two come the post-season.
- Yordano Ventura has his mojo back. Oh yes, my friends, mojo exists and Yordano has it.
- Lorenzo Cain is a star. Over the winter, I said, you said, we all said “If Lorenzo Cain can parlay his post-season success into regular season performance than the Royals are going to have some fun in 2015”. He did, they are.
- Eric Hosmer is a star. Over the winter, I said, you said, we all said “If Eric Hosmer can parlay his post-season success into regular season performance than the Royals are going to have some fun in 2015”. He did, they are.
Warning signs that the Royals could encounter post-season trouble:
- Johnny Cueto has arguably had the worst three game stretch of his career. Some are panicking. Of course some panic every time Cueto has the audacity to give up hit. ‘Not an Ace’ is the mantra and it is stupid because everyone defines an ‘ace’ differently and most that say cannot be bothered to look up Cueto’s stats, game logs or anything that didn’t happen further back than the previous inning. That said, it is a bad time to have a rough patch for Cueto. He is simply not able to locate any of his pitches with any consistency and in the battle to fix that, Johnny has gone away from using his variety of deliveries and, hell let’s just say it, he has lost his mojo. There are way, way too many great starts (years worth if you bother to look it up) in Cueto’s history to panic quite yet. Concern? Yes, you can be concerned and I won’t scold you.
- Who is the closer? Is it Greg Holland? Is it Wade Davis? Does Ned Yost know? Certainly, we know the company line, but who do you trust with the Royals up one and Troy Tulowitzki at the plate and Josh Donaldson on deck? When Herrera returns, I pretty much expect Yost to go back to the traditional HDH and that might be okay. Are most of Holland’s past issues the result of a minor injury (early) or too much rest (more recently) or is he ‘losing it’? While we like to discount the mental side of the game as it cannot be quantified, it does exist. In the odd world of bullpen minds, certainty of roles seems to be critical. If it is HDH or bust, so be it, but the Royals need to decide well before the end of the season.
- Who plays rightfield? Will Jarrod Dyson hit? Will Jonny Gomes catch the ball? Will Alex Rios be interested? And no, Paulo Orlando has not done enough to ‘deserve’ a spot on the post-season roster. Unlike the delicate mind of a reliever, Yost can mix and match at this spot. Dyson and Gomes have been part-time players most of their careers and Rios? Well, he can’t be worse than when he was out there everyday as the Royals surged to an 82-51 record can he?
- The fourth starter. Ventura’s locked down the third spot in the playoff rotation, so it comes down to Medlen or Duffy. Hell, that’s NOT a problem.
So, remember when we used to have ten bullet points that should the Royals be able to solve them they MIGHT get into contention? We are down to four – three really – that if they are solved the Royals should end up in the World Series.
Don’t wake me up, I like this dream.