In defeating the Detroit Tigers 5-1 on Tuesday, the Royals continued to take care of business in their division. Looking for a reason the club is setting the pace in the Central? Start with their 27 wins against division foes, against just 16 losses.
Prior to April, any series with Detroit demanded to be circled on the calendar in red ink. These would be the games that would decide the victor. The team that would get to watch the Wild Card Game from the comfort of their own man caves. Now… Not so much. The Tigers have been hit with the curse of age: Underperformance and injury have sapped them of their swagger. These aren’t the Tigers anymore. They have been declawed.
The last time Salvador Perez had an on base percentage above .300 was on May 29. In the 49 games he’s played since then, he’s hit .202/.219/.378. Really, there’s no need to play the arbitrary endpoint game with Perez. He’s hitting just .247/.257/.412 on the year. That is continuing a slide that began in 2012, his second season in the league.
Let’s just say that Perez struggles against pitching. Not any specific pitcher, per se. Pitching. As in, all of it. Except when it comes to Justin Verlander. Against Verlander, Perez has 18 hits in 38 at bats, good for a .474 batting average. On Tuesday, Perez faced Verlander three times. Three times, he collected a hit. He also drove in three runs. It was the Salvy Show. It always is against Verlander. Isn’t baseball the best?
Meanwhile, Danny Duffy continued his resurgence with another solid start. He went seven innings, allowed five hits (and four walks) while surrendering a solitary run. In eight starts since returning from the disabled list, Duffy owns a 2.66 ERA. The ERA is nice and shiny, however I prefer the fact he’s gone deeper into games for an extended stretch for seemingly the first time in his career.
This isn’t so much a new-look Duffy. He was stellar for an extended stretch last summer. However, this is one who inspires confidence. He may not be an “ace” in the truest sense of the word, but there’s no reason to think he can’t be a dependable starter going forward. Not an innings eater. Something better. Slot him in to the number two spot behind Johnny Cueto. Or push him to number three behind Edinson Volquez. Wherever he starts, Duffy can now be counted on for some consistency that has been lacking in his game the first three months of the season. He’s back and the Royals are better for it.
The Tigers season can be summed up by a double play the Royals turned in the seventh. After a triple and walk put runners at corners to start the inning, Anthony Gose hit a ground ball to third. Moustakas went to second to start a potential double play, but the runner on third, Nick Castellanos, for some reason broke for home. Omar Infante fired to Perez and Castellanos was out by about 20 feet. Just an inexplicable TOOTBLAN. Yet, as Royals fans, we could knowingly nod our heads. That was a play made by a team who have checked out on the season. How many times have we seen something similar? It’s over for the Tigers. There will be no playoffs.
The Royals have stretched their lead in the AL Central to 9.5 games. That represents their largest lead since 1980. Given the competition, it’s not difficult to image that lead hitting double digits. The Twins are taking their punishment from the Canadian bullies and have begun the slide we all knew was inevitable. Thanks for playing. The White Sox have attempted to remain relevant, but they’re still the White Sox, still managed by Robin Ventura. The Indians have hugely underachieved. That rotation and those results… Wasteful.
And the Tigers. The Tigers. Injuries and poor contracts have accelerated their decline. At this point, it’s not difficult to imagine them as the AL version of the Phillies. Old, broken and stuck in the Wild Card purgatory of a total rebuild. The tear down began last week at the trade deadline, as Dave Dombrowski shipped David Price to the Blue Jays, Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets, and Joakim Soria to the Pirates. He gathered a decent haul of prospects (which definitely puts them ahead of the Phillies at a similar point of their slide into baseball irrelevance) but for his troubles, was shown the door by Tigers elderly owner Mike Illich. Quite a turn of events.
And quite a turn of events in that Dombrowski is now a general manager free agent, but I’m good with the guy we have making those decisions for the Royals. Had the Dombrowski ouster happened two years ago, the drums in Kansas City would have beat loudly. A GM with a successful track record in rebuilds? Where do we sign up? Instead, this news was greeted in KC with a collective yawn. Or perhaps pity. The Royals were so good this year, we somehow cost poor Dombrowski his job. The body count continues to rise.
Forever Royal, indeed.