The Royals failed to notice the calendar said April as they played as if it was October in sweeping away the first week of the regular season. Six games. Six wins. No problem.
They’ve done it with quite a bit of panache, clubbing nine home runs, swiping seven bags and outscoring their opponents by a 40 to 15 margin. Along with two cramps.
To say the Royals are firing on all cylinders may actually be selling them short. This team is locked in, charging forward and winning everything in sight.
For the second start in a row, Yordano Ventura was cruising, only to see his start short-circuited by a cramp. In the opener, it was his thumb. In his start on Sunday, it was a calf that ended his afternoon. It was too bad his day ended prematurely, as he has the Angels largely off balance all day, whiffing seven and touching 99 mph with his heater while spiking his curve. The Angels were hopelessly overmatched. Maybe they should have come to the plate with white flags instead of bats.
Ventura made one mistake in the first when he left a fastball middle in and Albert Pujols did his thing and deposited the pitch into the left field seats. Mike Trout and Pujols combined for the Angels second run on a couple of hard hit balls. It was Trout’s hit that set off the first Royal controversy of the season.
Why did Ventura feel the need to stare at Trout after the base hit? Who knows. Was it wrong? No. Ventura can look at whomever he wants to look at. Was it something you don’t see everyday? Sure, but Ventura is a little different. As Yost said following the game, he’s a confident guy and is difficult to rattle when he’s on the hill. I suppose the timing was a little weird. Whatever. What we know is that Trout took exception.
The pair had a chance to further discussion when Trout scored on Pujols’s double. And, as happens in this situation, the benches clear. I swear when Pujols broke for home from his spot on second base, that was the most agile he looked all weekend. Credit to Salvador Perez for removing his pitcher from what could have escalated into an ugly scene. And credit all the Latin ballplayers on the roster for rallying around Ventura to get his mind back on the game. And credit to the bullpens for getting in some light jogging. A minor kerfuffle.
That leads me to something I’ve been thinking about since the start of the season: The Royals are setting themselves up as a major target. Look, I’m not passing judgement here. I enjoy the enthusiasm and the brotherhood of the dugout they have working. These guys are winning, they’re fired up, and they are enjoying themselves. There’s a little ’86 Mets swagger about them. When Mike Moustakas leaves the dugout after every home run to perform a handshake ritual, that’s going to rub the Unwritten Rules Mob the wrong way. And we all know about the unwritten rules usually include some baseballs thrown with intent.
Speaking of Moustakas, he was hit by a pitch. Again. So far Royal batter have been plunked a league-leading 10 times. Coincidence? Random statistical noise? While there have been a couple of unintentional plunkings to be sure, there have been a few that could be classified as mysterious. On the flip side, Moustakas is getting drilled with such regularity Craig Biggio should start to worry his name may be wiped from the record books. Although pitchers are trying to pitch Moustakas inside to get him to pull the ball so he will hit into the shift, which makes sense. Yet I doubt some of these guys are upset if one runs just a little too far inside.
Whatever. This unwritten rule stuff bores me. The Royals play the game with a passion. As someone who has followed this team for close to 40 years, that makes me happy. We saw more than enough Royals teams sleepwalk through an entire season. This team is a blast to watch, although I can understand how the Angels and their fans don’t like it. Getting swept in the ALDS and then in the season’s first week doesn’t go down well. The Royals are still the scrappy upstarts that America (outside of Orange County) loves. If they are able to keep this run going, they will quickly shed the scrappy upstart label and will be called something a little less respectful. I’ll be OK with that, too. Because I love this team.
A couple of other notes:
— I enjoyed Pujols’s attempted steal of third being down five. Angels free out.
— The Royals bullpen has thrown 16.1 innings of scoreless relief. They are the only team in the majors whose bullpen has yet to surrender a run.
— The Royals were also the last team in the majors to be charged with an error this season. Lorenzo Cain earned their first one of the year on the play where Trout scored in the fifth when he failed to cleanly field the ball in center.
— Paulo Orlando collected a pair of triples on Sunday. As far as the record books go, he’s the first player in the history of the game to have his first three big league hits as triples. That’s something. That’s so Royals.
— Eric Hosmer saw his five game hitting streak come to an end, but Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Kendrys Morales all extended their streak to six games. The only other players in the AL to have collected a hit in every game are Trout and Billy Butler. Forever Royal.
— The Royals flew to Minnesota after the game and will play Monday afternoon in the Twins home opener. This would be an ideal time to get Perez a day off behind the plate. Yeah. I’m certain that is an option.