Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
An above .500 this week, including a win Friday night against in-state rivals St. Louis Cardinals, has left a feeling of mixed emotions and expectations for this young team. This team is still trying to find a rhythm, which with two starting pitchers getting ready to come off the DL, is going to be somewhat easier than it has been during the past three or four weeks.
Joakim Soria has seemed to find his rhythm again and that is good news for one of the youngest bullpens in baseball. With him and consistent efforts out of Aaron Crow, the Royals bullpen could solidify more upon Bruce Chen and Kyle Davies returning to the starting rotation.
The Royals are entering probably the most exciting time of the first half of the season this weekend in St. Louis, inter-league play. With the series this weekend in St. Louis, the Royals begin a two-week stretch of playing teams that they would only see in a potential World Series berth or spring training exhibitions. Every year at this time of the season, the question is raised, who is the better league this year.
The Royals have a chance to show case their young talented lineup to certain fan bases that may have never seen them play nor will again, lest that team and the Royals make it to the World Series. This gives opportunity for the potential All-Star candidates to draw some voters that probably would not consider voting for them otherwise. The only catch is, these players have to perform at the level they have been so far this season.
The defense has been solid and so has the offense. Both are ranked in the top five in the American League. One of the highlights on defense in particular has been Escobar at shortstop. It seems like every game he makes a play that he was not supposed to make. The bats are becoming a little more consistent as the lineup has stabilized in the past few ball games, but with one of the best hitters out of the lineup (arguably the best hitter too, Billy Butler) when playing at National League ballparks it is going to be slightly more difficult to manufacture runs during these away games.
The Royals pitching is again holding this team back in a variety of ways. So far this season I have seen, the starting pitching be solid, then the bullpen gets shaky and then the roles reverse by the end of the week or sometimes the series. The Royals currently rank dead last in the American League in ERA and have given up the third most home runs by any pitching staff this year. The pitchers have to keep the ball in the ballpark consistently in order to give the offense and defense opportunities to help win ball games.
Three phases of this game have to be executed well in order to be in contention in the season. The Royals have begun solidifying two of those phases, but one is still holding them back.