2012 Opening Day: A game of opposites
For the first time since the incredible evening of September 28th, 2011 the Kansas City Royals finally took the field for a game that counted. How much should I emphasize finally? Our roommates here at I70 Baseball, the St Louis Cardinals, had completed two games in two different cities before Alex Gordon dug in against Jered Weaver Friday evening. Finally we can quit speculating about what might happen. Finally we have real games to watch and react. Finally baseball can show us why we why love it so much. Baseball shows us that when we think we know stuff about baseball, we really don’t know anything about baseball.
Coming into the season we had this team figured out. The Kansas City Royals were going to hit. The Royals were going to be good defensively. The bullpen was going to be strong, and the starting rotation was going to be suspect. Then the first game of the 2012 season starts and the game unfolded like none of us thought it would.
Alex Gordon digs in and promptly flies out to center and begins a long evening for the Royals at the plate. Jered Weaver hamstrung the Royals for 8 innings, striking out 10, and never allowed a runner to reach third base. Granted Weaver is an ace pitcher and a lot of the Royals futility can be attributed to him. However, the top of the Royals line-up looked lost at the plate. Especially on Alex Gordon’s second at bat where he struck out with three check swings. The closest the Royals came to scoring was in the 7th when Jeff Francoeur doubled with one out…and promptly got picked off. There are some trends that seem to carry over from year to year. Horrendous base running appears to have not changed in the Royals organization. It was a disappointing offensive to performance. Oh well, we waited this long for the Royals to play a game. I guess we’ll wait a few more hours for the Royals to score a run.
Fortunately, there was a bright spot for the Royals. It was starting pitcher Bruce Chen, who threw six innings of shutout ball, striking out 4, and not walking anyone. A good performance from this starting staff is important. Since the Royals bullpen is supposed to the strength of the pitching staff I thought it was a good idea to not let a tired Chen face the heart of the Angels line-up. Chen was lifted, and Aaron Crow was sent out to pitch the 7th. To this point in the game there had not been a lot to cheer about. But then the fist pumping began. Aaron Crow struck out the side in dominating fashion. This performance was highlighted by a three pitch strike out that made the greatest active hitter in baseball; Albert Pujols, look flat out silly. I’ll take another inning of that please. Unfortunately, that was the high water mark for the Royals in this game.
Crow came back out to pitch the 8th. After retiring Kendrys Morales on a fly ball to left, Crow gave up three consecutive singles before being lifted for Greg Holland. OK, Holland is viewed by many fans to be the best arm in the bullpen. If anyone is going to put this fire out it’s Greg Holland. Instead, Alcides Escobar mishandled a weak grounder from Peter Bourjos allowing a run to score and keeping the bases loaded. Erick Aybar was the next hitter who uncorked a triple down the right field line and that was your ball game. The Angels beat the Royals on Opening Day 5-0.
This game just goes to show that in baseball anything can happen. That’s part of the sport’s mystery. This was a game of opposites for the Royals. The parts of the team we thought would be strengths; bullpen, offense, and defense let us down. The part we thought was suspect, the starting pitching, gave us something to cheer about. It’s too early to tell if this is a trend to buck the prevalent thinking, or it’s a one game, or even an entire series anomaly.
This was just one game of 162. It has been said that during a baseball season a team will win 50 games, lose 50 games, and their season will be decided with the middle 62 games. While I’m still irritated that Aaron Crow and Greg Holland didn’t hold down their end of the bargain. You have to remember the Royals did not score any runs for their pitchers. Because the Royals got shutout I have to put this game in the 50 they were going to lose anyway. Not every pitcher will be tough as Jered Weaver. It’s just tough when it’s the first game in six months. The good news is, the Royals get another crack at winning in less than 24 hours. This next is likely one of the coveted 62.