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The Royals are at .500 and head back to Kansas City

It’s almost a week into the 2012 season for the Kansas City Royals. After taking two out of three from the Los Angeles Angels and one out of three from the Oakland A’s, the Royals are showing some promise, but there’s still a ways to go.

The anticipated weak link of the Royals, the starting rotation, is doing well. In two starts against the Angels and the A’s, Bruce Chen gave up two earned runs, seven hits and seven strikeouts over 11 innings. Luke Hochevar gave up five hits and two runs over six and a third innings in a 6-3 victory over the Angels. Jonathan Sanchez was effectively wild, giving up four hits, two runs and two wild pitches in six innings in a 7-3 victory over the Angels. Against Oakland, Luis Mendoza gave up a run and five hits in five and two thirds innings, pitching a solid game in a 1-0 loss to the A’s. Duffy pitched six scoreless innings of one hit ball and eight strikeouts in a rain shortened 3-0 win over the A’s.

Fans have to be pleasantly surprised with the performance of the starting rotation, who are keeping the Royals in games and not giving up a big inning. How they do over the course of the season remains to be seen, but so far, so good.

Except for a rough eighth inning when Aaron Crow and Greg Holland gave up five runs in the opener against the Angels, and Jonathan Broxton issuing two walks and hitting two A’s batters in the 12th inning in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss, the bullpen is doing well. Lefties Jose Mijares and Tim Collins have yet to give up a run. Everett Teaford hasn’t played yet, but when Manager Ned Yost remembers Teaford is on the team, I’m sure he will make an appearance.

The offense has been up and down, being shut out in two out of three losses. So far, Alex Gordon has a .091 batting average with a single and a home run, but he’s hit the ball hard and played solid defense, like throwing out Albert Pujols at home. Gordon is traditionally a slow starter and should be warming up soon.

Lorenzo Cain isn’t tearing it up offensively like he did in spring training, but like Gordon, his defense is good. Cain made a great catch in the second inning of Tuesday’s game, resulting in a double play. Unfortunately, Cain suffered a left groin strain during the play and had to leave the game. He’s listed as day to day, with Mitch Maier filling in.

Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer leads the team in RBIs and Jeff Francoeur leads the team in batting average at .375. It’s early, but they’re playing well. Humberto Quintero is catching most of the games and has done well defensively.

And Yuni Betancourt and Chris Getz are getting regular playing time at second base, which for most fans any playing time for the duo is too much playing time. But at least they’re contributing.

The Royals are 3-3 and that’s not bad, but they lost two out of thee games against the A’s, a series they should have won. Starting Friday, the Royals have a ten game home stand against the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays. The Tigers and Jays are playing well and the Indians could win two out of three games if the Royals aren’t careful. These next ten games could determine how the season will go and if the Royals have a shot at the A.L. Central. But it’s also early in the season and there’s 156 more games to play.

The starting rotation needs to keep up their performances and the bullpen can’t afford to give up too many big innings. Mike Moustakas, Gordon and Cain have to get it going offensively. Unlike previous years, this .500 Royals team isn’t a early season mirage. They have a legitimate chance to play well this season, but they need to execute.

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