Despite being swept by the Cleveland Indians while playing in front of their home crowd for the first time in 2012, the Kansas City Royals provided some reasons for optimism.
After what the box scores would tell fans was an absolutely miserable weekend for Royals fans at the K, the easy thing to do would be to point out all of the things that went wrong (which were many), all of the players that need to be sent packing (one already was, there may be few more), and all of the reasons Royals fans should be concerned for the rest of the season. But now is not the time to be dwelling on Jarrod Dyson’s defense, the Royals’ starting pitching, Mitch Maier’s relief pitching appearance, or the distance of Travis Hafner’s home run on Sunday. Sure, Luke Hochevar had a bad half inning. Though he wasn’t helped by his defense or an accidental check-swing bloop hit to right by Shelley Duncan, he needs to be able to limit the damage and pitch his way out of those situations without giving up 7 runs. Sure, after a decent first showing against the Los Angeles Angels, Jonathan Sanchez was erratic agains the Indians on Saturday, lost control of his pitch count, and couldn’t find the plate, unless it was being met by a Cleveland Indians’ player’s bat. Did fans really expect anything different? If Sanchez goes out and throws a 2-hitter with 11 K’s in his next outing, he will have, in 3 outings, perfectly exemplified both why the Royals wanted to acquire him and why he was available in the first place. That is who he is. Was anyone really surprised when, on Sunday, the imposter who had been running around in the Mendoza jersey revealed his true identity to be none other than Luis Mendoza himself? He of the 7.21 career ERA?
A message to Royals fans: let’s take a deep breath, back away from the ledge, and focus on the things that went well over the weekend, of which there were several:
1. The Royals did not quit in any of the 3 games. Some might consider putting Maier in as a relief pitcher on Sunday as a sign of quitting, but when the bullpen has been exhausted the way it was all weekend, and with no day off on Monday, that was about survival and living to fight another day. The Royals gave up 7 runs in the first game, and lost 8-3 with the final Indians’ run being scored on a Home Run in the 9th inning. Watching the game, you had the feeling they might have a big inning in them that could get them back in the game. They threatened several times, but couldn’t make it happen. Imagine what the final score would have been had the 2005 Royals gotten down 7-0 in the top of the first…ok, never mind. The next night, the Royals fought back from a 9-2 deficit to tie the game at 9-9, before losing 11-9 in extra innings. That speaks for itself. And on Sunday, even with the game getting out of hand, the Royals still managed to put up 7 runs.
2. Mike Moustakas appears to have grown up quickly. Despite ending the weekend with his batting average sitting at just .257, Moustakas is hitting the ball extremely hard, playing amazing defense, and does not seem to resemble the awestruck rookie he appeared to be much of last season.
3. Billy Butler is still Billy Butler. With 8 RBI’s in the first 9 games of the season, Butler is on a torrid run-producing pace. He appears poised for a true breakout season. It is hard to believe he is still only 25 years old (for 2 more days-Happy early birthday, Country Breakfast!). Butler is certainly the most underrated hitter on this team.
4. The Royals have something in Everett Teaford. What his role might be in the future will be determined, but the performance he put up in 4 innings of relief on Friday (1 Hit, 2 Walks, 3 SO, 0 Runs) was impressive.
5. Kelvin Herrera is flat out nasty. Though the radar gun at Kauffman is less than trustworthy, it had him clocked as high as 102 over the weekend. He gave up the home run on Friday night to the first batter he faced, but after that, he was un-hittable.
So settle down, Royals fans. This may not be the last weekend we see like this. There will be more bumps in the road. And though it may be time to hit the reset button on your expectations, just enjoy watching what is still the most exciting collection of young talent in all of baseball.