Tag Archive | "American League West"

Home finale was biggest moment in Royals history since 1985

Editor’s Note: Matt Kelsey is one of the original writers for i70baseball.  He has since moved on to other projects but submitted the following.

When I was much younger, my father took me and my brother to a the last game of the season for the Kansas City Royals.

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We went to a lot of games when I was a kid – one summer, it seemed like we were out at the ballpark every other night – but this game sticks in my mind. It was the the late 80’s or early 90s. Back then the Royals were pretty good, posting a winning record most years, but the MLB structure of the time lumped the Royals into the huge American League West division, which featured seven teams and only one playoff spot each season. They were never good enough to break through and make the playoffs.

That year, the Royals were well out of the race, and the final month of the season was meaningless in the grand scheme of things. The last game of the season was especially pointless.

But we had an absolute blast that day. The stadium was on the verge of being empty. The orange seats of the Royals Stadium (yes, this was in the pre-Kauffman Stadium days) upper deck were a vast sea nothingness, and they belonged to us. The players were having fun down  there on the field, looking forward to their pending winter vacation, and it rubbed off on the handful of us in the crowd. After the game, we waited outside the stadium and collected autographs. All the players were signing that day. All of them were happy. One of the players (Danny Tartabull, maybe?) left the stadium in a huge fur coat, a woman on each arm, and climbed into the back of the biggest limousine I’ve ever seen.

As for the game itself? I remember nothing. I just remember the atmosphere that day.

Flash forward twenty or so years to Sunday afternoon. The 2013 version of the Royals were playing their last home game of the season. That game was much different. The Royals were in the midst of a Wild Card race, the first time they had been playoff contenders for a decade. After battling the Texas Rangers into extra innings, Justin Maxwell blasted a walk-off grand slam for the win.

And it was arguably the most important moment in Royals history since Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.

Yes, the Royals were sadly eliminated from contention a few nights later. But when this season started, could you have imagined the Royals competing for a wild card spot?

This team was written off multiple times during the season – even before the season began.

  • When the team traded top prospect Wil Myers to Tampa for James Shields, they were written off as an organization with its head placed firmly up its butt.
  • When the Royals lost on Opening Day, they were written off as a team that couldn’t even win with Shields, a legitimate ace, on the mound.
  • When the team went 8-20 in the month of May, they were written off as the same old Royals, with no hopes for postseason play.
  • When the Royals lost 10 out of 12 after a stretch where they went 17-3 spanning late July and early August, they were written off as a team that couldn’t stay on a roll.
  • And in the heat of the playoff race, every time the Royals lost a game, they were written off.

But the truth is, the Royals were contenders through the first 158 games of the 2013 season. And this season was no fluke; the 2014 Royals should be just as strong, if not stronger. They won’t be written off so quickly in the future.

Which makes last Sunday’s home finale that much more important.

It wasn’t just an amazing, walk-off, extra-innings win in front of a sellout crowd. Sunday’s game was a message to the rest of Major League Baseball: The Royals are not a joke anymore. The Royals are for real. They may be eliminated in 2013, but any opponents who write off the Royals in the future will regret it.

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St. Louis Cardinals better without designated hitter

The St. Louis Cardinals lost one a spot for one of their many sluggers Friday when they mercifully returned to Busch Stadium to face the Miami Marlins.  The loss of the designated hitter in their return to National League play might actually help the team.

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The Cardinals 6-5 Independence Day loss on Thursday to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim finished the worst two-week stretch of the Cardinals’ 2013 season.

They went 2-8 against nearly the entire American League West Division. The Texas Rangers swept the Cardinals at home, the Houston Astros split a two-game series in Houston, and the Cardinals lost two of three on the road to the Oakland A’s and the Angels.

The Cardinals had the designated hitter available for all of those games except the three against Texas since the rest were played in American League ballparks, but the Cardinals were actually worse with the extra hitter. They lost a key bat off the bench, and the DH created an unbalanced lineup that disrupted what had been the National League’s best team.

The Cardinals scored four or fewer runs in six of the recent 10 games against the American League teams, but the larger factor was how much the designated hitter disrupted the team’s lineup, and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny still couldn’t get all of his hitters regular at-bats.

For much of the season, the pitcher’s spot appeared to be a roadblock that simply didn’t allow first baseman Matt Adams to play every day. At 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 260 pounds, Adams has the look of a designated hitter. He could walk up to the plate four times a day, hit a homerun, get a base hit and his team would get a win more often than not.

But that wasn’t how interleague play worked out this season. Adams went 7-for-30, including six starts, in those 10 games, but rightfielder Carlos Beltran, first baseman Allen Craig, third baseman David Freese or leftfielder Matt Holliday were often placed in the DH role while Adams played first.

Holliday had a pinched nerve in his neck during the series against the Angels, and Matheny surely wanted to give the other hitters half a day off while he could, but the disjointed lineup showed on the field as the Cardinals made seven errors in those 10 games, or nearly one-third of the 36 errors they have committed this season.

Plus, Matheny shuffled the batting order to try to fit in the extra bat. All of a sudden catcher Yadier Molina was a regular sight in the No. 2 spot and Holliday dropped to the No. 5 spot.

Second baseman Matt Carpenter was about the only hitter not moved from his regular spot atop the lineup, and he mashed during the 10-game stretch, hitting .340 with eight hits for extra bases and 10 runs batted in.

The Cardinals lineup returned to normal Friday outside of a day off for Beltran to rest. Centerfielder Jon Jay filled the No. 2 spot, and the team broke out for four runs in the first three innings to establish their lead for a 4-1 win.

The lineup felt comfortable again, and it will be even more so with Beltran as a regular presence near the top of the order. Yes, Matheny will still have to be creative to get Adams enough at-bats, but the Cardinals played 20 games above .500 with that problem. They were six games under .500 when American League rules allowed the team an extra hitter.

The Cardinals have enough good hitters to produce an American League lineup, but as a whole they are still a National League team. Perhaps they can get back to their dominating ways now that they’re back in their own league.

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Royals Claim Kottaras Off Waivers

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KANSAS CITY, MO (January 25, 2013) – The Kansas City Royals today have claimed catcher George Kottaras on Outright Waivers from the Oakland Athletics.  To create room on the 40-man roster, the club designated infielder Tony Abreu for assignment.

The 29-year-old Kottaras (kuh-tar-us) has played for the Red Sox (2008-09), Brewers (2010-12) and Athletics (2012), batting .220 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI in 249 Major League contests.  The left-handed hitter posted a .351 on-base percentage while drawing a career-high 37 walks in 85 games for Milwaukee and Oakland in 2012 while helping the A’s win the American League West after being acquired on July 29.  He blasted six home runs for Oakland in just 27 games and then appeared in four games during the A’s Divisional Series vs. Detroit.  Born in Scarbourough, Ontario, Canada, Kottaras now resides in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Abreu, 28, hit .257 in 22 games for the Royals in 2012 after spending a majority of the campaign at Triple-A Omaha.

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Cardinals Announce 2013 Schedule

CARDINALS ANNOUNCE 2013 SCHEDULE
Team opens home action against division rival Cincinnati Reds, Monday, April 8

ST. LOUIS – September 12, 2012 – The St. Louis Cardinals announced their 2013 regular season schedule today in conjunction with Major League Baseball’s league-wide release.

The Cardinals start the 2013 season on the road in Phoenix on Monday, April 1 against Arizona. After three games with the Diamondbacks, and a three-game series with the San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals return to Busch Stadium on Monday, April 8 for the home opener against the division rival Cincinnati Reds. The first home series includes three games against the Reds and three games against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Throughout the season, the Cardinals face the Reds and National League Central Division opponent Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates a total of 19 times each. The Cardinals will also play two interleague series with the Houston Astros, who will move to the American League West in 2013. The Cardinals play the Astros in Houston (June 25-26) and in St. Louis (July 9-10).  The Cardinals will also play every team in the American League West as part of the club’s extensive interleague schedule.

While interleague games will be played throughout the entire regular season, the Cardinals open an 11-game stretch of interleague play on Friday, June 21 as they host the Texas Rangers at Busch. The Rangers’ visit marks their first trip to St. Louis during the regular season and first visit since Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. The interleague stretch continues on the road with the series in Houston and Oakland (June 28-30), as well as the club’s first visit to southern California to face the Los Angeles Angels (July 2-4). The club’s record number (20) of interleague games includes games with the Kansas City Royals (May 27-28 in KC and May 29-30 at home) and the Seattle Mariners (September 13-15 at home).

Other schedule highlights include two weekend series against the Cubs at Busch (August 9-11 and September 27-29 to conclude the season), as well as a four game weekday series, June 17-20. The Cardinals will host 43 games at Busch Stadium before the All-Star break and 38 after the break. The team has 11 home dates in April, 14 in May, 13 in June, 11 in July, 17 in August and 15 games during September. The Cardinals will make future announcements regarding game times, ticket pricing and availability for the 2013 season. The full 2013 schedule is located here in PDF Format.

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Royals Announce 2013 Schedule

ROYALS ANNOUNCE 2013 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE
Home opener scheduled for April 8 vs. Minnesota

KANSAS CITY, MO (September 12, 2012) — In conjunction with Major League Baseball, the Kansas City Royals today announced their 2013 regular season schedule.  Opening Day is scheduled for Monday, April 1 when the Royals visit the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.  It marks the seventh time in franchise history that the Royals have opened against the White Sox (1972, 1976, 1987, 2003, 2004 and 2009), the third time in Chicago (’76 and ’09).  Kansas City will begin the home schedule on April 8 vs. Minnesota.  All game times will be announced at a later date.

2013 will mark the first season that each league will consist of 15 teams with the Houston Astros joining the American League West.  The Royals and every other Major League club will play 19 games against each divisional opponent, consisting of 76 division games total.

Kansas City will play 20 Interleague contests played over eight series, four home and four on the road.  The Royals will compete against their “prime rival”, the St. Louis Cardinals, in back-to-back two-game series spanning both cities from May 27-30, with the Cardinals visiting Kansas City on May 27-28 and the Royals returning the strip on May 29-30. The club also will host Interleague matchups against Atlanta (June 25-26), Miami (August 12-14) and Washington (August 23-25).  The visit to Kansas City will be the first in franchise history for the Braves.  The Nationals franchise played in Kansas City in 2004 as the Montreal Expos.  The road Interleague schedule also consists of visits to Philadelphia (April 5-7), Atlanta (April 16-17) and the club’s first-ever trip to Citi Field, home of the New York Mets (August 2-4).

Kansas City’s holiday schedule sees the Royals at home on Mother’s Day vs. the Yankees (May 12), Memorial Day vs. St. Louis (May 27), July 4th vs. Cleveland and on Labor Day vs. Seattle (September 2); and on the road at the Rays on Father’s Day (June 16).

The month-by-month home game totals are: April – 11; May – 14; June – 14; July – 13; August – 16; September – 13.  The Royals will host a pair of 10-game homestands, first from April 26 to May 5 and again from August 5-14.  The club’s longest road trips are a pair of nine-game journeys from May 13-22 and July 26-August 4.

The complete 2013 schedule is located here in PDF format..   The game dates are subject to change.

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NL Central Shakeup

2013 is Bud Norris’ first year of being eligible for arbitration. I sincerely hope you’re grinning to yourself right now, after that sentence. C’mon, though, don’t act like that thought hadn’t crossed your mind too, after yesterday’s announcement. In 2013 the Houston Astros will defect from the National League Central division, and join the American League West. This could be particularly good new for the Cardinals and their fans when it comes to Bud (“Chuck”) Norris.

“Go West, young man. No, seriously, get out of our division.”

Nevermind that his team lost more than 100 games in 2011, and in the last five years has had exactly one third place finish, their highest-ranking finish over that period, when Bud Norris faces the Cardinals, it’s usually a gloomy day in St. Louis. He’s 6-2 with a 2.37 ERA in10 career starts against St. Louis, and it’s somewhat hard to believe the Cards scratched out those two wins against him. Sometimes one guy or team just has another guy or team’s number. As dominant as future Hall of Famer, Randy Johnson was, the Cardinals usually fared pretty well against him.

Mike Metzger wrote a nice piece yesterday about some of the other factors of this move across leagues and divisions for the Astros, and as Jayson Stark wrote, it impacts all of us. The days of the rivalry between these 2001 co-champions* are numbered, and things had already cooled off considerably, and given way to new rivalries.

The Brewers and Reds have moved up that list now, thanks in part to the mouths of Brandon Philips and Nyjer Morgan (whose fingers have no rings, mind you). Those two have created some sparks between the teams…the two, who throughout all of history have appeared in a combined 13 postseason games. Their respective .333 (4-for-12 lifetime) and .179 postseason batting averages are good for exactly zero World Series appearances, let alone championships. Heck, Philips hasn’t even been on a team that’s won a postseason game, including being on the wrong end of the 2nd no-hitter in postseason history.

So, all is not lost with this rearranging of the NL Central, and the shakeup of the Astros. The Cards will have plenty of rivalry opportunities, I’m sure, even without Houston in the mix. Who knows, though, the two teams may end up playing against each other a few times a year anyway–we’ll just have to wait and see what the schedule looks like, as we don’t yet know.

We also don’t know which is the official, un-official hashtag for those Norris/Cardinals matchups: #BudChuck or #ChuckBud. After all, when it’s his day to start, he doesn’t take the mound, the mound gets Bud Norris-ed. One thing’s for sure though, after 2012 the Astros won’t have to worry about finishing the division in 6th place anymore.

*”Co-champions” is dumb.

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25th ANNIVERSARY: The Royals’ Road To The I-70 Series

Remember that great Bobby Cox-managed team, a perennial playoff contender built on a strong pitching staff and a sneaky-good offense?

That description could be used for many of Cox’s Atlanta Braves teams, but of course we’re talking about the 1985 Toronto Blue Jays, a team that won 99 games and the American League East title.

They were also the team standing between the Kansas City Royals and the World Series.

We’ll come back to Blue Jays, but let’s first examine the 1985 Royals, a team that made an unlikely run through the American League West and eventually went on to win it all.

In the late 1970s and ‘80s, the Royals were one of the best teams in baseball. Under manager Whitey Herzog, the team reached the playoffs each year from 1976 through 1978, but they were defeated in the American League Championship Series each of those years by the New York Yankees, creating one of the most unique baseball rivalries of all time. Under new manager Jim Frey, the Royals got their revenge on the Bronx Bombers in 1980, defeating the Yankees in a three-game sweep and reaching their first-ever World Series. However, the dream season came to an end when they lost the series in six games to the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Royals continued to play great baseball, however, and made it to the post-season in 1981 and 1984 under manager Dick Howser, formerly a coach on those rival Yankee teams. Howser made the post-season in 1984 during what was labeled a “rebuilding year,” building around experienced veterans like George Brett and Frank White while also developing new talent like rookie pitchers Bret Saberhagen and Mark Gubicza. They lost once again in the 1984 ALCS, this time to the Detroit Tigers.

But things were different in 1985. Saberhagen quickly developed into an ace-caliber pitcher, winning 20 games and the American League Cy Young Award that year. Other big contributors were Brett, who led the team in batting average (.335), hits (184) and RBIs (112), lightning-quick Willie Wilson and his 43 stolen bases, and power-hitting first baseman Steve Balboni, whose 36 home runs in 1985 is still, amazingly, the most ever hit by a Royals player in a season.

The Royals won the AL West by a slim one-game margin over the California Angels before facing the Blue Jays in the ALCS. The Royals, who had lost five of six AL Championship Series over the previous decade, were underdogs, and early on it seemed like they were haunted by the ghosts of Championship Series past. The Royals lost the first two games, and in Game 3 Saberhagen was injured early, being hit in the leg with a batted ball. Although the Royals went on to win Game 3, they lost Game 4 and were facing a 3-1 deficit with a big question mark next to the team’s best pitcher.

Mark Gubicza was the winning pitcher in Game 6 of the 1985 ALCS.

In Game 5, backed by a home crowd at Royals Stadium, KC pitcher Danny Jackson was strong enough to defeat Blue Jays ace Jimmy Key in a 2-0 decision. Game 6, back in Toronto, saw a matchup between second-year Royals pitcher Mark Gubicza and Doyle Alexander, the wily veteran journeyman pitching for the Blue Jays. Gubicza outpitched Alexander, and George Brett blasted his third home run of the ALCS, giving the Royals the victory and evening the series at 3-3.

Having staved off elimination twice, the Royals rolled out their young ace for Game 7, Bret Saberhagen, even though he was still tender from an injury in Game 3. But in the third inning, Saberhagen was again hit by a batted ball, and was lifted for Charlie Liebrandt.

The Royals played small-ball in game seven, nickel-and-diming six runs from the Blue Jays while only giving up one. Liebrandt, normally a starter, was phenomenal in long relief out of the bullpen.

Kansas City won the game, and the ALCS, and advanced to their second World Series.

Fans were hopeful the 1985 World Series would turn out better than the 1980 showdown with the Phillies. And the Royals were riding high off their ALCS victory, where they battled back from a 3-1 deficit.

As the St. Louis Cardinals would soon find out, the Royals were pretty good at overcoming 3-1 deficits.

Coming up this week, I-70 Baseball will recap the 25th Anniversary of the 1985 World Series, starting with the anniversary of Game 1 tomorrow. Also, check out the “1985 World Series” tab at the top of the page to look back at all of our anniversary coverage.

Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at mattkelsey@i70baseball.com.

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