Tag Archive | "Series Victory"

Turning Point

Maybe it only makes sense that the Kansas City Royals would have to overcome a 12-game losing streak before making their first playoff push in 27 years. After all, this is a franchise that overcame 3-1 series deficits not just once, but twice in 1985. In fact, they are still the only team to ever do that in both the LCS and the World Series.  Before that, the Royals lost to the New York Yankees in the ALCS 3 straight seasons (’76-’78) before finally breaking through in 1980 and making their first World Series appearance. What does that tell us about 2012, probably nothing…other than this team has never done things the easy way.

The 12-game losing streak to seemingly end the Royals’ season in April was disheartening for many reasons. Obviously, the “Our Time” campaign didn’t help, nor did Ned Yost’s apparent confusion over which league he manages in. The fact that most of the games were close at the end made no one feel any better, especially after a sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers left the Royals 6 games back just 12 games into the season. What made things worse for some though was the team’s denial that they were that far away. Despite the in-game evidence that Ned Yost was clearly panicking, he and the players said all the right things to the media and gave the impression that their confidence in this team’s ability had not been shaken.

Wednesday, April 25 was the day the streak died and the Royals looked like everyone had hoped they would from the start. Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Eric Hosmer all homered. Luke Hochevar threw 6 1/3 innings and gave up just 2 runs. The bullpen was lights out, shutting down the Indians on one hit to seal an easy 8-2 victory.

Thursday, April 26 the bullpen was even better, giving the club 4 shutout innings preserving a 4-2 win and a series victory over the Indians. While fans joked that the club was only 5 games out of first (and third), the mood was still somber when it was announced that long reliever Everett Teaford would start in place of Danny Duffy who had elbow soreness. This came less than 24 hours after it was announced that Lorenzo Cain had a setback on his rehab assignment. Two measly wins could hardly offset the cloud of injuries that was beginning to settle over this ball club.

Friday, April 27 may be the day we look back at as the true turning point in this 2012 season. Teaford was ineffective at best, but after 4 innings the offense had kept the team in the game at 4-4. Alex Gordon had blasted a bomb to right field, and brought back a home run himself. Billy Butler was responsible for the other 3 runs, including another 2-run shot. Over the next 5 innings the Royals combined clutch hitting, incredible defense, and a little good fortune to piece together a 7-6 victory, and the beginning of a winning streak. Alcides Escobar was wizardly…Jeff Francoeur made an incredible diving catch and then doubled in his next at bat…Everything the Royals needed they got. The Tigers and White Sox even lost again to pull the club within 4 games of second place. That’s right, the team that started Friday playing to get out of the cellar could be playing next week for second.

A rainout on Saturday could halt the club’s momentum, but as Earl Weaver once said “Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher” and staff ace Bruce Chen will be on the hill on Sunday. A win would put the club at 7-14 and guarantee a winning road record in the month of April. A difficult schedule in May leads to one of the easiest June schedules I have ever seen.

The point? Even after a 12 a game losing streak…even after injuries to their starting catcher, centerfielder, 4th starter, closer, set up man, (and 5th starter?) this team is not out of it. They’re fighting, it’s starting to turn around, and before this year is over it may be “Our Time” after all. We may be down 3-1 in a seven game series, but we’ve been here before.

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Minor League Playoffs

Over the weekend, the Royals AAA affiliate moved forward to their league’s championship series while the AA affiliate’s season came to a close. Below are the respective press releases from both clubs:

Kila

Ka’aihue Powers Chasers into PCL Championship Series
Dramatic walk-off home run in 10th gives Omaha American Conference Title

Mike Feigen / Omaha Storm Chasers

OMAHA, Neb. — Kila Ka’aihue has been a man of few words this season, so it was no surprise that with the Chasers on the brink of a playoff series victory, he let his bat do the talking. Ka’aihue’s 316-foot drive down the right-field line had just enough juice to hit the foul pole, giving the Storm Chasers a dramatic 4-2 series-winning victory over the Round Rock Express in 10 innings Saturday afternoon at Werner Park. Video clip of Ka’aihue HR

Long before the Chasers celebrated their win, the hero of the day was Omaha right-hander Sean O’Sullivan. Tasked with holding back the potent Express offense, O’Sullivan carried a perfect game into the seventh inning and a no-hitter into the eighth, with the Chasers clinging to a 2-0 lead.

However, with just six outs to go, disaster struck. Joey Butler hit a grounder directly at second baseman Kurt Mertins, who was unable to field it and was charged with an error. No-hitter still intact, O’Sullivan then served up a mammoth two-run home run to Luis Cruz, knotting the game at 2-2 and giving Round Rock its first hit of the day.

O’Sullivan bounced back to close out the inning, but the damage had been done. Not only had the dream of a no-hitter been dashed, but the Chasers were in jeopardy of losing the game altogether. O’Sullivan finished his day with eight innings pitched, giving up two runs (one earned) on two hits, with one walk and seven strikeouts.

After each team got two runners on in the ninth but couldn’t score, Kevin Pucetas (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 top of the 10th to set up the game-winning sequence.

With one out, Clint Robinson drew a five-pitch walk, bringing Ka’aihue to the plate. He worked the count to 1-1 before connecting off Round Rock’s Tanner Scheppers (0-1) to end the game, setting off a celebration at home plate and an even more wild party in the clubhouse moments later.

The walk-off home run was Ka’aihue’s second of the season at Werner Park, also delivering on June 28 against Memphis. Over his last two games, the left-handed swinging first baseman has gone 3-for-6 with two homers and six runs batted in, picking up a two-run homer and two-run double in Friday night’s extra-inning loss.

With the 3-1 series victory, the Chasers advance to their first-ever PCL Championship Series in their 14th season in the league. They also earned their first postseason series victory since 1990, when they won the Triple-A Championship as a member of the American Association.

The Chasers will begin the PCL Championship Series at home, as they host either the Reno Aces or Sacramento River Cats. Games 1 and 2 will be played Tuesday, September 13 and Wednesday, September 14 at Werner Park, with both games scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

Travs win, bounce Naturals from playoffs
Jimenez’ two homers, four RBI end up the difference

SPRINGDALE, AR – The Naturals, like so many times late this season, fell behind early and mounted a spirited comeback. But unfortunately the magic ran out as they fell 9-5 to their in-state rival Arkansas Travelers, as the Travs advance to the Texas League Championship Series.

A first inning error gave the Travelers an extra out to work with and they capitalized as Luis Jimenez gave the Travs the early lead with a three-run homer off Jeremy Jeffress with two out in the frame.

That put the Travs up 3-0 and gave their starter Eddie McKiernan some backing. McKiernan, who had a dubious start to the season for North Little Rock had limited the Naturals to just four runs in his past three starts against Northwest Arkansas. In the past two his team had staked him to a lead before he toed the rubber, and Saturday was no different.

North Little Rock got three more in the fourth before the Naturals began to claw their way back. But in the top of the fourth, Jeffress allowed a leadoff single to Alberto Rosario who would come around to score on an RBI single from Matt Long. An RBI groundout later and the Travs owned a 5-0 lead. Gabe Jacobo also added a two-out RBI single to score another run which chased Jeffress, who was on a limited pitch count and was relieved by Kendal Volz.

The Naturals finally began to get to McKiernan in the bottom of that same frame as Tim Smith led off the inning with a solo homer to right to cut the lead to 6-1. Jamie Romak and Paulo Orlando followed with back-to-back singles and Wil Myers was plunked. Jeff Bianchi followed and one of the pitches to him went wild to score Romak for a 2-0 lead. Bianchi grounded out to score Orlando and cut the Travs’ lead to 6-3, but McKiernan was able to get Mario Lisson to strike out and Ryan Eigsti to fly out to prevent further damage as the Naturals failed to claw closer in the frame.

One thing that ultimately kept the Naturals from closing the gap was struggles with runners in scoring position as the team was 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position Saturday as opposed to 5-for-16 for North Little Rock.

One of the other things was Luis Jimenez. The Travelers’ third baseman drove in his fourth run of the game to leadoff the fifth as he took Volz deep to extend the lead to 7-3.

Christian Colon’s one out single in the fifth ultimately chased McKiernan and prevented him from collecting the win. Instead that went to the tallest pitcher in the minors, Loek Van Mil, who relieved to pitch to Tim Smith, who had taken McKiernan deep earlier in the game. Smith lined out sharply as Travs’ shortstop Darwin Perez speared the ball and took away a hit from Smith and, with Colon at second after a wild pitch, likely a run from the Naturals.

One inning later the Naturals did get a pair and close to within 7-5, the closest they’d get in the ballgame. Jeff Bianchi had an RBI double and Eigsti plated a run on a groundout.

But in the top of the eighth, North Little Rock put two more runs on the board and that seemed to take the wind out of the Naturals’ sails. Facing Ryan Dennick, a lefty reliever making his Double-A debut after spending all season with Advanced Class-A Wilmington, Dennick allowed a one-out single to Darwin Perez and a two-out RBI double to Roberto Lopez. Dennick walked pinch hitter Chris Pettit and then Gable Jacobo doubled to the left-field wall to score Lopez.

An eighth inning single by Paulo Orlando was the lone hit the Naturals recorded the rest of the way as their season ended at the hands of the Travelers, who earn their second trip to the Texas League Championship Series in the past four seasons. They beat the Frisco RoughRiders to win the league title in 2008, a playoff run that began with a three-game sweep of the Naturals.

The series will be remembered somewhat for the absence of Naturals’ Pitcher of the Year Will Smith, who led the league in both wins and innings pitched. Smith was shut down at the behest of the Royals and the Naturals had to work without one of their most reliable arms down the stretch. As it was, should the Naturals had forced a game five, they’d have turned the ball over to southpaw Justin Marks, another pitcher who would have been making his Double-A debut.

The 2012 season opener will be on the road as the Naturals open the season with a six-game road trip beginning Thursday, April 5th. The home opener at Arvest Ballpark for the fifth season of Naturals Baseball will be on Thursday, April 12th as the Naturals host the Corpus Christi Hooks. The Naturals would like to thank all their fans and corporate partners for their continued support this season!

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Series Preview: Philadelphia vs. Cards

This Cardinal club went into the All Star break a second place ball club. While many things were going right for the team going into the break, many questions were raised about their efforts until that point in the season. Just before they took that three day sabbatical from playing games as a team, they were able to salvage a win against a team in Houston that is on the verge of complete rebuild. That victory, though not an easy one, gave the Cardinals yet another series victory against a team that you would expect to win two-of-three games from.

That was before the break. The Cardinals came roaring out of the gate after the All Star Game and the Dodgers fell hapless victims to a team on a roll. Chris Carpenter pitched like the ace fans have come to expect, Adam Wainwright continued his sheer dominance at home, Jaime Garcia was not as dominant but efficient nonetheless and Jeff Suppan put together his best game of the year. The offense started to click, the team showed it could come from behind, and along the way they completed a four game sweep of a team that dominated them in last year’s playoffs. It seems the Cardinals have turned a corner.

If that corner has indeed been turned, they will be tested this week in a four game series with the Philadelphia Phillies. A team that is expected to be a major player in October again this year, the Phillies are a team much like the Dodgers that will test the level of dedication of the Cardinal ball club in a time period that begins to set aside the contenders from the also-rans.

Game 1 – Monday, July 19 – 6:05 P.M. CST
Kyle Kendrick (5-3, 4.44 ERA) vs. Blake Hawksworth (3-5, 4.73 ERA)
It seems to me that these are the games that are waiting to blow up in the Cardinals’ faces. While Blake Hawksworth is a serviceable arm that can be run out there to the mound every five days to buy some time until the injury bug has subsided. That being said, the longer the injury bug is getting drawn out, the more apparent it is becoming that the team is trotting a relief pitcher to the mound once every five days. Something will have to be done.

Kyle Kendrick has owned the Cardinals in his young career. With a 4-0 record and a minuscule 1.67 ERA over 27 innings, he certainly has held the Cardinals to very little production against him. Looking at current Cardinal hitters facing him produces a small sample size, but at the same time reveals that he may be a pitcher that Skip Schumaker is happy to see. Skippy is hitting .556 in 9 at bats against Kendrick with a solo home run to brag about. If Skip is happy to see Kendrick, Felipe Lopez is not. Flip is only hitting .182 against the Phillie right-hander with a single run batted in.

The Cardinals’ Blake Hawksworth has only pitched 4.2 innings against the Phillies, though they were not with the best results. Blake has a loss and a 7.71 ERA to show for his work against the Eastern Division juggernaut. The one thing Blake may have going for him is that the Phillies simply have not seen him, with a collected total of eight at bats against the Cardinal starter.

Game 2 – Tuesday, July 20 – 7:15 P.M. CST
To be determined(0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Chris Carpenter (10-3, 3.16 ERA)
Chris Carpenter has been this team’s ace for quite a few years now. Seeing him take a line drive off of his pitching side forearm caused the entire fan base to gasp. Watching his next two outings, complete with what appeared to be a “flat” curveball, had speculation of an injury running rampant. When Chris took the mound against the Dodgers this past week, he put rumors and speculation to rest and the Cardinals found their staff ace once again.

Carp has not pitched at his peak when facing this ballclub, posting a 3-2 record and a 6.59 ERA over his career against them. He will face challenges against the duo of Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, as they both hold a .333 lifetime average against the Cardinal ace.

Game 3 – Wednesday, July 21 – 7:15 P.M. CST
To be determined(0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Jaime Garcia (8-4, 2.27 ERA)
Jaime Garcia has shown what just about every rookie shows around this time of the season, it is quite the long season, indeed. Jaime has pitched well, but not as well as his early success suggested. No no expected the youngster to continue on his torrid pace, though many fans made those wishes that he would and placed them under their pillows late at night. Jaime has still produced a season much better than expected when he won the job out of Spring Training and continues to dazzle teams and fight through tough starts, showing signs of a future ace in the making himself. Jaime struggled his last time out and did not make it through four innings and will look to regain some footing here against a team, much like any other, that he has limited experience against.

Game 4 – Thursday, July 22 – 1:15 P.M. CST
At press time, neither team has publicly announced a starter
At this time, no pitching matchup for either team has been officially announced, though the Cardinals will expect to hand the ball to Adam Wainwright in this game.

There are many unnamed pitching assignments for this series at this time….check back with i70baseball.com as we update this article late Monday afternoon with more complete information from the ball clubs.

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