The number of adjectives available to describe the Kansas City Royals’ starting pitching the last two games is staggering, but not as shocking as how brutal it was. Edinson Volquez, 12 runs in just over one inning, followed by Chris Young giving up 7 in under three innings. Where is Mark Redman when you need him?
All told, Houston has outscored the Royals 26-9 in the first two games of this series, despite garnering just four more total hits. Tell me the first paragraph and the preceding sentence do not make you flash back to 2006 for just a moment. Heck, if I was ambitious enough, I bet I could find a blog entry I wrote with a very similar intro from that era.
Of course, this Royals team is far, far better than the 100 loss dumpster fires of ten years ago, but we may be running up against the idea that this year’s Royals might not be all that good, either. At three games over and five games back, this team could be ebbing and flowing its way right out of the race.
That statement could be an overreaction. To salvage the third game of the series, the Royals will have to overcome an Astros team that has won ten straight Doug Fister starts. They will need something resembling an actual major league start out of Ian Kennedy, but can take comfort that their big four in the bullpen were mercifully spared from having to eat up garbage innings in two blowout losses.
If the Royals, in a well publicized 17 games in 17 day stretch, can turn things around, we might well point to Dillon Gee and Brian Flynn covering 8 innings in the Volquez start. Their performances kept the Kansas City bullpen from being shambalized (yes, I made that up). Good teams do little things like that, so maybe the Royals won’t ebb and flow into baseball irrelevance this season.
We saw the return of Alex Gordon, who homered and doubled in his last two at-bats last night. As well as Brett Eibner and others played in his absence, you are just trying to get attention if you say the Royals did not get better by having Gordon back in the lineup. Oh, and back in the lineup hitting second.
That ol’ Ned Yost, he might be stubborn and he might like to manage by feel more than we wish, but I’ll be damned if he did not roll out a lineup that makes sense once he had all the tools at his disposal. Any impact the new look might have was hidden by being buried early once again, but it seems like a good starting point. Say what you want about Gordon, but I dare you to say you want Alcides Escobar to have 50 more plate appearances the rest of the way than Alex. Batting order doesn’t matter? I beg to differ.
Speaking of batting order, the Royals’ number nine hitter is quietly percolating along with a .281/.317/.431 slash line. We have all been stunned by Paulo Orlando’s hot streak (year?!), Brett Eibner’s emergence and, of course, Whit Merrifield’s ascension to everyday second baseman and lead-off hitter, but Cheslor Cuthbert has quietly filled the hole at third nicely. He is not Moustakas, but he ain’t bad.
After today, the Royals play four against the Cardinals, three against the Phillies, three against Toronto and then four at home versus Seattle in advance of the All-Star Break. Only Philly is under .500 and eight of the upcoming games are on the road. After the break, it is three with Detroit, three with Cleveland and then seven of the next ten against a very good Texas Rangers team.
I’m not sure which is the good one, ebb or flow, but Kansas City would be wise to figure out which is which and do the good one. They would be wise to do so sooner rather than later and, while we are dictating terms, having a starting pitcher not implode before your beer vendor makes it around for the second time would be super swell as well.