Just when you think this whole road trip concept is easy enough, a team like Baltimore jumps up and knocks you down.
Jeez, the last two games have been difficult.
Walkoffs are always sudden and painful and Monday was no exception. Tuesday was more of a slow burn. Five hits (with two of those doubles coming in the ninth inning when the game was well out of hand) meant the Royals were out of sorts offensively and couldn’t counter the Orioles attack mounted in the first inning. That’s just another way of saying the latest loss was over fairly early.
So two days after acquiring Melky Cabrera to solidify the offense, the bats have gone into a slumber, generating just 10 hits and three runs over the opening pair of games in Baltimore. It’s not like it’s Cabrera’s fault the offense halted production. These things happen.
Speaking of which, here is a story idea: Try to pinpoint the exact moment when Eric Hosmer goes into one of his worm burning slumps. No one on this Royals team runs hot or cold quite like their first baseman. The idea is something like being a weatherman… Create an early warning slump system so the Royals can take shelter. Anyway, here are Hosmer’s last five plate appearances:
Double play ground out to second.
Ground ball single to the pitcher.
Ground out to second.
Ground out to second.
Ground out to shortstop.
Obviously, this is a sample size that spans one game, plus one plate appearance (the double play coming in the ninth inning on Monday) so it’s not like it’s time to sound the alarm. Still, the double play on was so familiar and felt so much like April, that’s what got the idea percolating. Hosmer has been scorching since the end of the opening month of the season, hitting .353/.408/.558 in the 85 games since his dreadful start. And to be absolutely clear, I’m not saying this is the beginning of anything for Hosmer. In the 57 games he’s played since May 28, he’s gone hitless in just 11 of them and hasn’t had a streak of more than three games without a hit. He’s still technically “hot.”
The idea truly stems more from a worry that if Hosmer goes into one of his offensive funks at any point during the regular season’s final two months, that would be some awful timing. The Royals are back in the hunt because his bat has anchored the middle of the order. The Royals need him and the production he can bring.
Speaking of production, that is what the Royals are going to need from Ian Kennedy. The beauty of a rotation chock full of third starter types is that night in and night out you have the opportunity for a solid start that will keep the team in the game. The downside is it can also go the other way. Tuesday’s outing for Kennedy was the second time in three starts he couldn’t get past the fifth inning. It was also his third worst start of the year as measured by Game Score, coming in at 31.
Since fully recovering from his hamstring ailment that saw a brutal stretch of starts from him in May and into the early part of June, Kennedy has been a serviceable starter for the Royals. Counting Tuesday’s start, the Royals have won eight of his last 10 outings. That will work.
Dropping a series in Baltimore is difficult medicine. Especially after the Royals handled a team that has nothing to play for in Detroit and a playoff contender in Boston. They wrap the road trip with Wednesday with Jason Vargas on the mound. Vargas, like Kennedy, fits into that middle of the rotation starter mold. He seemed to have found his footing after a couple of rough outings sandwiched around the All-Star Break. The Royals have been handed a gift from Boston, beating the Indians on back to back nights, so the great news is despite the struggles in Baltimore, the Royals haven’t lost any ground. That’s where we are at this point in the season. Kansas City needs to keep pace. Wins are certainly the desirable outcome, but as long as they don’t fall too far behind Cleveland, everything is in play.
And who would bet against this team if they’re in the mix in late September?