Woof. On July 30th, the Royals completed their series victory over Boston with a 5-3 win highlighted by Alex Gordon hitting a game-winning RBI triple. The Royals improved to 55-48 and were two games out of the division lead. When we look back on the 2017 season, that might have been the peak. Since then, they’ve gone a less than robust 10-19 and have fallen to double digits out of the division lead as well too far out of the Wild Card race to dream about that even at this point. As we sit here today, the Royals don’t have much of a shot at the postseason. But the Royals are at their best when they don’t have much of a shot, so I guess the only thing we can do is hope they find one more crazy hot streak.
- If they don’t find a hot streak, I think there’s joy to find in the season’s final month, even in the midst of the disappointment this team has brought in their two horrific months this year. We have an opportunity over the next 30 games to watch this group of players play together for probably the last time. Sure the Royals want to bring everyone back, but I think we all know that’s about as farfetched as the Royals winning the division this year. So I’m going to take these final 30 games to enjoy watching Lorenzo Cain run down fly balls and to watch Eric Hosmer in the midst of his best season ever and to hopefully watch Mike Moustakas break Steve Balboni’s embarrassing home run record. There are worse consolation prizes than to get the chance to say goodbye to a team that ended one of the craziest stretches of futility in professional sports. We didn’t used to get the chance to say goodbye to the stars. They used to get traded off. And now, while the Royals likely won’t retain many if any of them, we at least know the potential expiration date. But don’t worry. I’m still going to get mad and shout at the television when they do something stupid. It’ll just be with the knowledge that it’s their last ride in Kansas City.
- That said, their chances aren’t completely out yet. They’re a full four games behind the surprising Minnesota Twins, but they play them seven times in the next 10 games. Around their two sets with Minnesota, they get the Tigers and White Sox, both teams the Royals should be able to get some wins against. If they can muster up a run and go 5-2 against the Twins and 5-1 against the White Sox and Tigers, they’re right back in this thing. That’s no easy task because the Twins have somehow become good since deciding to trade their closer and the guy they traded for a week earlier to boost their rotation down the stretch. Part of that is their young core playing really well and I think part of it is beating up on the teams we’re hoping the Royals beat up on surrounding the Twins series, as well as the Blue Jays. Either way, the season gets defined in the next 13 games. Take care of business and anything could happen. Get drubbed and it really is time to start saying your farewells. It’s no secret what the secret is either. They have to pitch better. I’m not that worried about the offense. They’re so up and down that I’m confident they’ll hit again soon (provided Salvy and Moose are actually healthy enough to be on the active roster). They need to pitch. If they don’t get it done on the mound, it won’t matter if they’re shut out the rest of the season.
- And that leads me to the guy who I think is the most important pitcher on the staff over the season’s final 30 days, Ian Kennedy. Okay, that’s not entirely fair. If Danny Duffy is back healthy and actually on a mound, Ian Kennedy is the most important. Kennedy has been as up and down as the Royals this year. To start the season, he posted a 2.30 ERA with just three homers allowed in his first 31.1 innings while allowing just 17 hits. Then, starting with the game he got hurt, he had a 9.24 ERA in six starts where he allowed 28 hits over 25.1 innings with eight homers allowed. And then it looked like he was getting healthy again, posting a 3.26 ERA over 47 innings with just 35 hits allowed. And, well, you know what he’s done since then. His August was one to forget. I’m not sure what’s wrong with him. I know they mentioned some fatigue in early August, but he said he felt strong on Monday night and he got rocked without getting out of the third inning. My money is on something not being right with him physically, but there’s no way to know that without talking with them. The point is that he needs to put together a final six starts that matches one of his solid stretches. If he does that, paired with Duffy, the consistency of Jason Hammel and the emerging Jake Junis, the Royals might have enough starting pitching to stay alive in the race. If not, I’ll go back to my first word of this edition of Friday Notes. Woof.
- And to finish things off, let’s be a little more positive. How about Eric Hosmer? He’s hitting .318/.382/.502 this season, which is obviously fantastic. Heading into play yesterday, he was third in the American League in batting average, fourth in on base percentage, and 20th in slugging percentage. A lot was made about Yonder Alonso and his new approach this year and how much extra power he’s shown, but Alonso has just two more home runs than Hosmer and one fewer extra base hit. Basically it’s been about as great of a walk year for Hosmer as he could have hoped for, especially given his start. You might remember, he was hitting .195/.253/.247 after play on April 25th. It was around then that Keith Law proclaimed he’d sign a two year, $20 million deal. That was ridiculous then and it’s especially ridiculous now. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again: In previous seasons, Hosmer has shown weeks of what he’s shown for most of this season, but it’s always been sandwiched between unbearably long cold stretches. Since April 26th, he’s collected hits in all but 26 games and he’s only gone more than two games without a hit once. That was in early August when it looked like good ol’ 4-3 was back, but he’s hit .379/.471/.621 since then with four home runs in 17 games. I have my doubts about Hosmer on a long-term deal because I don’t see much of a change in the approach that caused him those deep slumps, but for most of one season, he’s done everything he’s needed to in order to earn a massive deal in free agency. I’m just glad we got one of those seasons before he went somewhere else that was able to get even more out of him.