The Royals played their 43rd game of the season on Wednesday afternoon. It was another loss. The fifth consecutive game they have dropped and the seventh of their last eight.
We knew this season would be a struggle. We knew it was going to, at times, be difficult to watch. Yet here we are, over a quarter of the way through the 2017 season and the Royals longest winning streak so far stands at two games.
How the hell does that happen? How does a major league baseball team, even a bad one, not find a way to somehow rip off three wins in a row? Even the worst teams will stumble into a starting rotation that jives at the right moment, coupled with a bullpen that doesn’t implode, while aligning with a few hot bats in a lineup. Three consecutive wins isn’t so difficult.
Except when you’re the Royals.
And when your starting rotation consistently buries you and any chances you have at finding a win.
This rotation is the pits. On Tuesday, it was Ian Kennedy giving up a first inning bomb as the Rays sent nine men to the plate, scoring three. On Wednesday, it was Jason Hammel responsible for the Rays’ three spot. At least he was a little more efficient than Kennedy, facing just seven hitters in the visitor’s half of the first.
Take those two veterans and shove them together with Danny Duffy who has been abysmal this season, and that’s three-fifths of a rancid rotation. (Time for a speck of credit where it’s perhaps due. In both aforementioned games, Kennedy and Hammel seemed to find their proper space after the first inning struggles. Still, with this offense… three runs in the first is a helluva hole to put this team in.) We are at the point where it’s Jake Junis and a gang nobody really wants to watch.
Apologies to Eric Skoglund who has thrown quite well in three of his last four starts. Still, you get the picture.
“If you look at our games, I hate to say when you look at our record, that they’re entertaining, but they are a little bit,” Ned Yost explained on Wedneday. And he’s not wrong. For all the losses, there’s usually something to pique your interest. On Monday, it was the fine start from Skoglund where twice the Rays sequenced a double followed by a single for a run. That was it. He hit 96 mph in this start, his maximum velocity we’ve seen from him this year. Then, there were crazy slides at home and a crisp, nationally televised game. Entertainment comes in all shapes and sizes.
On Tuesday, Alcides Escobar hit fifth for the first time in his career. Fifth! I mean, there’s no baseball universe where that makes sense. Yet the Royals scratched their way to five runs to tie the game after Kennedy set them up with the early deficit. Then, the usually reliable Kelvin Herrera gave up a two out single to provide the final margin of defeat. The game looked like it was going to get out of hand, yet the Royals hung around and came close to winning. The weather was spectacular, too. That’s entertaining enough.
Wednesday, we got to see Brad Keller and Jason Adam pitch. That’s entertaining, right there. It’s not difficult to envision a seven-eight-nine setup with some combination of Keller and Adam building the bridge to Herrera. Of course, a lead would be preferred. That’s something the Royals didn’t have at any point in this series against Tampa. Details. But if you close your eyes tightly and imagine, maybe, just maybe, the seeds of a good bullpen are being planted. That could be entertaining, right?
This isn’t to crack on Yost and his “entertaining” comment, and I’m not being facetious. He’s right. We knew coming into this season the Royals would be a bad baseball team. They’re not trying to tank, so it’s not truly accurate to say they’re tanking, but if we’re being honest, they’re not exactly built to win. So as the team was assembling for what looked to be a return to the 90 or 100 loss seasons of yore, it was essential that they be entertaining. A team can suck, or be awful, or the worst ever, but the worst thing you can ever say about a team is that they’re boring.
They’re not at the depths we saw 10 to 15 years ago where you would go to a Royals game expecting a carnival to break out. (Where have you gone Ken Harvey?) Don’t kid yourself, though. The potential is certainly there for a total breakdown in fundamentals. Especially if Dayton Moore deals off his few valuable pieces ahead of the trade deadline. So we may be looking at a different kind of entertaining in a few months. That in itself would be kind of…entertaining.
My god, what would we with our summer do if the Royals were boring?