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Gordon Steals The Show….And Two Bases

Last night was exactly what the Royals needed to break their mini slump of two games and get back in the win column. Well, it sort of was. For the first seven innings, it was a walk in the park for the Royals as they scored five runs early and Bruce Chen was pitching well. Actually, things started to get a little uneasy in the top of the seventh when Chen started to get a little tired and gave up some hits. Luckily for the Royals they decided to give Alex Gordon one more chance because he was very clearly the star of the game. I’ll get to him in just a minute. While there were some late inning theatrics induced by the bullpen and the defense, the Royals held on and are now a game back of first place once again with two more games to go versus the first place Indians. I don’t care how early it is, that is still weird to say.

This post is going to end up being a mish mash of thoughts about last night, so keep with me as I might jump around a little bit from topic to topic. The first thing I want to talk about just sort of makes me laugh and it’s the fact that the Royals had two communications issues. I believe one of them entirely and one of them I want to believe but just can’t. The first happened in the top of the seventh when Chen began to run out of gas. I guess the Royals had decided that as soon as Chen gave up a hit that they’d get Blake Wood up in the bullpen. Well, Chen gave up a hit and nobody started warming up. Then Chen gave up another hit, and as I looked down to the bullpen, I started to think that it was odd that Yost was sticking with Chen when it was clear he wasn’t throwing his best stuff up there. Eventually Blake Wood started throwing, but it wasn’t until the Indians offense was starting to click.

We found out after the game that the bullpen phones were out and that the Royals couldn’t call down there to get a pitcher warmed up. Eventually they just had the security guard in the dugout use his walkie talkie to tell the security guard in the bullpen who to warm up. This strikes me as something that shouldn’t happen in a stadium that was recently renovated and redubbed “The New K.” It also strikes me as amusing. I’ll let that lead into my next point that I just don’t like Blake Wood as a Major Leaguer. I know his strikeouts are up in the minors and that I should give him a shot, but when he comes out of the bullpen, I cringe. I read that he was really upset when he didn’t make the team out of spring training and couldn’t figure out why. I’m not saying the Royals were right to leave him off the roster because he did have a very nice spring, but I’m just not sure he’s long for this organization with all the arms coming through. After the way Louis Coleman has pitched so far in AAA, I’d much rather have him in the big leagues. He’s struck out 16 batters in seven innings. That’s filthy.

The second miscommunication that happened last night was during Kila Ka’aihue’s at bat in the eighth inning when he ended up laying down a bunt with an 0-2 count that moved Wilson Betemit from first to second. At the time, I thought it was incredibly odd that Yost would have Kila bunting there. My thought was that if you don’t trust him with the bat and you’re going to bunt, then why not send up someone like Dyson or Maier who we know can bunt well and let them get it down. When Kila kept bunting on the 0-2 count, I thought Yost had gone certifiably insane. As it turned out, Yost explained in the post game press conference that the bat boy had actually gotten in between him and Eddie Rodriguez when the signs were being given and that there was confusion. Let me take this opportunity to express my skepticism about that story. I get it for the first pitch, but Ka’aihue kept bunting. Doesn’t the coach check in for the sign constantly? Maybe I’m wrong, and if I am please tell me, but it seems very odd. Plus, once Yost saw that Kila was bunting, don’t you think he would have made a production to get the attention of Rodriguez in order to get him the correct sign? I’m not sure what they have to gain from lying about this, but it just seems awfully fishy.

Luckily, the lack of insurance runs that the Royals couldn’t tack in didn’t hurt them, but that’s mostly because of the man who was clearly the player of the game – Alex Gordon. He had two more hits, extending his hitting streak to 13 games. He threw out a runner at the plate in the top of the seventh inning to get Chen out of the jam. Then in the ninth inning he made a diving catch on a sinking liner by Grady Sizemore that ultimately saved the game. Oh yeah, in between he stole two bases and scored yet another run to give him 15 already on the young season. People gave Gordon a lot of trouble for saying he would dominate this season, and he even admitted that he didn’t really know what to say when he was asked the question of how he’d do this year, but it’s hard to deny that he has basically dominated. As the hits stop falling for him (and they inevitably will), I’d like to see him go back to taking some more walks, but the longer this goes on, the more for real it is.

The Royals are in the midst of a ten game stretch in which they play the first place Indians seven times and the first place Rangers three times. This is an important stretch for the team as they look to determine whether they are a contender or a pretender. So far, they are 1-1 in this stretch. I think to feel really good about themselves, they need to go at least 6-4 over the ten games. I figured they’d need to win three of four against the Indians at home, one of three in Texas and two of three in Cleveland. Texas is tough and even tougher at home, and you have to win the games against your division foes. If they can do 6-4, they’ll be sitting at 16-9, which is getting dangerously close to a record I can believe in. It’ll still be a bit longer than that, but the longer they keep this up, the more confidence they gain and the more chance they have to sustain success throughout the entire season.

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