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Royals Bludgeon Yankees, Win Series

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pretty proud of my prediction that the Royals offense was about to open up, but I’m more happy about the fact that the Royals put an absolute beating on the Yankees last night. It’s been said many times, but I think it’s worth repeating that this is the first time the Royals have won a series in New York since 1999. That’s a long time ago. Winning a series doesn’t seem like something that is so difficult. All you have to do is win two games out of three, but it’s something that escapes bad teams and really escapes bad teams against excellent teams. The Yankees have been an excellent team since about 1995. The good news is that they show signs of letting up as their core is getting older and older and under contract for far too long. People make a big deal about Eric Hosmer’s years of control and how he’ll be a free agent after the 2017 season. Well, that’s the same time that Alex Rodriguez hits free agency again. Think about that.

It’s funny that baseball people almost universally talk about 40 games as a measuring stick for the season. Well, after the game ended last night, I got to thinking about what it would take for me to take the Royals really seriously. I don’t mean that I think they can win 80 games and stay close in the Central. I’m talking about taking them seriously to the point that they should spend some of their minor league currency and go out and get somebody. Well, my thoughts last night turned to thinking that if they sweep the Tigers, I’m convinced. If they win two out of three, I’m pretty convinced, and if they win 1 out of 3 or get swept, I’m convinced they’re not really contenders. The funny thing is that after the Tigers series, they will have played 40 games. Maybe it’s just been put in my head so many times that I naturally gravitate to the 40 game mark.

The point is that this series in Detroit is going to go a long way to determining what kind of team the Royals have in 2011. Before the season I talked about how the offense might not be too bad. I didn’t expect them to be leading the American League in runs scored on May 13, but I did see a team that had potential to work some walks and actually hit a few homers. That combination typically leads to a pretty good offense, and they are making good on that promise so far. Okay, I waited as long as I could to mention this, but Eric Hosmer is going to make the offense better than it has been already. The man is an absolute joy to watch on the baseball field. His home run in the second inning was a laser that took no time to get out of the yard. He just looks like a legitimate Major League star.

It’s only been six games, but it’s hard not to get excited about the future of the Royals with Eric Hosmer leading them. All the talk about his lack of extra base hits was probably overblown considering he now has four in six games including two homers. He was a triple away from the cycle last night, and while I wasn’t expecting it, I thought he actually had a chance to get it done. I’m not sure that we should get too used to the homers as he plays most of his games in pitcher’s parks, but I could see him getting 30 doubles between now and the end of the year to go along with 15 homers and a few scattered triples. The talk right now for the Jackie Robinson Award race is between Zach Britton of the Orioles and Michael Pineda of the Mariners, but if Eric Hosmer can keep hitting like he’s shown he can then he’s going to join that group and probably surpass them.

Let’s get back to the Royals as a team, though, because last night was a team effort. I think that, regardless of what happens in Detroit, they are a team who are two starting pitchers away from competing. I don’t think they’d be able to win the East with their starting pitching, but they are two starters away from being able to compete and win the American League Central. I haven’t looked to see who is potentially available, but two legitimate number two or three starters would go a long way toward making the Royals a contender. Those two may very well be in the minor leagues, though I’d hate to count on guys like Duffy and Montgomery to shoulder the load of a rotation in their rookie seasons. Someone like Ian Kennedy might be a worthwhile target. The Diamondbacks might want way more for him than he’s worth, but it’d be worth asking. Maybe the Dodgers make Chad Billingsley available and the Royals can dangle a couple of guys to get him. I haven’t thought long enough to figure out what would work and what wouldn’t, but I’m convinced that with their offense and bullpen that they are just a couple of starting pitchers away from having something really special.

The other encouraging thing from last night is that it looked like Billy Butler broke out of his slump. That seems obvious to say considering he had four hits, but everything he hit was right on the nose and he looked the Billy we saw the first three or four weeks of the season when he was just mashing everything. Alex Gordon looked like he was starting to show signs of life again as well with a double to dead center and then two balls that went to the warning track or the wall and took nice catches to retire him. If those two can get going again coupled with the emergence of Hosmer, then the Royals have an offense to be reckoned with, and have a chance to make some pitching staffs very miserable. Tonight will be a heck of a test as they face Justin Verlander coming off his no-hitter from earlier this week. I haven’t been this excited for a series in May for as long as I can remember.

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