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Tough Weekend in Motown

On Friday, I talked about the Royals needing to take two of three from the Tigers for me to believe that the start to the season was real. Well, what I hadn’t taken into consideration is that the Tigers are red hot right now. With the way Verlander and Penny pitched, I’m not sure there were many teams who would have fared better than the Royals did. They got lucky, in my opinion, to get rained out yesterday for a couple of reasons. The first is that they didn’t have to play the team who is playing better than anyone. The second is the game got rescheduled for September 1. For a team like the Royals, that’s huge. If they’re out of contention by then, it makes no real difference, but if they’re still in contention, the Royals are likely to be a better team on September 1 than they are on May 15.

Still, it’s a disappointing weekend when you come off winning two of three from the Yankees in New York. You sort of hope that you can keep the momentum up throughout a series with a division rival. So after the high of the series win in New York, the Royals are now in third place and five games out of first place. They’re still in a significantly better position than they have been in years past through 39 games, but it’s just a bit of a let down. What we’ve seen throughout this season, though, is that the Royals bounce back after tough stretches, which is part of what makes this team so likable. Their resiliency has been the backbone of the season and has led to all the comeback wins, so I’m not quite ready to count this team out.

A few notes to round out the day:

  • It’s apparently been revealed that there is a glitch in Joakim Soria’s delivery that has caused him to struggle in the early going of the season. He clearly hasn’t been the same this year as in years past, which led many to wonder if there’s an injury that he’s hiding. A delivery issue doesn’t calm those worries at all as pitchers often alter their release points and arm angles in an effort to get away from the pain. The claim is that the cutter he’s been working on has messed with his delivery, but this is something to watch over the next couple of weeks. If Soria is injured, it’ll probably Aaron Crow taking over the closer’s role in his absence.
  • The Royals offense, which is still tied for third in the American League in runs scored and second in runs per game, has been pretty stagnant over the last eight games. They were shut down by a very good Oakland pitching staff and then were shut down pretty well by the Yankees until their 11 run outburst on Thursday. This weekend, they scored one run in the two games played. Is it a reason for concern? I don’t think so just yet, but it is something to which we need to pay attention. The offense was being carried by Alex Gordon and Jeff Francouer early, with some help from Billy Butler. All three have slumped a bit recently. My only concern is that it’s easy to call Butler’s slump just that, but Gordon and Francouer don’t exactly have a track record of sustained excellence, so we have to hope that this is a slump for them and not a regression to the mean. I think Gordon’s more likely to rebound than Francouer due to his approach, but it’s a development worth watching.
  • Eris Hosmer, after a great series in New York, had a tough couple of games in Detroit. Not only was he hitless over the weekend, but he hit into some tough luck on Saturday including a great play by Austin Jackson in center to rob him of extra bases. There’s nothing in his track record that suggests he’ll start to press, but if it goes on for a couple more games, it’s something to watch. I don’t think it’ll be an issue as he seems to have such a calm approach at the plate, but you never know what’ll happen when a young player hits tough times in the big leagues. Two games certainly do not constitute a slump, but it’s worth mentioning.
  • The starting pitching has actually been very good over the last few days. It’s been lost in the offensive struggles, but the Tigers were a very hot offensive team coming into the weekend and the Royals held them to just six runs. Jeff Francis on Saturday came out of the gate looking absolutely horrendous, but stuck it out and put things together to give the Royals a really nice start, throwing an eight inning complete game and giving up no runs on two hits in the final seven innings. Unfortunately, the first inning still counts. I’ve been pretty tough on Francis, but that was a nice effort by him on Saturday.

So now the Royals head home where they are 15-8 to face the Indians, Rangers and Cardinals in a seven-game homestand. When you’re in contention, every series is important until you clinch, but this is revenge time for the Royals after being swept on a road trip by the Indians and Rangers. Plus, you never like to see the Cardinals win in Kansas City. I’m not asking for a 7-0 week, but I certainly wouldn’t mind it at all. Tanking this week for the Royals means jokes about the same old Royals, but even if they can go 4-3, they’ll still be in good shape heading into the hot summer months. I have high hopes for this week. My request to you is to get out there and cheer them on. I think the ad campaign about keeping the K blue is somewhat sad that it is necessary, but it is necessary, so get out there and do it if you can.

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