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Good Time For a Break

Losing a 2-1 game on a scorching day is a tough way to head into the All-Star break, but when you’re facing the hottest pitcher in baseball in Justin Verlander, you sort of expect a loss. In his last  nine starts, Verlander is now 8-1 with a microscopic ERA of 0.75. He has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 7.4:1. If anything, the Royals did a better job against Verlander than other teams have throughout his amazing run as they hit .261 off him yesterday while the league had previously been hitting .179. All the hits were singles, but you take the victories where you can get them in cases such as these. After a game where the Royals can’t muster an extra base hit and never seem to mount any serious attack, it would be easy to get upset about one thing or another, but it’s hard to get broken up about losing to a guy who hasn’t given up more than two runs in a start since before Memorial Day.

The one thing I am a little upset about is the way the Royals have run the bases lately. Way back in Spring Training, the Royals talked about how they were going to be more aggressive on the bases because that’s the way they’d have to be in order for their offense to be able to compete without the power that a lot of other teams have. Early in the year they were running the bases great with stolen bases, taking the extra base on lazy outfielders and all sorts of things that were helping the tam push across a run here and there that made the difference. It’s a big reason why they started off the season so well in the standings. I’m not sure what happened, but at some point they started making some terrible decisions. I don’t remember this exact situation, but the Royals were either down by one in the ninth or tied with Chris Getz on second with two outs, and he tried to steal third. He made, but are you kidding me? What a terrible decision. Yesterday, with the Royals down by one, Eric Hosmer doubled to lead off the ninth and then with one out and Mike Moustakas at the plate, he attempted a steal of third. This time he was caught.

There’s a lot of debate about that play as to whether or not Hosmer was safe. It was hard to tell for me, but through my blue colored glasses, he appeared to be safe. That’s not the point. The point is that it was a terrible decision to go for third with a runner like Hosmer. Don’t get me wrong, Hosmer isn’t exactly lead footed, but he’s no Jarrod Dyson either. I’m not sure who made that decision, but it was the absolute wrong one and it may have cost the Royals the opportunity to win a game that Justin Verlander started which would be quite an accomplishment. The point is that while the Royals do need to be aggressive on the base paths and steal runs from their opponents, they have to do it smartly because they’re taking runs off the board the way they have been running lately.

With all that, this is an excellent opportunity for the Royals to get away from baseball for a few days and regroup before coming back strong for the second half. The team is terrible record-wise, and every so often you wonder how they’re ever going to win another game again. I still maintain that they’re going to be a better team at the end of the year than at the beginning. The record may not reflect that, but I still believe that from about mid-August to the end of the season we’ll get to see some pretty good baseball out of the Royals that will make everybody a believer that 2012 will be a fun season. With so many young players, it’s tough to get out of team wide slumps. I think the Royals are a mentally tough team who can do it, but I think the All-Star break is a big help to them.

The person who I think can most benefit from the break is Mike Moustakas. He came up and he predictably struggled. I expected him to struggle with a little more power than he’s shown, but I think that’ll come soon. He just has to make a couple of adjustments at the plate and he’ll be fine moving forward. I think he’ll hit 12 homers after the break. The other group that will benefit from the break is the starting rotation as they get a chance to reset. They’re still not good, but they’re going from awful to somewhat mediocre, and as soon as Davies gets out of there, they might be all the way there. If Mike Montgomery replaces a potentially traded Jeff Francis in the rotation and pitches like he’s capable, then things will be starting to look up for the rotation.

It’s been sort of a wacky first part of the season. The Royals started off so well at 10-4 and then at one point at 17-14 and even being at .500 at 22-22. Obviously, the bottom has fallen out of the season since then, but this team is still entertaining to watch which is what everybody figured would be the case with all the young talent on the field for the team. Sometimes it can be extremely frustrating, but other times you see those glimpses of what the talent can do and you can’t help but dream of a pennant chase in a couple of years and a run through the playoffs and then maybe even a parade down the plaza like Dayton Moore had mentioned in his first few days in Kansas City. Sometimes it’s quite difficult to see that future, but then every so often, the Royals will have a game when Hosmer goes 4-5 with a homer and a double or Moustakas will get two doubles and three runs batted in or Duffy will go seven innings on 91 pitches and you think that once they all put it together at the same time that this team will be pretty darn special. Over this break, do yourself a favor as a Royals fan. Think about the future rather than the past. It’ll put a smile on your face.

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