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THE K
REPLAY

by Chris Kamler

The latest week of action
for the
2016 Kansas City Royals



WHOOPSADOODLE
Published 6/8/16

Following a week that saw the Royals regain first place in the AL Central, the boys have a chance to put some distance between the second and third place teams. But questions continue to mount about the team's starting pitching as injuries continue to pile up.

MONDAY - MAY 30 - Rays 2, Royals 6
Key Play: Tied into the eighth, the Royals score for to break it open

A huge three-run home run by Eric Hosmer bailed out a Kelvin Herrera blown save as the Royals opened three games with the Rays on a winning note. The Royals went ahead in the eighth on a hit-and-run RBI by Whit Merrifield, who has found a home with the big league club due to his versatility and, most importantly, his ability to get hits.

TUESDAY - MAY 31 - Rays 5, Royals 10
Key Play: An offensive barrage with 18 hits melts down the Rays

It started with two in the first inning and just kept coming the entire game. The Royals rode a serviceable start by Dillon Gee and pounded the Rays for 18 hits and 10 runs. The game included homers by Lorenzo Cain and Kendrys Morales. Eric Hosmer also joined the hit parade with two RBI. Every starter got a hit and Hosmer got three, raising his average to .330.

WEDNESDAY - JUNE 1 - Rays 3, Royals 6
Key Play: Early scoring took the life out of the Rays with RBI's by Cain and Morales

Two in the first and two in the second were enough to give Danny Duffy his first victory of the year as the Royals pounded out 11 more hits.

THURSDAY - JUNE 2 - Royals 4, Indians 5
Key Play: An error-filled ninth inning allows a two-run walkoff for the Indians

This is the game that may signal a serious problem for the Royals. With Wade Davis unavailable, Ned Yost used Kelvin Herrera in the eighth inning and Joakim Soria in the ninth. Soria induced a fly to right which Paulo Orlando butchered along with a botched double-play by Omar Infante. The Indians scored two to walk it off ending the Royals winning streak at six. The game had the flavor of one that just got away, but it was an emotional victory for the Indians hot on the heels of the Royals for first place and put them just a game back. It's hard to be mad about the Royals lock-down bullpen letting one get away, unless you had knowledge of what was about to happen in the rest of the series.

FRIDAY - JUNE 3 - Royals 1, Indians 6
Key Play: A normally steady Edinson Volquez allows four runs and the bats go silent

We've seen cold streaks with the Royals offense before, but it's still painful to watch. The Royals could only manage three hits off of Danny Salazar and Edinson Volquez allowed four in his night. The Indians pulled into first place with the victory by a half game. The lone bright spot was Drew Butera, who homered in his second-straight game giving an injured Salvador Perez some time off.

SATURDAY - JUNE 4 - Royals 1, Indians 7
Key Play: A normally steady Ian Kennedy allows four runs and the bats go silent

Remember carbon paper? That little piece of black paper you'd slip between pages to create a copy of the top page? Yeah. That's Saturday and Friday. Our two good starters both struggle and allow big innings while the Royals offense stays quiet. The only good thing about the night was that the Royals and Indians both wore vintage 1976 uniforms with the powder blue tops and pants for the Royals that made me think of Freddy Patek and the greatest Royals teams of the 70's.

SUNDAY - JUNE 5 - Royals 0, Indians 7
Key Play: Chris Young wets the bed allowing three homers

A four game sweep was concluded Sunday as the Indians were way too much for Chris Young tattooing the ball all over Jacobs field. The Indians homered four times, three off of Chris Young. Corey Kluber and the Indians pitchers limited the Royals lifeless bats to only three hits in the shutout. The win brought the Royals to one and a half games back in the Central - a four game swing over the weekend.

COMING UP
Baseball is all about staying positive despite failure and so you can look at the three game sweep against the Rays as the one you want to think about at bed time. If you choose to look at the four game sweep at the hands of the Indians you are looking at some problems. The starting pitching has got to improve in the coming weeks. The offense will come back around, but with the addition of Cuthbert and Merrifield, you need to see some improved defense as well. Omar Infante has been a $12M liability all season and there are signs that his days as a Royal are coming to a close. But, again, some good and some bad this week and the Royals still are in a dogfight with the Indians. They get to tee it up again, this time at The K, starting this weekend.

 


STEPPING ON THE GAS
Published 6/1/16

Here we are still in the first third of the season but you can tell that the winds have shifted here in the AL Central. You nearly saw it right before your eyes. That little team from Kansas City--the ones who got lucky last year and were hurt and basically written off for dead by the computers and the prognosticators. It seems nobody told the Royals. And nobody certainly told the new kids who have come up to help the infirmary that is now the Royals clubhouse. The week begins with a series against the lowly Twins and then back home to face off against the first place White Sox.

MONDAY - MAY 23 - Royals 10, Twins 4
Key Play: Offense busts out for eight runs in first four innings

Monday was when you sensed this would be a special week. Salvador Perez went off on the Twins, going five for five, needing only a homer for the cycle. He scored three runs and drove in one.

TUESDAY - MAY 24 - Royals 7, Twins 4
Key Play: Lorenzo Cain has four hits and two RBI

Another game that was in cruise control by the fourth inning as Edinson Volquez limited damage and LoCain had four hits. Salvy stayed hot with two more hits on Tuesday.

WEDNESDAY - MAY 25 - Royals 5, Twins 7
Key Play: Dillon Gee was ineffective and gave up six runs in four innings

This is still a very battered team with three position players out and two starting pitchers out. Dillon Gee is one of the “other guys” and while he pitched well the first couple of outings, he struggled mightily by allowing three homers and surrendering six runs in only four innings of work. The Royals featured RBI hits by Eric Hosmer, Perez and Omar Infante.

FRIDAY - MAY 27 - White Sox 5, Royals 7
Key Play: Eric Hosmer with the go ahead single in the four-run seventh inning

The roster looks like a patchwork quilt, but the lineup still shows E. Hosmer and he delivered big in this one. The Royals mounted a four run comeback to take the lead in the seventh inning. Danny Duffy struggled, allowing a grand slam to Melky Cabrera in the fifth, but the Royals showed the same type of never-say-die attitude you saw in 2014 and 2015.

SATURDAY - MAY 28 - White Sox 7, Royals 8
Key Play: The greatest comeback in team history, scoring seven runs in the ninth inning to win

I'm going to level with you here. I didn't watch the entire game. I left to do yard work like many of you after the Sox scored four in the third off of a completely awful Yordano Ventura. And I was aware that for most of the game we were losing 7-1. And then the yelling started coming from the house. “Now it's 7-2” my wife cried out, having never given hope and watching a one-out Lorenzo Cain homer in garbage time in the ninth inning. I grumbled and went back to moving stones in my front yard. “Honey, it's 7-3 now” as she watched the White Sox closer, David Robertson, come in for some cleanup work and began to struggle. Robertson allowed the based to get loaded and then walked Alcides Escobar. I didn't even look up. I had yard work to do. “Honey. You better come in here...” she screamed as Whit Merrifield in his first month in the Major Leagues singled in another run to make it 7-4. At this point, I figured there'd be no harm in just going inside to get a drink of water. But these guys were down 7-1. I wasn't optimistic. And there it was. Lorenzo Cain rolled over on a double-play ball. But the White Sox were unable to close it out and get a speedy Cain. But now there were two outs. Yard work was in my immediate future.

But then I remembered the Wild Card game and Game 5 in Houston and figured I'd stick it out. With two outs and two on, Eric Hosmer doubled one in to make it 7-6. Then Drew Butera, who was just in for an injured Perez, doubled another run in to tie the game. At this point, my house was beside themselves. And boy am I glad I decided to come in for water. But at this point, with two-day rookie Brett Eibner at the plate, you kind of figured you'd see extra innings, right? Nope. Eibner muscled a pitch to the right side past a diving Brett Lawrie to single in Hosmer and capped off the greatest comeback in Royals history. Down six, with one out and nobody on in the ninth inning. Fangraphs said the Royals had a statistical probability of a1,000 to one or 0.1% to win. Add Saturday's comeback to some of the great games in Royals history from the past few years. Oh, and the win put the Royals into a tie for first place.

SUNDAY - MAY 29 - White Sox 4, Royals 5
Key Play: A third straight late comeback this time scoring three in the eighth

If there's any slight knock on the Royals and their resurgence over the past two weeks, it's that they haven't been able to complete a sweep on a team after winning the first two games. But man, after the energy of Saturday's comeback, if there was ever a time, it would be Sunday. The Royals jumped out to a two run lead in the first thanks to Cain and Hosmer RBI's. But the lead was coughed up in the middle innings by Edinson Volquez making it 3-2. But fans wouldn't be tricked again. Nobody in the 32,000+ stadium left, waiting for late fireworks and they got it as Chris Sale eventually left the game to the White Sox dumpster fire of a bullpen. The bullpen obliged as the Royals scored three runs in the eighth thanks to another Cain homer, an Eibner RBI walk and a go ahead RBI by Cheslor Cuthbert. The kids had a great showing this weekend and were the first team to sweep a three game series after trailing in the seventh inning or later in all three games. Oh, and the White Sox left Kansas City knowing that the Royals leapfrogged them into first place in the division.

COMING UP
It's incredibly hard to top this past week. Three comebacks and a series victory against the Twins is great, but the Tampa Bay Rays come to KC for a series, then the Royals head back on the road to Cleveland for an AL Central matchup. There are a LOT of holes with the Royals right now, but they are playing like they played the entire postseason with a “next man up” mentality and a no-quit fire. It's fun to watch but you wonder what happens when the adrenaline wears off. The starting pitching is awful right now and the bullpen can only pull so many rabbits out of hats. But for now, sit back, enjoy the summer and watch the Boys in Blue pull off the impossible.

 


 

SO THERE'S A CHANCE
Published 5/25/16

And here we were starting to think that the Royals were just going to roll over and die. Don't deny it. You were starting to wonder when Chiefs training camp started. Well, shame on all of us. This is going to be a true marathon, folks. And it looks like it may be a photo finish with most of the AL Central and it's going to feature some folks that you wouldn't expect.

TUESDAY - MAY 17 - Red Sox 4, Royals 8
Key Play: Orlando provides plenty of offense with four RBI

One of those unexpected stars will be Paulo Orlando. Orlando has been sharing time in right field but is about to bust through as a full time starter, as he notched four RBI's including a homer and a triple. The Royals jumped all over Rick Porcello for two runs in the third and four runs in the fourth as well as a late surge in the eighth. A serviceable outing for Yordano Ventura, although he certainly didn't look sharp.

WEDNESDAY - MAY 18 (Game 1) - Red Sox 2, Royals 3
Key Play: Eric Hosmer's two-run homer set the tone in the first inning

After a rainout Monday, the Royals set up for a double-dip on Wednesday. Eric Hosmer started it off with a bang with a homer in the first. The Royals would need to use a tapestry of pitchers including Ian Kennedy who only went into the sixth. Brian Flynn would finish the sixth inning and pick up the victory after Lorenzo Cain's sacrifice fly in the sixth put the Royals ahead for good.

WEDNESDAY - MAY 18 (Game 2) - Red Sox 5, Royals 2
Key Play: Edinson Volquez wasn't sharp as Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hit streak to 24 games with a homer in the second

The Royals certainly are struggling with their starting rotation right now and it was evident as the normally steady Eddie Volquez struggled against the powerhouse lineup of the Red Sox. He would allow four runs over six innings and the Royals bats ran away in the nightcap, but the Royals were able to head to Chicago with a series victory against one of the better teams in baseball.

FRIDAY - MAY 19 - Royals 4, White Sox 1
Key Play: A three run sixth inning including a Cain RBI was the difference

Dillon Gee was able to enter the game in only his second start this season and provide enough ground cover as the Royals assaulted the White Sox from the air including a huge three run sixth inning. The Royals did it against the Sox second best starter, Jose Quintana who continually struggles against the Royals (1-7 for his career.) The game set the tone for the series against the reigning AL Central Champions and the currently leaders.

SATURDAY - MAY 20 - Royals 2, White Sox 1
Key Play: Danny Duffy gives it his all going four and a third as a bridge to the bullpen

Danny Duffy was also making his second start and didn't allow a run into the fifth inning provide a much needed stopgap and winning the series against the White Sox. The Royals stayed quiet but managed to get a run on an Eric Hosmer sac fly in the first and a Lorenzo Cain homer in the sixth to notch the victory.

SUNDAY - MAY 21 - Royals 2, White Sox 3
Key Play: Melky Cabrera's two out single in the fifth with the bases loaded put the Sox ahead for good.

Yordano Ventura again pitched brilliantly at times, but the wheels came off in the fifth as he loaded the bases and allowed a key single to Melky Cabrera plating two runs to give the Sox the lead. The Royals stayed quiet on offense and it spoiled a bid to sweep the White Sox and get within two games of first place.

COMING UP
Six games in five days provided a weird week for the Royals this week, but the four victories made a bold announcement to the rest of the league that the Boys in Blue won't go down without a fight. Now sitting at one game over .500,the Royals gained ground on the first place White Sox. The Royals take on the woeful Twins and the White Sox again back at home this week. The Royals will need to focus on coming out of their offensive slump as well as continue pitching well enough to keep their opponents at bay.

 


NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
Published 5/18/16

Oof. We're not even going to try to sugarcoat it here. The Royals are playing badly right now. It's almost as if we're seeing a negative image of a photograph. If 2015 was all about the breaks going the Royals way, you're seeing nearly the complete opposite now. Poor pitching. Lapses in defense and focus. Awful hitting. It's just not clicking for the squad currently. But a trip to the House That Ruth built as well as some home cookin' against the awful Atlanta Braves should help. Right?? Right?? After 30 games, the Royals are 15 up and 15 down. The next 30 will decide whether this is going to be another magical run or the boys come down to earth.

MONDAY - MAY 9 - Royals 3, Yankees 6
Key Play: Chris Young loses his starter's role after giving up five solo homers
Yankees Stadium has always played like a bandbox and the Yankees made it look like a shoebox after donging Chris Young five times in the first few innings, effectively putting the game away. Young would go on the disabled list following this appearance. He was ineffective as Carlos Beltran hit two homers. The Royals attempted a late charge but came up very short after Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer both hit homers late.

TUESDAY - MAY 10 - Royals 7, Yankees 10
Key Play: Lorenzo Cain's three homer night was wasted due to poor pitching by the Royals

The Yankees scored early, they scored often, and they scored late as they jumped all over Kris Medlen and later won the game with a double off of Kelvin Herrera. In between, they were able to manage around the Lorenzo Cain show as he hit three homers, one of which was an absolute bomb. As it was with Young on Monday, Medlen would go on the DL following the game, leaving the Royals to scramble for a fourth and fifth starter this weekend and the Royals to scramble for a series split.

WEDNESDAY - MAY 11 - Royals 7, Yankees 3
Key Play: Homers by Kendrys Morales and Salvador Perez helped a wobbly Ventura notch the win

It wasn't great Yordano but it was good enough Yordano as he improved to 3-2 on the year, limiting six hits and three runs in six innings. Salvador Perez had a three run homer to open the game up. Kendrys Morales also went yard as he tries to get his season batting average above the Mendoza line. Ventura provided a much needed source of relief to a starting rotation that has had lots of trouble recently.

THURSDAY - MAY 12 - Royals 3, Yankees 7
Key Play: Three more homers and three more early runs for the Yankees as they take the series

If there's been a troubling consistency with many of the Royals losses this year, it's giving up early runs to take the wind of of the sails of the offense. Such was the case Thursday as Ian Kennedy pitched less like his ace role giving up a homer and seven runs in six and a third innings of work. The game was 3-0 by the time the Royals could get on the board. Alex Gordon homered and had an RBI single in a losing effort. The series loss was the team's fourth in a row as they fall to two games below .500.

FRIDAY - MAY 13 - Braves 1, Royals 5
Key Play: Two early runs and a three run eighth inning put the Royals back on top

Easy Eddie Volquez cruised through seven innings, allowing only one run to the impotent Atlanta Braves - the consensus worst team in baseball. It was the Royals who scored in the two opening frames in this one thanks to RBI's by Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar. The game also featured a spectacular running throw by Cheslor Cuthbert, who is in for Mike Moustakas nursing a broken thumb.

SATURDAY - MAY 14 - Braves 5, Royals 0
Key Play: A pitcher you've never heard of shut out the Royals

I would tell you to remember the name Mike Foltynewicz, but he's going to be mowing grass for his high school baseball team in a couple of years. Still, on Ned Yost bobblehead night, Foltynewicz might have been Cy Young as he blew through the World Champions for eight innings for his first win of the season. Dillon Gee, a spot starter for Chris Young, was effective through five innings but ran out of steam in the sixth--allowing three runs.

SUNDAY - MAY 15 - Braves 2, Royals 4 (13 innings)
Key Play: Kendrys Morales two-run homer in the 13th wins it

If the Royals win a series finally but it's against the worst team in baseball, does it still count? YOU BET IT DOES. The Royals took a two run lead into the ninth inning which traditionally equates to a win with Wade Davis on the mound. But Davis uncharacteristically coughed up the lead and the Royals needed four more innings to resolve it. The Royals used nine pitchers in the game - which equaled their entire bullpen. But Kendrys Morales sent everyone home on Dressed to the Nines day with a two-run bomb to dead center field in the 13th to end it. The win gave the Royals their first series victory in May.

COMING UP
Your Boys in Blue sit only one game below .500 but have to face off against the hot Red Sox and their resurgent retiree David Ortiz as well as head up to Chicago to take on the first place White Sox this weekend. The good news is that the team is scheduled to get a much needed day off Thursday. A winning week next week would put them at or above .500 and that's exactly where they need to be heading into June and July.

 


 

THE LEFT COAST
Published 5/4/16

Due to a quirk in the schedule, this will be the final trip to the West Coast for the entire season - save the postseason, and if you're a Royals fan, you'll gladly accept it. Coming off a positive homestand, this week spells trouble for an offense that hasn't really hit much all year and a starting rotation that has been shaky in recent weeks. Grab your sunglasses because we're going to the Pacific.

MONDAY - APRIL 25 - Royals 1, Angels 6
Key Play: A two home run night for former Maple Woods standout Albert Pujols

I don't know much about the stock market, but I do know that there is something that happens occasionally called a “correction.” Ian Kennedy had been pitching great all through April. That was corrected by Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels. Pujols hit two homers allowing him to pass Reggie Jackson for 565 on the all time home run list. Kennedy gave up five runs in six innings and the Royals offense went into hiding.

TUESDAY - APRIL 26 - Royals 4, Angels 9
Key Play: A three run home run for former Omaha standout Johnny Giavotella

A homer by Mike Moustakas in the first inning wasn't enough to overcome a flat outing by Edinson Volquez. The Angels jumped all over Volquez for three runs in the second inning and then five more in the fifth. Gio, the former Royal, has finally found an everyday role with the Angels and helped the cause with a three run homer to seal the victory.

WEDNESDAY - APRIL 27 - Royals 2, Angels 4
Key Play: Flat outing by Chris Young allows homers to Mike Trout and Yuniel Escobar

According to when I went to sleep on the 9 p.m. start, the Royals won this game thanks to a first inning two-run bomb by Eric Hosmer. It was only when we all woke up the next morning, that we found that Mike Trout hit a two run homer to tie it and then the Angels’ Escobar hit a go-ahead homer 413 feet away. Chris Young didn't have enough to put the Angels away and the Royals offense ran away and hid following the big fly from Hosmer. The Royals suffered their first series sweep of the year.

FRIDAY - APRIL 29 - Royals 0, Mariners 1
Key Play: Mariners only hit of the game by Seth Smith for a homer off Kris Medlen

If you'd have offered Royals fans the chance for Kris Medlen, the team's fifth starter, to hold the Mariners to one hit and one run you'd jump at it in a second. But the flip side was the Royals offense scattered six hits but couldn't capitalize on any of them including two Mariners errors against King Felix Hernandez. This was definitely a pitching duel that the Royals won on paper, but that's not where the games are played. The Royals extended their losing streak to four games by letting this one get away.

SATURDAY - APRIL 30 - Royals 0, Mariners 6
Key Play: Royals offense limp as scoreless streak stretches to two games

Some guy named Seth Smith has had two homers against the Royals in two games. I'm not even sure he's a real baseball player. The Royals got five hits, but man, this was a turd of a ballgame after Yordano Ventura gave up four runs in the first which mercifully allowed Royals fans to go to bed early. The loss closes the book on April with the Royals only one game above .500 and in third place in the American League Central.

SUNDAY - MAY 1 - Royals 4, Mariners 1
Key Play: Eric Hosmer's solo homer sealed the win

The Royals hadn't scored a run in 27 innings, but Omar Infante broke the streak in the second inning with an RBI single. The Royals appeared much looser Sunday and had a happy flight back home and Ian Kennedy got back above .500 with a 3-2 record holding the Mariners to only one run. Danny Duffy came into the game in the sixth with the bases loaded and no out and only allowed one run to score.

COMING UP
What a stinky road trip. The Royals REALLY haven't played well on the West Coast but get to come home for a brief three game series with the Washington Nationals. Then back out on the road again for a weekend series in Cleveland. All in all, it's not time to panic, but the lack of offense from anyone not named Moustakas or Hosmer has some concerned. Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez look particularly lost at the plate right now. But the Royals are still over .500 and want to remain so for at least the next 30 days to June 1. That's when it starts to get interesting. The Royals will have the benefit of home crowds in May as they have three homestands in May.

 


HOME COOKIN'
Published 4/27/16

A quick six-game series at home before going on a long road trip, but the Royals are still among the top teams in the AL according to record and also offense. Somewhat surprisingly, the White Sox are battling the Royals for first place, but we won't face off against them head-to-head until Memorial Day Weekend. For now, the Royals will take on the always dangerous (although really old) Tigers and the postseason rematch from 2014, the Orioles. The Orioles jumped out to an incredibly hot start and could present quite a challenge to the Royals.

TUESDAY - APRIL 19 - TIGERS 6, ROYALS 8
Key Play: A five RBI night for Salvador Perez

If Kansas City has a soul, it is resting at home plate of Kauffman Stadium. If Kansas City has a smile, it is Salvador Perez. The man who was the subject of one of the most photographed billboards this winter led the charge against Shane Greene and the Tigers, stacking up runs in the early innings. Yordano Ventura hobbled, but managed to get through five innings and took the win. The bullpen didn't look great either as Danny Duffy and Jokim Soria both stumbled in the middle innings. But overall, it was Perez's night, blasting in five RBIs including his second homer of the season.

WEDNESDAY - APRIL 20 - TIGERS 3, ROYALS 2
Key Play: Ian Kennedy takes his first loss allowing only two runs

Ian Kennedy fell to 2-1 on the season, but struck out seven while allowing two runs against the Tigers. The game really wasn't close until the ninth as the Royals made it interesting facing a 3-0 deficit, but blasted back-to-back homers by Alex Gordon and Perez. A ninth inning run by the Tigers in the top of the frame allowed Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod to his friends) to get the save.

THURSDAY - APRIL 21 - TIGERS 0, ROYALS 4
Key Play: Diving catch by Alex Gordon in the third inning

It's silly, really. It's silly watching Alex Gordon sometimes. You start to take it for granted. You begin to minimize what he does every night. Thanks to MLB's Statcast, you can see that he ran 122 feet in a matter of seconds to dive at the base of the left field wall to burglar Justin Upton in the third inning to stop a rally. You laugh as you see him throw Jose Iglesias out at third. One day you'll regret not stopping to marvel at it. Mike Moustakas had his fifth homer of the season and Edinson Volquez threw seven innings of shutout baseball to take the series victory from the Tigers and improve to 10-5 on the year.

FRIDAY - APRIL 22 - ORIOLES 2, ROYALS 4
Key Play: Mike Moustakas has his second homer in as many days, plus two doubles

The Orioles will forever be tied to the 2014 Royals partly because of the managerial matchups between Buck Showalter and Ned Yost. The Chessmaster versus the Dunce as one newspaper coined it. The Dunce was able to prevail Friday thanks to continued power by Mike Moustakas, who hit two doubles and a two-run homer. Chris Young notched his first win of the year as he threw well allowing only two runs and four hits in six innings. Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, and Wade Davis combined for the final three innings and Davis notched his seventh save in 11 wins for the Royals.

SATURDAY - APRIL 23 - ORIOLES 3, ROYALS 8
Key Play: Miniature World Series trophy night leaves team flat

It would be easy to lay the blame at the feet of Kris Medlen who gave up seven runs in just three and 2/3rds innings. But the defense didn't show up either and the offense took the night off as well. Chris Davis provided plenty of offense with a homer and an RBI single and rookie Tyler Wilson made it through five innings for the O's. Sal Perez provided the only offensive highlight with a two-run homer. The sellout crowd did go home with replica World Series trophies but little else as the team played flat in every aspect of the game.

SUNDAY - APRIL 24 - ORIOLES 1, ROYALS 6
Key Play: Yordano Ventura put it all together to go seven innings allowing only one run

Last year, when the Royals jumped out to a huge start, it was the rubber matches - the third game of a tied series - where the Royals would shine. Sunday was no different as Yordano Ventura dazzled the sun-soaked Kauffman crowd by throwing seven complete innings allowing only one run. A Ned Yost “Sunday” lineup with Drew Butera at catcher and Christian Colon coming off the bench paid off in spades. The Royals scored four runs in the seventh inning as Colon had an RBI double and Butera had an RBI double as well. Alex Gordon also had a homer in the game. The Royals take the series from Baltimore and the Chessmaster, who cling to a one game lead in the AL East standings.

COMING UP
The Royals are starting to really connect offensively and that should be extremely concerning to the Anaheim Angels and Seattle Mariners who they play next. Neither the Halos or the M's are playing particularly well right now - both hovering around the .500 mark. Particularly positive for the Royals are the innings and effort they are getting from their starting rotation - thought to be a weakness going into the season. The Royals rank second in the AL (behind Baltimore) in team ERA (3.04). The only real issue so far is that the White Sox simply won't start acting like the White Sox. As of Sunday, they cling to a half-game lead in the AL Central over Kansas City and are knocking the tar off the baseball. Still, it's too early for that kind of scoreboard watching. For now, plan to have some red eyes as you stay up late this week watching the Royals on the West Coast as the Boys in Blue go from home cookin' out to gnarly waves and Randy's donuts.

 


ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Published 4/20/16

The Royals are off to a great opening week but face their first road trip of the season. The next two series feature two teams who were no strangers to the Royals in the postseason the last two years --the Astros and the A's. Both have no love lost for the Royals and the ghosts of years past were all around this week.

TUESDAY - APRIL 12 - ROYALS 3, ASTROS 2
Key Play: Lorenzo Cain's 3-run homer in the first inning

A game like Tuesday's will say a lot about what kind of baseball fan you are. If you're a fan of pitching duels, then once the first inning was over, you were gripped to the edge of your seat as Kris Medlen made his season debut and pitched five innings allowing only two runs in the first. Then the Royals handed the game over to their lockdown bullpen of Hochevar, Herrera, Soria and Davis. But if you're a fan of offense, I hope you were tuned in early because Lorenzo Cain's three run bomb was all there was for the Royals. For me, I'm a fan of wins, so I liked both sides of this game as the Royals extend their record to 5-2 and even the series in Houston.

WEDNESDAY - APRIL 13 - ROYALS 4, ASTROS 2
Key Play: Salvador Perez's eighth inning 2-run homer to take the lead

There were a ton of positives out of Wednesday's game including the continued solid performance of Yordano Ventura who was chased in the sixth inning after giving up a homer to Jose Altuve, but was sparkling prior. The defense continues to sparkle as we saw solid defense from the Royals and a critical error by the Astros Scott Feldman who overthrew first base on a Kendrys Morales chopper. That led to two runs in the inning. But the Royals went ahead for good on the best part of all, a Salvy homer to left field. Joakim Soria recorded his first Royals save since 2011 as well and the Royals lead the series 2-1.

THURSDAY - APRIL 14 - ROYALS 6, ASTROS 2
Key Play: Play of the year by Alcides Escobar turning a diving catch double play
Hey, I get it. This was a game that reminded lots of us of the 2015 Royals. Crushing pitching by Ian Kennedy that was just as dominant as Johnny Cueto. He went seven innings not allowing a hit until the seventh inning. There was a stellar show by the offense scoring five runs in the sixth inning. The inning was a hit barrage stringing together six hits in a row akin to the “keep the line moving” performances in last year's postseason. But the play you're going to be seeing for years to come came in the sixth inning as Marwin Gonzalez blooped a fly into shallow center field. Racing out with his back to the field flew Escobar who went into a slide, caught the ball over the shoulder, then had the presence of mind to fire a strike to Eric Hosmer at first to double off Carlos Gomez. It's one of the best shortstop plays you'll see and yet another reminder of how deadly the Royals are with the leather.

FRIDAY - APRIL 15 - ROYALS 4, A's 2
Key Play: Edinson Volquez notches his second win of the season

The Royals scored two in the first and then left it in the hands of Edinson Volquez. That was more than enough as Volquez only allowed one run. The game was capped off by a 440 foot homer by Eric Hosmer in the ninth inning and the Royals had a relatively easy win against their 2014 Wild Card opponents to start a three-game series.

SATURDAY - APRIL 16 - ROYALS 3, A's 5
Key Play: Josh Reddick's three-run homer in the first, jumping all over Chris Young

Chris Young turned in his third-straight losing performance on Saturday as he now accounts for all of the Royals losses on the young season. It started early with Reddick's homer. Young went into the fifth and allowed four runs. The Royals bats went silent against Oakland ace Sonny Gray who went six, allowing two runs. Gray did struggle in the first allowing a run on a Lorenzo Cain RBI single, but got key strikeouts of Moustakas and Hosmer to end the rally. Former Royal Ryan Madson picked up his third save for the Athletics.

SUNDAY - APRIL 17 - ROYALS 2, A's 3
Key Play: Soria allows triple to Billy Burns who would score on a sac fly in the eighth
The A's played a little Royal-ball coming back from a 2-1 deficit to tie it in the seventh and go ahead in the eighth cancelling out a tremendous pitching performance by Kris Medlen. The Royals dropped their second in a row and lost their first series of the year after a blown save by Kelvin Herrera in the seventh inning. Mike Moustakas had a great day at the plate with a homer in the third inning, but the A's managed to come back and beat the Royals late.

COMING UP
Home cookin' and the Royals are still 8-4 on the year on pace to win 108 games. Plus, they got through their 10 game straight stretch at 7-3. Sure, we did see a few blemishes over the past week, but big crowds and some BBQ should help the Royals as they take on the Tigers and the Orioles - two teams who will factor in the AL Pennant race the rest of the season.

 


DEFENDING THE CROWN
Published 4/13/16

Just a little more pomp and a bit more circumstance before the daily grind settles in and we can all listen to the Royals while mowing our lawns. As the sounds of summer begin to build, there is one more thing to do... hand out the hardware.

TUESDAY - APRIL 5 - METS 2, ROYALS 0
Key Play: Kendrys Morales strike out with the bases loaded in the 6th

Prior to the game, the Royals got to twist the knife one more rotation as they handed out World Series rings to all of the players from last season's team. You could see how much the squad looked forward to this ultimate moment. The game was clearly secondary and the team played like it. It also didn't help that Noah Syndergaard was on the mound with his golden locks flowing in the Tuesday afternoon breeze. Syndergaard held the Royals at bay save one inning where they managed to load the bases. The Mets did all their damage early in the fourth thanks to Neil Walker's first hit as a Met - a two-run homer off of Chris Young. The loss brought the Royals record to .500 for the first time since 2014.

FRIDAY - APRIL 8 - TWINS 3, ROYALS 4
Key Play: Salvador Perez's triple in the 8th to tie the game

The Royals had a very rare two-day break and it seemed like an eternity. But there will be plenty of baseball to come as the Royals now have 10 games in 10 days starting with the team they swept to end the 2015 regular season, the Twins who are winless so far this year. Ervin Santana, who should be no stranger to Royals fans, faced off against Yordano Ventura. Both were touched up in the second as the Royals pulled ahead 2-1 on Reymond Fuentes's RBI single (his first hit as a Royal). Ventura didn't make it out of the sixth inning as he struggled with command and a high pitch count and the Royals trailed heading to the eighth. That's when Salvador Perez drove in Alex Gordon to tie it and Omar Infante sacrificed Perez in to take the lead. That's all that Wade Davis needed - even if he did make it a little interesting - and the Royals handed the Twins their fourth loss and the Royals climbed back above .500.

SATURDAY - APRIL 9 - TWINS 0, ROYALS 7
Key Play: Ian Kennedy's first outing as a Royal going 6 2/3 innings of scoreless ball

Even with basically two Opening Days, the Royals didn't want to stop the party on Saturday. This time they did all their dancing, keeping the line moving as they plated seven runs to keep the Twins winless in 2016. There was plenty of offense including a two-run bomb from Lorenzo Cain following a solo homer by Mike Moustakas. But the star of the night was new Royal Ian Kennedy, who sparkled with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3rds innings of scoreless baseball. Kennedy replaced Johnny Cueto in the rotation and if the Royals can get that consistency that Cueto never seemed to provide, it could make the starting rotation pretty deadly this year.

SUNDAY - APRIL 10 - TWINS 3, ROYALS 4
Key Play: Terrance Gore streaking home after Trevor May buried a passed ball to walk off

Already we've seen some themes from 2015 repeating themselves in this early season. The Royals bullpen has been mostly solid if you remove Joakim Soria from the equation. The defense has been spectacular. And today, you also got to see another glimpse of the Comeback Kids of Kauffman Stadium as they Royals went into the ninth inning trailing 3-1 and manufactured two runs thanks to a Lorenzo Cain single, a triple by Eric Hosmer and a Kendrys Morales sac fly. Then it was Terrance Gore time in the 10th after Christian Colon reached on a walk. Gore pinch ran, then took third on an overthrow to first by May. May then buried a pitch with two outs allowing Gore to rush home for the victory. You saw it probably a dozen times in 2015, but it still looks amazing and the Royals are in first place after the first week of the season.

MONDAY - APRIL 11 - ROYALS 2 - ASTROS 8
Key Play: Colby Rasmus two-run homer in the first off of Chris Young to make it 3-0

I used to always be conflicted watching my favorite team go to someone else's Home Opener. I kind of wanted the fans to see a good show. But the Astros are quickly becoming a team I wish absolutely no love towards. And after last year's ALDS comeback in Game 5, there is no love lost by Houston fans for Kansas City either. So the Astros just wanted this one more. Plain and simple. They'd had this game circled all off-season. The Astros jumped all over Chris Young for three runs in the first inning and then three more in the fourth inning. Young again looked ineffective for the second straight start, going only four and two-thirds, giving up nine hits and six runs. The Royals bats were held in check as well by Colin McHugh. Houston looks to have a team ready to be in the postseason again - and that's where the Royals really want to see them again.

COMING UP
Three more games against the Astros then the Royals head to Oakland to bring Billy Butler a case of BBQ sauce.

 


PREDICTIONS FOR THE AL CENTRAL
Published 4/6/16

The BBQ smoke is starting to rise. The championship banner is high atop the Hall of Fame in left field. Baseball is back! Every week we'll give you a brief recap of all 162 games, plus the playoffs right here exclusively in The Landmark. As there was only one game this week, let's bring you up to speed with the other teams to beat in the AL Central.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
2015 Record: 81-80 - Third place | 2016 89-73, First place

When you look at the Indians, you're looking at likely one of the best rotations in the Major Leagues. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar will be shutting down offenses most of the season. The Indians also have a host of young stars mixed in with some veterans who could hit their way into some close victories. Jason Kipnis at second base has been particularly rough on the Royals in the past.

DETROIT TIGERS
2015 Record 74-87 - Fifth Place | 2016 Prediction 81-81, Third place

Oof. What a dreadful season the Tigers had last year. After owning the AL Central for nearly a decade, the Tigers fell back to earth as they failed to get any starting pitching and their defense was atrocious. Nothing has really changed except the General Manager (Al Avila) and the team is just hoping the stars don't suck quite as bad this season. See: Verlander, Justin. Miguel Cabrera is still squarely in the lineup every day so don't discount this team by any stretch.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
2015 Record 76-86 - Fourth Place | 2016 Prediction 76-86, Fourth Place

Brett Lawrie and his journeyman attitude joins the pale hose this season and adds to a lineup that includes Melky Cabrera and Jimmy Rollins. But the White Sox have never seemed to be able to put that collection of star power together over a full 162. Plus, the Royals have absolutely owned the south-siders. Chris Sale continues to look scary at the top of their rotation, however. Don't sleep on the White Sox this year.

MINNESOTA TWINS
2015 Record 83-79 - Second Place | 2016 Prediction 72-89, Fifth Place

The 2015 seasons was a tale of two seasons for the Twins. They started out awful, but made a strong charge at the end. But the Royals had already run away with the division. I don't see anything changing this year. There were no significant of season additions. Joe Mauer is another year older and their pitching is going to only be good at home. Expect nothing from the Twinkies this season.

SUNDAY - APRIL 3 - METS 3, ROYALS 4
In the first ever rematch on Opening Day from the previous World Series, the Royals made the Metropolitans stew watching World Series highlights for 15 minutes prior to the game. They raised the championship banner in left field and then jumped all over Matt Harvey, scoring two in the first few innings. It was about as good of a start as you could ask. The major difference between these two high-caliber teams was on display right off as Yoenis Cespedes dropped a lazy fly ball in the first inning leading to a run while in the bottom of the frame, Mike Moustakas made a tremendous defensive throw from deep in the hole to bang a runner out. Edinson Volquez had a high pitch count and only went six innings, but looked great doing it. The biggest difference between 2015 and 2016 for the Royals this year is going to be the 7/8/9 back of the bullpen and that was on display as newly acquired Joakim Soria coughed up three runs to let the Mets back into it in the eighth inning. Plus Wade Davis looked a little shaky as the Opening Day closer, allowing two runners on in the ninth before slamming the door for the game 1 victory. In the end, you could see the 2015 Royals, but also start to see some of the cracks forming in case this thing goes south. A win is a win and it was great to see against The Dark Knight.

 


RETAIN THE CROWN
Published 3/30/16

Week 1

Welcome back to our third year of The K Replay.

In the past two seasons, all we've done is bought two straight World Series and a Championship Trophy - so we've got some big shoes to fill here. No small feat. The last time a team made it to three consecutive World Series was the 1988-1990 Oakland A's. But hey, these are the Kansas City Royals. They defy logic and convention.

If you've been hung over since the World Series parade or just out of the loop with the hot stove, here's a pocketbook outline of what's the same and what's changed with your World Champion Royals.

STARTING PITCHERS
Gone is the flammable Johnny Cueto and incoming is Ian Kennedy. Your rotation will likely be Edinson Volquez, Kennedy, Yordano Ventura, Chris Young and Kris Medlen - all known commodities except for Kennedy. As he was signed, he was billed as a poor-man's Cueto - which Dayton Moore seems to have a knack for finding. Ventura is either going to be much matured after his fiery season last year or completely flame out and the back of the rotation will likely have a lot of substitution with AAA arms as they keep a hot hand up.

RELIEF PITCHERS
Gone is Greg Holland with Tommy John surgery and back is Joakim Soria which makes the back end of the bullpen Soria, Kelvim Herrera and Cyborg Wade Davis. The long relievers will include Danny Duffy and potentially Chien-Ming Wang or Dillon Gee. If you can get the game to the seventh with the lead, expect a “W” more times than not.

OUTFIELD
The biggest news is our new free agent. Some guy named Alex Gordon. The kid sounds like he's pretty talented and might cover a lot of ground in the outfield. Add to that the always steady Lorenzo Cain and some type of hybrid of Paulo Orlando, Jarrod Dyson and a minor leaguer. Two-thirds of the outfield will cover more ground than the Pacific Ocean and they all show a great deal of power.

INFIELD
Stop me if you've heard this before. From left to right, Moustakas, Escobar, Infante, and Hosmer. Count the gold gloves. The Royals infield continues to be a strength both on defense and offense.

DH/CATCHER
Kendrys Morales returns as does the guy who is having the most fun of anyone in the history of baseball, Salvador Perez. Expect dongs.

COACHING
The man who is having the second most fun as a World Champion is the nearly giddy Ned Yost. He brings back his entire coaching staff including convincing Rusty Kuntz out of retirement to coach first base for another year. It's almost scary the level of confidence these groups have right now.

FANS
We ready.

INTANGIBLES
As I mentioned earlier, it's damn hard to go to the World Series three times in a row, but when you look around the AL Central, you gotta think the only trouble you'll get would be from the Tigers and maybe a resurgent Cleveland Indians team. The prognosticators are all over the map from the computers hating the Royals (again) and many of the media outlets jumping on the Royals bandwagon.

For the past two years my predictions have been way off so there's no reason to change anything now.

PREDICTION: 86-76. Make Wild Card but lose in the Wild Card round.

 


 

CHAMPIONS
Published 11/4/15

Week 30

Imagine if you made a mistake or got really close to a goal. Let's say you took a test and got an F on it. Now let's assume you spend every day of the next year working toward getting an A on that test. Every morning you are reminded of your F. Every day you have to pass through people who ask you about your F. Will you get an A this year? Will you pass the class? 365 days you wake up and work toward it. Every day you remind yourself that you can get an A.

The Royals were famously 90 feet away in Game 7 last year. They battled against nearly unanimous predictions saying they'd finish in the lower half of the league. Every day they fielded questions about last year's World Series - even after they were charging out to a first place start. Every day you had to go out and fight, sometimes literally. Every day you had only one goal. Could you do it? Your baseball team has. Welcome to the World Series.

TUESDAY - OCTOBER 27 - World Series Game 1
You knew it was going to be special. Well. Wait. Special isn't the word. Weird. You knew the World Series was going to be weird. Well, that's not really it either. Impossible? Amazing? Incredible? Ridiculous? I'm not sure a word exists. The World Series started on an inside the park home run. By Alcides Escobar. The same Escobar who was left to die in the late innings in 2011. The same one who was propped to the top of a lineup in September to provide a spark and when asked why, Ned Yost basically shrugged and said “I dunno.” That Alcides Escobar. Then the television truck lost power. And that was just in the first hour.

Oh, this game would go well past that and stack the memory banks with unforgettable moments. Nearly an entire World Series of “Oooh's” and “Aaahh's” in five hours and 14 innings of baseball. The Mets would take a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning and it would remain until the ninth. Edinson Volquez pitched a gritty game but was knocked out in the sixth. He would enter the locker room where he was told that hours before, his father had passed away tragically. This postseason is all about overcoming adversity and there is no bigger thread than the way the team overcame deficits late in the game. It continued as Alex Gordon strode to the plate in the ninth inning trailing 3-2 and jacked a bomb to dead centerfield to tie it, 438 feet away. The game would continue for another hour and five more innings until Eric Hosmer bat flipped Game 1 into the books with an RBI sacrifice fly. I've left out maybe 30 other key plays and highlights, but the fact remains that last year, the Royals lost Game 1 and never seemed to recover. This year, Game 1 goes to the Royals.
NEW YORK (N) 4 - KANSAS CITY 5 (14 Innings)
Kansas City Leads New York 1-0

WEDNESDAY - OCTOBER 28 - World Series Game 2
This was the game that Dayton Moore signed Johnny Cueto to pitch. Forget the flakiness. Forget showing up to the park late. Forget standing up fans at a paid event at a BBQ restaurant. It was all noise. Dayton Moore got Cueto for one game. Game 2 of the World Series. He got his money's worth. Cueto put in a historically good pitching performance. A complete game two-hitter allowing only one run. The run did give the Mets the lead, but it was only briefly. The Royals offense took it from there and busted out a crooked number in the fourth, thanks to the “keep the line moving” offense of the Royals. Escobar, Hosmer and Moustakas all had RBI singles to score four. They tacked on three more in the eighth which also battered the bullpen of the Mets. It was a sparkling night, much different than the rainy stress-soaked night before. It was Cueto's night and the Royals grabbed for a stranglehold on the series heading to New York.
NEW YORK (N) 1 - KANSAS CITY 7
Kansas City Leads New York 2-0

FRIDAY - OCTOBER 30 - World Series Game 3
Just like the ALCS the week before, all you really needed to do was win one in New York. Then you could wrap it up at home. But if you get a chance to take it in the Big Apple, you do it. Seeds of doubt crept in, however, after Yordano Ventura had a horrible outing in Game 3. The fireballer wouldn't make it out of the fourth inning and gave up five runs which was just too much to overcome for the Cardiac Royals. You got a good chance to see why the Mets were in the World Series in the first place as their offense provided huge homers by David Wright and Curtis Granderson. You also got a taste of a little brouhaha between the Royals and Noah Syndergaard, who solved Alcides Escobar's penchant for swinging at the first pitch by buzzing Escobar under his chin. When asked after the game, Syndergaard, nicknamed “Thor,” simply said that he'd do it again if he had a chance. Well now we've got a series. The Royals bats were quiet and the bullpen definitely got beaten around a bit as the Royals were forced to use seven pitchers. But the six after Ventura only pitched an inning at the most. For Syndergaard, it'll definitely be an interesting return to Kauffman Stadium either in Game 7 or at Opening Day 2015.
NEW YORK (N) 9 - KANSAS CITY 3
Kansas City Leads New York 2-1

SATURDAY - OCTOBER 31 - World Series Game 4
With fathers rushing their children through trick-or-treating in order to make it home for first pitch, the stage was set in New York for a key game in the history of the Kansas City Royals. Win at least one in New York was the challenge, but you had to go through Steven Matz, a hard throwing left-hander. The Royals HATE hard throwing left-handers. For the Royals, you got soft throwing right-hander Chris Young. The Mets LOVE soft throwing right-handers. And they proved it in the third inning scoring two to take the lead against the Royals. Michael Conforto belted two homers in the game and the Royals trailed 3-2 heading into the eighth inning. But this is where the Royals shine. For the seventh time this postseason, the Royals overcame a deficit. It was started by a pair of walks by Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain. With the table set and closer Jeurys Familia in (who blew a save in Game 1), Eric Hosmer dribbled a chopper to second baseman Daniel Murphy who Buckner'd it into right field. Zobrist scored. Tie game. The Royals weren't done there as Mike Moustakas singled in Cain and Salvador Perez singled in Hosmer. Keeping the line moving wasn't just a slogan, it was a heartbeat of the squad. The backbone of the squad, however, is Wade Davis, who came in and plowed through the Mets in the eighth and ninth innings. They got the win in New York. You know what? Why not just take the whole thing while they're here?
NEW YORK (N) 5 - KANSAS CITY 3
Kansas City Leads New York 3-1

SUNDAY - NOVEMBER 1 - World Series Game 5
Call it destiny. Call it intuition. Call it luck. The Royals were winning Game 5. I felt it in my shoes when I got up Sunday morning. I told the guys at the donut shop. I told the guys at the grocery story. I told my Dad when I mowed his lawn earlier in the day. There was no doubt in my mind that the Royals would win Game 5 and take home their first championship trophy in 30 years. Then confidence turned to dread as the innings ticked off. Matt Harvey was throwing fire and the Royals were unable to solve anything. Dread turned to worry. The outs flew by. The Mets wasted no time scoring first off of a Curtis Granderson homer in the first and added a second run from a Lucas Duda sac fly in the sixty. Down 2-0 into the ninth inning worry turned to panic. A Game 6 at home would've meant shaky or brilliant Johnny Cueto and if you lose there, a Game 7 meant really shaky Yordano Ventura. Panic turned to hyperventilation as you saw a great chance slip away. And then it started with a Lorenzo Cain walk in the ninth. Cain steals second easily and Eric Hosmer doubles to score Cain.

Did you ever have one of those cuckoo clocks where it would open and chirp at the top of the hour? My grandmother had one and I would watch it every hour to see the bird pop out, chirp and go back in. The same repetitive motion, but I was enamored with it. I knew it was coming and I couldn't stop watching.

I saw the Cain walk and Hosmer score him to make it 2-1 in the ninth and, just like I had seven times previous in the postseason, felt a little glimmer of something feed through my brain. I'd seen it before. I recognized the signs. But I needed to watch it again. I needed to see the bird pop out and then finish its call.

With one out in the ninth and Eric Hosmer now on third, Perez chopped a ball to third baseman David Wright. An entire college course can be taught on this play as Hosmer studied the pace of Wright's throw. The split second he committed to throwing to first to get a very slow Perez, Hosmer bolted. Off of scouting reports, Hosmer knew that first baseman Duda was an awful fielder and an even worse thrower. He bet the farm on a bad throw and got it. Hosmer scored as the throw went to the screen. The game was tied and heading into extra innings for the second time in the World Series.

Once you went to extras, the little voice in me exploded with “I told you so's”. I told you, Mr. Donut guy. I told you grocery person. In extras, the Royals were going to win. And they did as Christian Colon, in his only World Series at bat, drove in Jarrod Dyson for the winning run. The Royals went on to score four more in the inning and the party began.

Call it destiny, intuition or luck. But you now have to call the 2015 Kansas City Royals World Series Champions.

NEW YORK (N) 7 - KANSAS CITY 7 (12 Innings)
Kansas City Wins the World Series over New York 4-1

WHAT'S AHEAD
Not much. Just a parade, a trip to the White House, offseason discussions with Ben Zobrist and Alex Gordon on contracts and Spring Training 161 days away.

Pretty slow offseason if you ask me.

Thanks for reading this season. Enjoy the championship offseason.

 


UNFINISHED BUSINESS
Published 10/28/15

Week 29

When we last left our Boys in Blue, they were taking care of business against the northmen from another country. So long as Kansas City could pick up one win in Canada, you'd think they'd have a good shot to return to the World Series in back-to-back years. Four games in which to win two games. Two on the road. Two at home. Hold on tight.

TUESDAY - OCTOBER 20 - ALCS Game 4
The Royals really needed a nice loud blowout win and that's exactly what they got on Tuesday afternoon. It started early with a barrage of offense thanks to the resilient top of the order of Alcides Escobar and Ben Zobrist. They jumped all over R.A. Dickey like he owed them money. Escobar singled to start and Zobrist homered. The Royals tacked on two more runs in the first thanks to RBIs by Kendrys Morales and Mike Moustakas. The rout was on from there. An exceptionally solid pitching performance by Chris Young still grieving after his father's death might serve as one of the gutsiest performances of the postseason. The win makes it so much easier for the Royals to pick up that final win and head back to the World Series.
KANSAS CITY 14 - TORONTO 2
Kansas City Leads Toronto 3-1

WEDNESDAY - OCTOBER 21 - ALCS Game 5
The problem most fans had with this game is that they were thinking it was a must win. It wasn't. The Blue Jays simply needed this game way more than the Royals did and played like it. Edinson Volquez was good but not great and the Blue Jays got an absolutely stellar performance from Marco Estrada who kept the Royals quiet all night. The Royals have hit very well in this series and continue to not strike out a lot, but Estrada was able to cause a lot of outs and the only offense provided was a garbage time homer by Salvador Perez. The win sends the series back to Kansas City and is problematic because in Game 6 the Royals will face off against David Price and in Game 7, the Royals would need to use human time bomb Johnny Cueto. Should be fun.
TORONTO 7 - KANSAS CITY 1
Kansas CIty Leads Toronto 3-2

FRIDAY - OCTOBER 23 - ALCS Game 6
I've been to a lot of games at Kauffman Stadium. Big games. Small games. Blowouts. Nail biters. But I've never attended a game quite like the 2015 ALCS Game 6. From the moment you got there, you knew it was going to be a razor thin margin. There were dozens of plot lines - David Price vs. Yordano Ventura; Jose Bautista being held homerless in the ALCS thus far; tight strike zones; impending rain. This game had it all. The Royals opened against David Price with a homer in the first inning by Ben Zobrist into the left field stands. They followed with a Mike Moustakas homer to right center in the second. The ball narrowly cleared the top of the wall as a fan caught it, but after review it was ruled a homer. Price quickly found himself and settled down for a long night. Ventura also allowed Jose Bautista's first home in the third but looked strong as well. It had all the makings of a 2-1 pitcher's duel until the seventh inning. That's when the Royals tacked on another run against Price thanks to an Alex Rios RBI single. The game was 3-1 heading into the top of the eighth. Ventura had wiggled out of trouble in the sixth and Kelvin Herrera had a good seventh. But Ryan Madson was called on to pitch the eighth inning. The decision was very curious and it seems that an impending rain shower played into Yost's decision-making. Regardless, Madson created trouble by giving up a Ben Revere single and then Jose Bautista crushed his second homer of the day deep into the Kansas City night. The homer literally brought rain and ended Madson's night. Wade Davis pitched out of the trouble in the eighth only to find the rain stopping the game.

At this point, there were several things to watch. The game is tied 3-3. The Royals have six outs to win and the Blue Jays have three. After a one hour rain delay, the game came down to one inning. The best offense in baseball against the best bullpen in baseball. The Royals were up first and Lorenzo Cain lofted a single to reach and then one of the most perfect baseball plays you can draw up as Eric Hosmer pulled a looping liner into the corner in right field. Jose Bautista threw into second instead of the cutoff man behind first and Lorenzo Cain was off like a shot. He circled the bases and scored what would be the go-ahead run. He was clocked at first to home in just over 10 seconds.

Then, the game belonged to Wade Davis. Davis had already thrown several pitches prior to the one hour rain delay and it's unheard of to have that long of a layoff and go back out. But Davis, you see, isn't human. He allowed the first two men on and then laid the hammer down--forcing Josh Donaldson into a 5-3 ground out to end the game and send the Royals back to the World Series.
I have never attended a game like that before because the tension was so thick and kept getting tighter from there. But was so incredibly excited to see it unfold the way it did.
TORONTO 3 - KANSAS CITY 4
Kansas City wins ALCS 4-2 and advances to the 2015 World Series vs. the New York Mets

WHAT'S AHEAD
Nothing ahead except the unfinished business of the 2015 World Series against the New York Mets. The two things you need to know about the Mets: their pitchers all throw fireballs and Daniel Murphy is a Babe Ruth lookalike. Expect lots of homers and lots of strikeouts. This should be an amazing Series and if the Royals can keep focused and get just a little more from their starting pitchers, they may have one more champagne shower yet.

 

 


THE UNDEAD
Published 10/21/15

Week 28

A most improbable ALDS Game 4 puts the Royals right back into a chance to capitalize on their home field advantage. Simple. Survive and advance. Lose and set your tee time. Waiting for you should you advance is the Toronto Blue Jays. Let's get it on.

A most improbable ALDS Game 4 puts the Royals right back into a chance to capitalize on their home field advantage. Simple. Survive and advance. Lose and set your tee time. Waiting for you should you advance is the Toronto Blue Jays. Let's get it on.

WEDNESDAY - OCTOBER 15 - ALDS Game 5
No way. No way Houston wins this game off of the incredible performance in Game 4. No way. But heading into the fifth, the Royals were losing 2-1 and Johnny Cueto was pitching a good, but not great game. The Royals offense took it from there, scoring three in the fifth and three more for good measure in the eighth. Cueto went to another level, pitching eight strong innings allowing only two hits. The offense was truly an ensemble effort getting big RBI hits from Eric Hosmer, Alex Rios, Ben Zobrist and a three run homer from Kendrys Morales to ice it. The Royals also displayed this idea of “bunch” hitting where the goal it to just keep the line moving. The line kept moving and the Royals completed moved on. No way was this team going to lose this game. Champagne popped again in Kauffman Stadium as the Royals added another jewel in their pursuits to take the crown.
HOUSTON 2 - KANSAS CITY 7
Kansas City Defeats Houston 3-2 and Advances to the ALCS

FRIDAY - OCTOBER 17 - ALCS Game 1
Steady Eddie Volquez they call him. He's been the rock of the staff all season and is once again called upon in a high leverage situation - the highest he's been called on since he joined the Royals. He rose to the occasion, going six innings allowing only two hits and no runs. He handed the game off to Herrera, Madson, and Hochevar who completed the shutout. The offense also held up their end of the bargain by jumping on Marco Estrada. Alcides Escobar had an RBI double followed by a Lorenzo Cain single scoring Escobar. Then the homer train happened with Perez and Hosmer both homering. A nice, easy victory in Game 1 and a huge momentum chip against one of the hottest teams in the second half.
TORONTO 0 - KANSAS CITY 5
Kansas CIty Leads Toronto 1-0

SUNDAY - OCTOBER 11 - ALDS Game 3
Yordano Ventura. The hopes of a franchise's hopes for a World Series title again rest upon the shoulders of Yordano Ventura. What a calendar year the young man has had. Game 6 World Series starter in a dominant performance. Opening Day starter. Sent to Omaha for less than a day. And now, Game 2 of the ALCS. Ventura didn't disappoint disrupting the Blue Jays in the first five innings, but he did face trouble in the sixth and allowed three runs on eight hits.
The Royals found themselves down three heading into the seventh when they unleashed a barrage of singles, doubles and oppo-knocks. The Royals plated five runs against David Price who was in way too long in the seventh. Price was absolutely unconscious into the seventh, but the wheels fell off fast. Hosmer, Morales, Moustakas, Gordon and Rios all had big RBI's in the five run inning with the crowd taking the momentum and not letting go. Also of note is that the Royals staff kept Toronto batters homer-less in both games in Kansas City. That would likely change in Toronto, but it gives the Royals a commanding lead in the seven game series.
TORONTO 3 - KANSAS CITY 6
Kansas City Leads Series 2-0

MONDAY - OCTOBER 19 - ALCS Game 3
The games get even more important the later they get and in order to become the back-to-back AL Champions, Kansas City is going to need to win in Rogers Center. They wasted no time capitalizing on an Alcides Escobar triple to go up 1-0 in the opening frame. Johnny Cueto was asked to hold down the fort but got into trouble in the second allowing two men on with two out and Toronto was able to capitalize with a two-run double to go up 2-1 by Ryan Goins and then 3-1 on another RBI single by Josh Donaldson. But there is no quit in these Royals as they got another run right back off of a Ben Zobrist double followed up by an Eric Hosmer RBI fielder's choice to make it 3-2. But Cueto wasn't on his game in the first two innings and promptly allowed two men on. That's when Troy Tulowitzki blasted a three run homer to dead centerfield to make it 6-2 along with another run which dumped Johnny Cueto at 7-2. Cueto - with as brilliantly as he pitched in ALDS Game 5 - pitched just as poorly in ALCS Game 3 earning him a very early exit. There were more runs scored after that, but I took a bath. A late KC rally in the ninth fell short, but was impressive and forced the Jays to use Roberto Osuna, the closer late. Other than Cueto's outing, still plenty to be excited about with this club.
KANSAS CITY 8 - TORONTO 11
Kansas City Leads Series 2-1

WHAT'S AHEAD
The Royals have to go .500 over the next four games to advance to the World Series. They had a season long winning percentage of .586 which was the best in the American League. They will be taking on a Blue Jays team that had a winning percentage over .600 down the stretch. Tough task. Only the biggest games remain.

 


THE TOURNAMENT
Written 10/14/15

Week 27

Over the last couple of weeks, and you wouldn't notice it unless you were really looking at it, there was some concern being uttered by the Royals coaches about the September slump. Ned Yost got particularly snippy and short - a sure sign that reporters were zeroing in on key questions about Johnny Cueto's readiness and the team's lackluster hitting. September needed to end and turn to October and it needed to happen right away. Fading fast were any hopes of home field advantage and it wasn't even clear if the team could find three starters worthy of starts in games one, two and three of the playoffs. Yeah, the last few weeks have been troublesome.

MONDAY - SEPTEMBER 28
The Royals were to be enjoying their final day off of the regular season on Monday, but a heavy rainstorm back in May ruined the Saturday game of #RoyalsToWrigley. A smaller, but no less boisterous crowd headed up to Chicago to catch this one and they were treated to a show. You may only see the result - a 1-0 loss on a walk off homer in the 11th by the Cubs and thinK it was a bad game. It wasn't. Let's start with Yordano Ventura who was spectacular. In fact, he was so great in this game, it's very likely we now see him pitching Game 1 of the ALDS. Ventura went seven innings allowing only two hits and struck out six. He gave way to the bullpen that was stellar as well. It didn't seem that the Royals brought their bats, however, as they were stymied by the Cubs who, themselves, were in the middle of a playoff run and had an outside chance to host the NL Wild Card game. Kyle Hendricks and their bullpen kept the Royals limited to only four hits. The Cubs fourth hit, however, was a homer by Chris Denorfria to walk off in the 11th inning off of Miguel Almonte who has already given up three walk offs this season.
KANSAS CITY 0 - CHICAGO (N) 1 (11 Innings)
Home Field Magic Number - 8

TUESDAY - SEPTEMBER 29
On the next to final day of September, the Royals had again made it to October. But they absolutely limped there in the most lackadaisical way possible. And this game was, perhaps, the best example. Alcides Escobar had played awfully the past couple of weeks and failed to run out a strikeout the night before. But he simply let a ball go right through his legs in this one. Jeff Samardzija was throwing darts again at the Royals and their bats remained in their September slumber. Johnny Cueto did pitch slightly better in his next to last tuneup before being the Game 2 starter. He allowed four but the final two runs were the difference. The Royals finish September below .500 and the game meant they lost the home field advantage to the Toronto Blue Jays who had a tremendous September in which they took over first place and are challenging for the best record in the American League. One positive sign was back to back homers by Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales. Something to build off of as they thankfully aim to put September to bed.
KANSAS CITY 2 - CHICAGO (A) 4
Magic Number - 8* (2 behind Toronto)

WEDNESDAY - SEPTEMBER 30
It would take 10 innings, but Kansas City left September with a win. It was Ned Yost who abandoned fancy numbers and lineups based on advanced metrics as he just went back to basics. He couldn't tell you a good reason for putting Alcides Escobar in the leadoff spot - other than the ultimate statistic. The Royals won more games. So he put Esky on top and Alex Gordon down in the eighth spot. Gordon, naturally, hit a homer. No reason for it, but nobody was going to argue because this team needed to wake from its September slumber. Then, it happened. In the 10th inning. Eric Hosmer hit the Royals third homer of the night - a two-run blast which sealed the game thanks to a perfect Wade Davis inning. The game gave the Royals home field for the ALDS as well as put them back in spitting distance for best record in the American League. On the one year anniversary of the greatest game in Royals history - the 2014 Wild Card Game, this one was pretty great, too.
KANSAS CITY 5 - CHICAGO (A) 3 (10 Innings)
Magic Number - 6* (1 Behind Toronto)

THURSDAY - OCTOBER 1
Five minutes into October this time last year, Salvador Perez bent at the waist and slapped a line drive past a diving Josh Donaldson to seal the fate of the Royals and build a well of momentum that took them through this summer. But then the September slump happened and doubt began to creep back into the hearts of Royals fans. Holes were exposed. Cracks developed. But as the calendar again turned to October in Kansas City, the Royals appeared to wake from their slumber. This was Royals baseball. The game featured the same themes we've been talking about all year. Outstanding starting pitching--Kris Medlen was masterful going six innings allowing only one run. Outstanding defense - Medlen and Hosmer connected for a pickoff at first to get Carlos Sanchez to end a rally in the second inning. Timely hitting - Johnny Gomes this time picked up the torch and had three key hits including a sac fly scoring Salvy for his third RBI of the game. Right on cue, the Royals seem to be putting it all together.
KANSAS CITY 6 - CHICAGO (A) 5
Magic Number - 4* (Tied with Toronto)

FRIDAY - OCTOBER 2
Meaningful baseball is fun to watch. But sometimes, late in the season, you could get matched up with a team completely out of it. Not the case with the next three games as the Twins are still clinging to post-season hopes while the Royals will need to run the table to win home field advantage from the Blue Jays and still have the Blue Jays lose two of their next three. Chris Young who was the guy who replaced the guy who replaced the guy this season (Duffy/Guthrie) looked great going six and a third innings against a Twins team who struggled against him. Ben Zobrist doubled to bring home Alcides Escobar in the eighth inning to turn it over to the bullpen. The Royals held serve against the Blue Jays who also won Friday. The win dropped the Twins “tragic number” to 1.
KANSAS CITY 3 - MINNESOTA 1
Home Field Magic Number - 3 (Tied with Toronto)

SATURDAY - OCTOBER 3
You get the sense that the Royals really did just need to flip a switch. Since Yost put Escobar into the leadoff spot earlier in the week, the team hasn't lost. Saturday, they eliminated the Twins from post-season contention and pulled ahead of the Blue Jays for home field with a commanding 5-1 victory. Yordano Ventura, now in line to be the Game 1 starter looked simply overpowering as he struck out 11 in seven innings of work. The Royals scored four times in the seventh inning including an Escobar triple. The win set up a climactic Sunday for game 162 as home field advantage hangs in the balance.KANSAS CITY 5 - MINNESOTA 1
Home Field Magic Number - 1

SUNDAY - SEPTEMBER 27
Major League Baseball has done a very good job with the final day of the regular season. This year, all games started at the exact same time (similar to the way European soccer does it) so that everyone can go full out. The final day still had several MLB storylines yet to be resolved including the AL Wild Card participants, the AL West champion and who the Royals would play in round one and where the Royals would play game 1 of the ALCS if they make it that far. The Blue Jays make one of those answers easy early on as they go shelled in the first inning effectively clinching home field advantage and the best record in the AL for the Royals. But notching a 95th win for the Royals would be significant. They complied. Johnny Cueto also flipped the switch and pitched very well in his final tuneup for the postseason allowing only one run in five innings of work. Alex Rios and Salvador Perez both had two-RBI games and the Royals had a nice, easy Game 162 and notched their 95th win of the season - the most since the 1980 team and the teams third-best win total. They won the AL Central by 12 games over the second place Twins. Except for that September slide, you could make an argument that it was the most dominant Royals performance since the 1977 team. The late-season additions of Ben Zobrist, Jonny Gomes and even the anti-climactic Johnny Cueto have all made the team better and have propped up Cain, Gordon, Hosmer and Moustakas. Exactly the way the Royals wanted to go out.
KANSAS CITY 6 - MINNESOTA 1
Home Field Magic Number - 0 - Clinched

WHAT'S AHEAD
Quite simply, everything. Reset it all. Start back at one. Tuesday's Wild Card game will determine who the Royals play Thursday. It will be either Houston or New York. Both have strengths and weaknesses but the Royals should win in no more than four. This is partly due to analysis and partly due to the fact that I have Game 5 tickets. If the Royals have, indeed, flipped the switch, they can bulldoze through the playoffs like a warm knife through butter. But if they look like the early September Royals, this could be an early exit.

 


DIVISION CHAMPS
Written 9/30/15

Week 25

Inevitability is a strange thing. When something is inevitable, it takes on a life of its own. It becomes a fixed point in time and carries stress and anxiety about it. If you know you have a math test on Monday, you now start to fixate on Monday. I used to get super sick before big tests. It seems that the Royals have had their own sickness surrounding their inevitable win of the American League Central division - which would be the team's first in their history.

TUESDAY - SEPTEMBER 22
The Seattle Mariners are a terrible baseball team. Full of washed ups and never were's. The Royals should've had their way with them. Enter Jeremy Gurthie to the ranks of “washed up” as he allowed approximately a million runs in the first three innings (not getting out of the third) and making it a joke before I even got my second hot dog. Yes, I was in attendance at this turd and for the first game back after a long road trip, the crowd was understandably excited to see some pennant winning baseball. It didn't happen as Ned Yost put in everyone other than the bat boy after the fourth inning. The upside is that our days of seeing Guthrie in anything other than a high school baseball coach's uniform are few.
SEATTLE 11 - KANSAS CITY 2
Magic Number - 3

WEDNESDAY - SEPTEMBER 23
You really have to stop and marvel at the story of Lorenzo Cain sometimes. A kid who didn't even start playing baseball until a few years ago - and then wins the AL Championship Series MVP award last year. Cain was again the hero in this one as the scored the tying run in the ninth inning, and then drove in the winning run with a walk-off single in the 10th. Cain gapped a single and Paulo Orlando streaked home from second in 7.29 seconds reaching a maximum speed of 21.3 MPH (thanks Stat Cast) and with it, drew the Magic Number to 2. The day started with terrible news, however, as it was learned closer Greg Holland would be lost for the rest of the season (and likely all of next year) with a Tommy John injury. Wade Davis took the promotion in stride coming in in the 9th and notching his eighth victory of the season.
SEATTLE 3 - KANSAS CITY 4 (10 Innings)
Magic Number - 2

THURSDAY - SEPTEMBER 24
Now THIS feels like fall baseball. The night begins with you pulling up two websites - the MLB Gameday for the Twins game and Twitter. Then you tune the television to the Royals game. You make yourself an adult beverage and you settle in for history. It happened in the exact correct order also as the Twins dropped their game to the Tigers and the Royals began to pull away from the Indians late. A huge offensive outburst combined with a good but not great outing by Johnny Cueto equaled a drop in the Magic Number by two which made it zero which meant the Kansas City Royals were AL Central Division champions for the first time in their history and division champions for the first time in 30 years. The win was significant in many respects, but none moreso than for Dayton Moore, the general manager of the club who simply asked fans to trust the process nearly a decade ago. This was the payoff of that promise and one that many Royals fans will openly tell you they didn't think would ever come. While there's still much work to be done, this is a significant date in Royals history.
SEATTLE 4 - KANSAS CITY 10
Magic Number - 0

FRIDAY - SEPTEMBER 25
It's kind of neat to share a sports experience with a group of people where all you have to say is the nickname of a particular game and you're instantly transported to that time and date to relive those memories. We had it last year with the Wild Card game. You can also say the same is true for negative game. Say “Lin Elliot game” to any Kansas Citian over the age of 30 and watch their face droop. Friday's game will forever be called the Hangover Game because of the lack of first team Royals to participate in it. Only Alex Rios was a regular and a mish-mash of Omaha Storm Chasers combined for 15 strikeouts against Carlos Carrasco. Edinson Volquez also looked like he was working through a little bubbly hangover as he gave up three home runs. With the division crown won, the Royals now have a new Magic Number - this time for home field and it shows a slim one game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays for home field advantage.
CLEVELAND 6 - KANSAS CITY 0
Home Field Magic Number - 9

SATURDAY - SEPTEMBER 26
Well, at least the starters returned to the field in this one, but the result was the same as the Royals dropped their second straight after clinching the division title. Poor defense, light hitting and poor pitching by Kris Medlen led to an outburst of runs by the Indians. Jose Ramirez was a homer shy of the cycle while his team was still fighting their chances of making a wild card game with limited games left and two teams to pass. The Indians wanted it more than the Royals on Saturday night and with Toronto winning again, KC saw themselves in a tie with Toronto now for the best record in the American League.
CLEVELAND 9 - KANSAS CITY 5
Home Field Magic Number - (9)

SUNDAY - SEPTEMBER 27
Sports is many things - it's an escape; it's a way to engage; it's a way to have hope. But sports is also a reflection of life and, in many respects, a reflection about how to live through adversity. At it's core, baseball is about overcoming failure and overcoming when life takes away. On Sunday afternoon, Royals starter Chris Young was 18 hours removed from learning that his father had suddenly passed away. Young was given the choice to leave and be with his family, but he chose to stay to “honor his father” as he put it through a statement. Young had already been through so much in the past few years overcoming major shoulder surgery and fighting back to barely make the Royals roster out of Spring Training. Nobody would've blinked an eye if he went home or even if he pitched poorly with so much emotion through him. But Chris Young showed us all how to overcome adversity on Sunday afternoon as he pitched his ass off. He pitched five scoreless and hitless innings in the hours after learning about his father's passing. The Royals went on to win the game 3-0 with the bullpen only allowing one hit. It was an inspiring afternoon to say the least - one that Chris Young's father would have been proud of.
CLEVELAND 0 - KANSAS CITY 3
Home Field Magic Number - 8

WHAT'S AHEAD
One more week to go in the regular season. This team has more questions now than they did a month ago including whether they'll have home field through the playoffs. Other questions include their final batting lineup (they used three different leadoff hitters this week.) They also need to determine their three-man pitching rotation through the ALDS and win more games than the Blue Jays who never seem to lose anymore. Don't be surprised, however, if the Royals concede home field in favor of final rests for nagging aches and pains for their key guys. This team will go to the World Series if Johnny Cueto pitches well and the Royals can continue posting more runs than any other team in the AL. Home field will make little difference ultimately.

 


ANGER AND RAGE
Written 9/23/15

Week 24

No. You didn't “miss” a K Replay last week. I mean, sure, there wasn't a K Replay last week, but it's not like you missed anything. Every time I sat down to update you on our favorite MLB baseball team, my fingers filled with rage and the words included too many curse words. What has happened to this baseball team? A team known for pitching, defense and bursts of offense isn't hitting anything, their defense has had some holes and oh, man... that pitching. The Royals went 2-4 last week and their Magic Number was still in the double digits and the lead for home field advantage in the playoffs was in the single digits. Royals fans are panicking and that's where we pick up our story.

MONDAY - SEPTEMBER 14
If there's a team that you'd like to get healthy against, it's Cleveland. We've mentioned it here before, but Cleveland was the media darling to win it all this season and now they're a week away from being eliminated. But the Royals couldn't take advantage as Lonnie Chisenhall was able to drive in 3 RBI's against Edinson Volquez who had a poor performance (this is a theme, don't worry) and the Royals bats couldn't come up with enough offense.
KANSAS CITY 3 - CLEVELAND 8
Magic Number - 11

TUESDAY - SEPTEMBER 15
A collective sigh was heard in Kansas City Tuesday night after the Royals put together their first victory in what seemed like weeks. And they did it the old fashioned way (old fashioned meaning late 2014.) Strong pitching from Kris Medlen in the first shutout since Johnny Cueto (remember him?) Medlen went 6 1/3 and twas then picked up by a very shaky Greg Holland for the save. The offense was provided by a Salvador Perez RBI single and an Alex Rios home run. Defense also played a big part in this one as Mike Moustakas made yet another spectacular play off of third - diving into foul ground to catch a foul ball. Pitching, offense and defense. Sound familiar? Additionally a loss by Minnesota to Detroit pushed the Magic Number down two games.
KANSAS CITY 2 - CLEVELAND 0
Magic Number - 9

WEDNESDAY - SEPTEMBER 16
Kansas City jumped right back out on to the ledge Wednesday night as Danny Duffy didn't make it out of the third inning. He pitched so poorly, he likely lost a starting job for the rest of the year (that was confirmed Thursday morning that he'll be replaced by Jeremy Guthrie.) Duffy gave up five runs and pitched very poorly in this one. Franscisco Lindor had four RBI's, but the Magic Number did fall a game thanks to the Twins loss.
KANSAS CITY 1 - CLEVELAND 5
Magic Number - 8

THURSDAY - SEPTEMBER 17
One of the Royals public enemies this season has been Omar Infante. He limped through the postseason last year nursing a shoulder injury. This year he's been pretty awful at the plate but his defense has always been outstanding, so Ned has been reluctant to sit him. Well, Infante single handedly won Thursday's game while cutting the Magic Number to six. Infante was two shy of the club RBI record as he was responsible for driving in seven RBI with a double, a single and a homer. The Royals also continued their barrage against last year's Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber. Kluber has been great this year except against the Royals. Kluber only went four innings and the Twins also lost. For one night, Infante was OmaRBI and the Royals earned a split of a big four game series.
KANSAS CITY 8 - CLEVELAND 4
Magic Number - 6

FRIDAY - SEPTEMBER 18
If there's one thing I personally hate, it's losing to the Tigers. If there's another thing I hate it's watching them win in a walk off. If there's a third thing I hate, it's watching Greg Holland struggle. Holland has seemed “off” all season long although the results certainly indicate he's still the same Greg Holland. But his velocity is noticeably down and he has allowed a lot of baserunners in his saves. Well, Manny Machado hit a walk-off single after Holland loaded the bases in the bottom of the 12th inning in a game threatened by light outages and rain. Salvador Perez pulled the game from the fire with a late homer, but Holland crapped the bed and the Royals dropped a game to the worst team in the AL Central.
KANSAS CITY 4 - DETROIT 5 (12 Innings)
Magic Number - 6

SATURDAY - SEPTEMBER 19
Wait, didn't we just do this last night? Didn't we watch the Tigers walk off last night? Shouldn't that have been the only bright spot in Detroit sports for the year? Well, with the entire bullpen taking the night off, the Royals once again forced extra innings and, once again, allowed the Tigers to walk off. Ian Kinsler, this time, hit a homer off of rookie Danny Almonte. This was actually the second time in the game the Tigers thought they'd walked off because of a play at the plate in the ninth where Salvador Perez narrowly clipped the toe of Ian Kinsler - but it was Kinsler who had another chance in the 11th and belted it to left field for the victory. Thanks to a double-header sweep of the Twins by the Angels, the Magic Number did drop to four. Small consolation to watching the Royals drop two games in this fashion.
KANSAS CITY 5 - DETROIT 6 (11 Innings)
Magic Number - 4

SUNDAY - SEPTEMBER 20
Consistent. Ned Yost has always been consistent. He was asked after dropping two heartbreaking games over the weekend if he was worried. “Of course not.” He has been consistent in his approach since day one. The Royals will be the eventual American League Central Champions. The Royals will play in the postseason. And, according to Yost, the Royals will flip the switch when they need to and start playing like they played the first four months of the season. Sunday's game gave some credence to that consistency as the Royals went off against the Tigers in an offensive barrage. Kendrys Morales has also been consistent this season - what an upgrade from Billy Butler. But nobody could've expected Morales to hit a career high three homers and a franchise high 15 total bases as he went 4-4 with three homers and a triple. The outburst put the AL Central clinch in the crosshairs for early in the week and certainly gave the Royals the infusion of confidence to finish out the season with their switch flipped to “ON.”
KANSAS CITY 10 - DETROIT 3
Magic Number - 3

WHAT'S AHEAD
A great week ahead as the Royals will become the AL Central champs for the first time in their history. The Royals still have a number of question marks heading into the postseason including homefield advantage, Johnny Cueto, their bullpen and their slumping offense. But this upcoming week is their final homestand and a great opportunity to get healthy and get some downhill momentum into October.


SPEED BUMP
Written 9/9/15

Week 22

Never forget that until the final out is called, the sharks are always circling. They never stop. Always waiting for you to slip up. The Royals are actually in the most tenuous portion of their season--out to a nearly insurmountable lead. And that's the problem “nearly” insurmountable isn't “completely” insurmountable and all the websites in the world can say the Royals are 100% locks for home field advantage and the playoffs, but until the umpire says “out,” and that magic number drops to zero, it's all still in play. The Royals take on two AL Central foes this week who are both buried in the standings, but still dangerous. We start with the Royals Magic Number at 20.

TUESDAY - SEPTEMBER 1
When do you recognize that a problem is a problem? Well, it looks like Johnny Cueto might be or have a problem. The Royals lost in the seventh game that Cueto has pitched in since joining the club. He looked uninspired, flat and, well, not good. The Tigers jumped Cueto for three runs in the first two innings and another in the fourth--effectively knocking him out of the game. He went on to pitch six innings allowing nine hits and only striking out two. The Royals offense tried to pull back into the game as a rejuvenated Alex Gordon got back into the swing with a double and an RBI. Kendrys Morales homered off of Justin Verlander in the fourth, but there just wasn't enough offense late in the game to overcome Cueto's day on the mound. This is now his third poor start in a row and many in Royals nation are wondering if he is, indeed, the man to start Game 1 of the playoffs.
DETROIT 6 - KANSAS CITY 5
Magic Number - 20

WEDNESDAY - SEPTEMBER 2
Fun baseball is fun. This game was fun from the opening inning as Ben Zobrist smacked a homer in the first. The game had an incredible display of offense including a five run fourth and a three run fifth as the Royals used Randy Wolf as a pinata - touching him up for eight runs in three and 2/3rds innings. The game also featured a stellar appearance by Yordano Ventura, although it was kind of wasted because of the offensive barrage. But Ventura went seven innings allowing only one run striking out 11 - which ties his career total - that he set last week. All told, the Royals had homers from Zobrist, Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales and Cheslor Cuthbert (his first career homer.) It was one of those games that was just fun all the way around.
DETROIT 1 - KANSAS CITY 12
Magic Number - 19

THURSDAY - SEPTEMBER 3
One year ago on this date, the Royals and the Tigers were tied for first place in the AL Central. Jump ahead 365 days and the Royals are 20 games ahead of the Tigers and announced clearly who the big dog was in the division was on Thursday. Edinson Volquez had an uncharacteristically poor outing though only going three innings and allowing six - including three in the first inning. But the Royals bats were enough to dig out of the opening hole. The Royals took advantage of the hot temperatures and the ball flying out of Kauffman Stadium as Cain and Paulo Orlando both had homers and the seventh inning featured a six run effort with RBIs by Zobrist, Hosmer, Morales and the Orlando homer. The Royals scored double digits for the second time in two nights and
DETROIT 7 - KANSAS CITY 15
Magic Number 17

FRIDAY - SEPTEMBER 4
The theme for the Kauffman Stadium on Friday was “Zombie Night” and it certainly appeared that the Royals played their part. They say the baseball gods are fickle. And they are. They giveth and taketh. Kris Medlen had enjoyed a string of solid outings as he had been moved to the starter's role over the past month. That ended Friday as he was touched up for seven runs over five and 2/3rds and Jeremy Guthrie gave up another five in what is probably his last appearance as a Royal. The Royals bats were out to lunch and the Royals drop a tough one against the White Sox.
CHICAGO (A) 12 - KANSAS CITY 1
Magic Number 16

SATURDAY - SEPTEMBER 5
Remember all that drama with the White Sox to open the season this year? Well, some of that passion could've helped the Royals offense as they dropped a second in a row to Chicago thanks to some awful offense and a couple of mistake pitches by Danny Duffy. Duffy now stands at 7-7 on the year, and that's pretty representative of how he has pitched this year. Not great. Not awful. But on this night, the longball was his enemy giving up homers to Alexei Ramirez and Giovanni Soto. The Royals had next to no offense as they were stymied by Jose Quintana and the White Sox bullpen.
CHICAGO (A) 6 - KANSAS CITY 1
Magic Number 16

SUNDAY - SEPTEMBER 6
If the Johnny Cueto meltdown index was red at the beginning of the week, it was blinking and flashing red after Sunday's performance. Cueto absolutely wilted under the 96 degree Sunday heat at Kauffman and only got through the third inning. He allowed three runs in the first off of RBI hits by Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia. From there, Cueto finished the implosion in the third giving another two runs away on an Adam LaRoche RBI single and a Rob Brantly sac fly. The bats continued their weekend vacation only slightly appearing at the end of the game, making it interesting in the sixth with homers from Jarrod Dyson and Mike Moustakas. It is the first time the Royals have been swept at home this season and marks their lowest point since the All-Star Break. Fans are frustrated with Cueto and for good reason as he's only really had two good performances and get this stat courtesy of @KCRoyalFan on Twitter: Cueto has been the starter in 11% of the Royals losses despite only having eight starts. Not “ace” material for sure.
CHICAGO (A) 7 - KANSAS CITY 5
Magic Number 15

WHAT'S AHEAD
The Royals have a good problem to have--being way up in September with not much to play for. The veterans are coasting through the first week of the season and Ned Yost is resting a lot of guys so there's not any consistency with the lineups. It's a good problem to have, but it's still a problem. While it's pretty unlikely this will affect the ultimate standings race and the Royals are still the unanimous favorites to have home field advantage through the playoffs, they need to clinch it and get back into the rhythm we saw in July and August. That solution might be coming soon as the Minnesota Twins are coming to town and every victory against them is worth two to the Magic Number. Plus we've owned them this year. I predict a huge week ahead as cooler temperatures should help the Royals get back in the winning way.

 

 


WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
Written 9/2/15

Week 21

There's this great speech to start the final scene in the classic comedy Animal House with John Belushi's character imploring his fellow frat brothers to strike back against the powers that have suppressed them for so long. But just prior, the brothers are sitting around, waiting and one of the dumb looking ones turns to the other dumb looking one and says “Well what the hell we supposed to do, ya moron?” I feel like we've reached that lull before the final scene. The battles have been won. The flag has been captured. But there is still the war to win. What are we supposed to do for the next 30 days? In the past, we'd be well out of the pennant race and obsessing about preseason Chiefs games. Last year, we were waiting on every breath through the Wild Card game. This year, it's all but wrapped up. 27 games above .500. 12 games ahead in the division. Five or six games up for home field. What the hell we supposed to do, ya moron?

MONDAY - AUGUST 24
The answer to the hypothetical above, of course, is to wait, practice and get healthy. But here's the funny thing, Ned is doing all of these things and you'd kind of expect the team to slack off or go on a short losing streak. Nope. The Royals are playing at a .600 winning clip since Alex Gordon's injury in July and the winning continued on Monday night as the squad busted out for a seven run sixth inning. Kris Medlen made his first start in two years, and got the win as he pitched into the seventh. Mike Moustakas is absolutely unconscious right now as he hit a two run homer in the sixth that was blasted over the right-center wall. The game also featured the advancement of one of the few subplots left in the season - the play of rightfielder Alex Rios and second baseman Omar Infante. Both have been playing like garbage the last several months and last week, Ned Yost called both out, stating both needed to play better. They responded by going 9 for 18 over the past several games including contributions by both in the Monday night victory.
BALTIMORE 3 - KANSAS CITY 8
Magic Number - 26

TUESDAY - AUGUST 25
The Royals jumped ahead early again in this one as Kendrys Morales hit a tremendously long homer in the second inning. They did one of those Statcasts on it from MLB.com and Morales took the 92 MPH Eddie Gonzalez fast ball into the right center upper fountains at 112 MPH. It hung in the air 5.19 seconds and traveled an estimated 469.1 feet. That's pretty cool. Plus, the Royals won the game, which is even cooler. Mike Moustakas followed up with another RBI in third inning and the Royals held on to win this one thanks to Danny Duffy taking it into the seventh and Wade Davis picking up his 12th save of the year.
BALTIMORE 2 - KANSAS CITY 3
Magic Number - 25

WEDNESDAY - AUGUST 26
If we're going to praise Morales's 461 foot homer, we need to at least acknowledge that the Orioles hit five home runs in Wednesday's victory - including a 484 foot homer by Jonathan Schoop. Schoop was one of the few bright spots for the Orioles all week and this blast helped propel his team to avoid a sweep. Johnny Cueto turned in his second straight weak outing allowing three of the five homers (the other two, not surprisingly, off of Jeremy Guthrie). And a number of Chicken Littles on the Internet were already calling for Cueto to be demoted or take off the postseason roster. Cool your jets. Let's see if this is a trend, or just an air pocket. Regardless, he got batted around pretty good. Off night for the offense. Go for the series sweep tomorrow.
BALTIMORE 8 - KANSAS CITY 5
Magic Number - 25

THURSDAY - AUGUST 27
And a series victory is just what they got, too. As the Royals have lost only two series since the All-Star Break. The even better news is that Yordano Ventura is starting to look like postseason Yordano (a.k.a. “Ace Ventura”) as he went six strong innings and struck out 11.The Royals hit four doubles, a triple by Omar Infante and a homer by Paulo Orlando as the Royals jumped to 28 games above .500 on the season. It also capped a repeat performance of the Chessmaster (Buck Showalter) being beaten by the Dunce (Ned Yost) as a Baltimore newspaper exclaimed last year during the ALCS.
BALTIMORE 3 - KANSAS CITY 5
Magic Number 23

FRIDAY - AUGUST 28
You know what's fun? Home runs. I can't tell you how much I've missed home runs over the past 20 years of following the Royals. Oh sure, fans, players and managers will tell you that Kauffman Stadium is not a good hitter's ballpark so you won't see a lot of home runs - but the Royals have managed to hit them both at home and on the road this season - including another Kendrys Morales tape measure job that actually hit the outer support ring of the roof of Tropicana field. All the scoring in the game was done by the third inning and then Edinson Volquez took over - going six 2/3 innings and turning it over to the best bullpen in baseball as Greg Holland shook off a rocky performance on Thursday to lock down the ninth inning for his 29th save.
KANSAS CITY 3 - TAMPA BAY 2
Magic Number 22

SATURDAY - AUGUST 29
This one was just fun to watch. Pitching. Hitting. Defense. Royals Baseball. Mike Moustakas continued his hot hitting as he drove in three in the victory. He's had 14 RBI in his last 7 games. Kris Medlen improved to 3-0 on the season after his second strong start this week. Moose again made the highlight reel with a diving stab to his right to throw out a runner in the fifth. It's the perfect formula and we've seen it a bunch this season. This team almost makes it look easy. The Royals improve to 31 games above .500 and are on pace for 100 wins which would make it only the second team in franchise history to do so.
KANSAS CITY 6 - TAMPA BAY 3
Magic Number 21

SUNDAY - AUGUST 23
Sometimes you lose, too. And this one had “take a nap on the couch” written all over it. While the score in this one was close (Luke Hochevar gave up the game leading home run) it never felt close and the Royals seemed to be looking forward to a day off and the start of a 9 game homestand back in Kansas City. Additionally, September 1 would mark the traditional expansion of the rosters from 25 to 40 as well as the long-awaited return of Alex Gordon from a groin injury. Yeah, we can let this one slide. Heck, the Magic Number even fell after Minnesota lost.
KANSAS CITY 2 - TAMPA BAY 3
Magic Number 20

WHAT'S AHEAD
For years, we stared and squinted at this team in Spring Training. “If Mike Sweeney could just hit for average.” “If Jermaine Dye could hit for more power.” “If Tony Pena Jr. could defend shortstop the way he was promised.” “If Brian Anderson could just pitch like a number three starter once.” This team would turn out pretty good. Well, you're getting all of those wishes this year. Long maligned players like Moustakas and Hosmer aren't just hitting for average, they're crushing the ball. Defensive plays happen daily by Salvador Perez and Alcides Esobar. Kris Medlen, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, and Edinson Volquez are all pitching really well down the stretch. Even pick ups like Kendrys Morales and Johnny Cueto are excelling. Just about everything is working right now and the Royals are playing with house money.

The key, as I mentioned above, is to find that right mixture of rest, timing and passion to get through September with some downhill momentum into the AL Division Series, the Championship Series and, God willing, the World Series. Stay tuned.

 


MAGIC
Written 8/26/15

Week 20

Almost overnight, you felt the temperature shift and the sun grew lower in the sky. Talk of football and going back to school was overshadowed by the team that never says die. The 2015 Kansas City Royals are doing things that are nearly indescribable in their franchise's history. The team that could rival the 100 win 1977 team and the team that could reach a World Series for the second straight year. But ask anyone between the lines and they'll tell you that it won't be enough until a championship banner is hung. This team is magic. But can the magic last through the first week in November?

TUESDAY - AUGUST 18
The Reds are a bad baseball team. They have one of the worst records in baseball, but also have some of the most talent. Let's take Aroldis Chapman who throws harder than any other player in the game today. Constantly around 102 and 103 mph, Chapman was the one who made Mike Moustakas look more mouse than man in the All-Star Game. The Kansas City Royals are a very good baseball team. They have consistently found ways to win against those not as good. This was a perfect example on Tuesday, with a 1-1 tie headed into the 13th inning. A Jarrod Dyson leadoff single was followed by a Kris Medlen sacrifice bunt. Because the Reds are bad, they threw the ball away allowing Dyson to score. Then Aroldis Chapman faced off against Ben Zobrist. On paper, this is a mismatch. Zobrist is great, but Chapman is incredibly great. Naturally, Zobrist smacked a hit to push across another run. The error and the hit snapped a 56 game save streak for Chapman and the victory pushed the Royals ever closer to October baseball.
KANSAS CITY 3 - CINCINNATI 1 (13 Innings)
Magic Number - 31

WEDNESDAY - AUGUST 19
The Royals are the third team in baseball with the most runs in the first inning. They have consistently done this all season and Wednesday was no different as Eric Hosmer and Zobrist both had RBIs in the first inning to jump out ahead. They also scored two more in the second inning thanks to a Lorenzo Cain two run double. Jeremy Guthrie pitched what is likely his last start as a Royal going only four and a third and allowing three runs on seven hits. But the scoring stopped there and the defense took over, including a Dyson leap to rob a homer in the fifth. Luke Hochevar looked fantastic in the bridge role out of the bullpen and Wade Davis picked up his 10th save of the year as the Royals won another close on in the Queen City.
KANSAS CITY 4 - CINCINNATI 3
Magic Number 29

THURSDAY - AUGUST 20
The weekend brought a more difficult opponent for the Royals - at least from a historical standpoint. The Red Sox are another team scuffling this season. On Thursday they announced the reassignment of their general manager and hiring of Dave Dombrowski to run their new baseball operations. The club is in turmoil and big free agent signings including Pablo Sandoval haven't panned out. But the Red Sox absolutely club the Royals in Fenway. You'll recall last season when they got swept in a huge series last July forcing the infamous Raul Ibanez closed door meeting. Well the troubles continued in Fenway this season as the Royals dropped the opener thanks to a lackluster performance by Danny Duffy and nonexistent hitting by the Royals offense. Duffy's performance was particularly concerning as he has yet to be able to string together good outings. Mike Moustakas had the lone offensive highlight as he hit a solo homer in the fifth inning. The only caveat to this game was that the Royals got into Boston at 6 a.m. thanks to a rain delay in Cincinnati the night before - so playing flat was probably understandable.
KANSAS CITY 1 - BOSTON 4
Magic Number 29

FRIDAY - AUGUST 21
The biggest concern all season has been the pitching rotation. The team's defense is all-world. The offense is relatively consistent and the bullpen is among the best in baseball. But if you get a string of bad outings by your good pitchers, this team can look incredibly uninspiring. Johnny Cueto had one of those outings in Boston as he allowed seven runs (six earned) along with 13 hits in a dud of a performance. Maybe Cueto didn't get a chance to catch up on his sleep or maybe he is allergic to the Green Monster. Regardless, this snapped a string of outstanding appearances for Cueto. The offense couldn't get anything going either and the Royals dropped their second in Beantown.
KANSAS CITY 2 - BOSTON 7
Magic Number 29

SATURDAY - AUGUST 22
A couple of late nights in Cincinnati and Boston really put the offense into a spin, but they came out of it in a big way on Saturday. The Royals again jumped out with two runs in the first inning from a Kendrys Morales two run double. Morales has been incredibly clutch this season and now has 33 doubles on the year. Yordano Ventura has been pretty inconsistent this season, but has run together a good string of outings - this was no different as he went six innings and allowed only one run on six hits and a walk. The sixth inning was the difference maker in this game, however as Salvador Perez blasted a three run homer to put this one out of reach. Greg Holland got his 28th save and the Royals Magic Number dropped yet again. It's amazing what a couple of good nights of sleep will do for you.
KANSAS CITY 6 - BOSTON 3
Magic Number 28

SUNDAY - AUGUST 23
Because Kansas City has normally jumped out early in games, one of the things they haven't needed to do too often is come back in a ball game. Edinson Volquez had a pretty miserable outing as he allowed six runs on nine hits and the Royals trailed 6-4 into the final inning of the ball game. But the Royals proved that coming back is still a tool in their toolbox. One of the major reasons was Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, who both had RBIs in the four run top of the ninth. Hosmer's was a single allowing Alcides Escobar and Drew Butera to score on a three ring circus of errors by the Red Sox. This tied the game. Moustakas doubled scoring Cain and Hosmer. The game featured examples of why the Royals have the best record in the American League and the Red Sox have one of the worst - as the Sox threw the game away on the Hosmer RBI and Wade Davis locked up the bottom of the ninth for his 11th save of the year. Moustakas went 3-5 and had four RBI (a season high for him.) Just like that a .500 week turns into a 4-2 week and the Royals Magic Number drops lower and lower.
KANSAS CITY 8 - BOSTON 6
Magic Number 27

WHAT'S AHEAD
A rematch of the Chessmaster vs. the Dunce is on tap Monday through Thursday. Buck Showalter's Orioles are sitting right at .500 and scrapping for the final Wild Card spot. You'll recall the Royals last faced the O's in the ALCS as they were spanked in a four game sweep allowing the Dunce to best the Chessmaster. Since then, the Orioles have struggled to keep pace in the AL East, sitting six games out of first behind the Yankees and Blue Jays. The tail end of the week features a rematch with the third place Detroit Tigers a mere 17 games out of first behind the Royals and the Twins and well out of playoff contention. Will the Tigers still care? Will the Royals rest on their insurmountable lead? The Royals have proven time and time again this season that it doesn't just take magic to stay out in front - it takes timely hitting, pitching and defense as well.

 


DEVIL IN A PINK DRESS
Written 8/19/15

Week 19

“This is a good team.” Ned Yost said as he looked out at the assembled sportswriters on Sunday night. The statement has been consistent since Ned took the helm five years ago. Yost is now the winningest manager in franchise history and is positioning his club for a deep October run for the second year in a row. Hard to believe that Yost was on the hot seat as recently as mid-July 2014. Yet here we are after a 4-2 week last week and facing off against the always dangerous Tigers and 2014 ALDS friends the Angels. The longest homestand of the year was already off to a 3-0 run after a sweep of the White Sox. Let's see if Yost can keep giving brief, yet consistent answers.

MONDAY - AUGUST 10
Pitching, defense and timely hitting. Lather, rinse, repeat. The Royals have become the back of a shampoo bottle and it's almost unfair that now they add Johnny Cueto to the mix. Cueto pitched an absolute gem of a ballgame against the Tigers - going the distance (a complete game? I didn't think pitchers pitched those anymore!) and allowing only four hits against a team that took two of three from the Royals last week. Cueto and his unique delivery of jerks and pauses and contortioning struck out eight and walked none. It was the best pitching performance by a Royal in years - harkening back to the Zack Greinke days. RBI's by Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales and Ben Zobrist all helped with more than enough runs as the Royals jumped out to a 3-0 lead. But the day belonged to Cueto as he made his home debut and announced to all that October just got that much tougher.
DETROIT 0 - KANSAS CITY 4

TUESDAY - AUGUST 11
You'll also notice a trend by the Royals of jumping out to an early lead - often scoring in the first or second inning. This was the case on Tuesday as one of the hottest players on the planet, Eric Hosmer, homered in the first inning driving in Cain. Anibal Sanchez usually pitches tough against the Royals but the offense continued to pound like the ocean against the shore. Lorenzo Cain homered in the sixth. This was followed by a Mike Moustakas homer seconds later. The other side of this coin was a serviceable performance by Yordano Ventura - no longer the “ace” because he doesn't have to be. The line on Ventura has always been that he tries a little too hard in big situations. The addition of Cueto allows those big situations to shrink just a little bit, and Ventura has seemed to chill just a bit. Ventura pitched six innings allowing no runs, but walking 6 and striking out 8. It was a good performance where a great performance simply wasn't needed.
DETROIT 1 - KANSAS CITY 6

WEDNESDAY - AUGUST 12
Edinson Volquez had a bad night. Normally “Steady Eddie” can be counted on for seven innings allowing only a couple of runs, but he got touched up by the Tigers offense for six runs, five earned. Leading 4-2 into the eighth, Volquez had been pitching a really good game. Sensing a possible sweep and wanting to save his bullpen for the monsterous duo of Trout and Pujols this weekend, Ned Yost made a calculated decision and left Volquez in for the eighth. That was a mistake as the Tigers scored four to take the lead. Ian Kinsler had an RBI double, JD Martinez had an RBI single and Tyler Collins had an RBI fielder's choice and that spelled the end of the road for Volquez - left in just a little too long. Turns out “Steady Eddie” does have a tipping point. The Royals did jump out early in this one again off of an Alcides Escobar RBI triple and RBI double by Hosmer. But it wasn't enough and the Royals dropped the last game of the series.
DETROIT 7 - KANSAS CITY 4

THURSDAY - AUGUST 13
Another day, another first inning lead. On this night, Jeremy Guthrie is still (inexplicably) pitching for the Royals and on Friday, actually pitched pretty well. He held the Angels to only one run on three walks and two hits through six innings. That's pretty good. But the normally lethal back end of the bullpen was what imploded on Friday night. First Wade Davis, who fans had been calling “Cyborg” because he never seems to flounder, floundered. He gave up two runs to make the score 5-3. Then Greg Holland had one of his worst performances in several years - allowing RBI doubles to CJ Cron and Kole Calhoun to make the score 7-5. Even a late Eric Hosmer solo homer (which was one of the farthest homers I've ever seen hit to dead away centerfield) couldn't pull this one out of the fire. The bullpen proved they were human and the Royals dropped their second straight. But after dropping two games lost late, should we be worried??
LOS ANGELES (A) 7 - KANSAS CITY 6

FRIDAY - AUGUST 14
Nope. We shouldn't be worried. You see, in years past, when the Royals would drop a couple, you'd come to expect that losing streak to reach four or five games as quickly as you can name your favorite BBQ joint. But that's not this year's Royals. They have only had a four game losing streak twice this year. 2014 featured a five game losing streak and 2013 had an eight gamer. (2012 had a 12 game losing streak. Remember that one? Ugh.) The point is that when you have a couple of solid starters and a solid bullpen, you're going to avoid those terrible losing streaks and that's what happened on Friday. Danny Duffy was fine. Eric Hosmer homered again. And Greg Holland looked like a completely different (rebuilt Cyborg?) pitcher than he was the night before, slamming the door on the Angels in the ninth inning. About as clean a game as you can have. The game even featured a Mike Trout homer which was ultimately their only run. And the losing streak stops at two.
LOS ANGELES (A) 1 - KANSAS CITY 4

SATURDAY - AUGUST 15
This was just a fun baseball game to watch. I have become used to seeing stellar defense and pitching from the Royals the last several years, but I'm still a little mystified at how great our offense is this year. The Royals once again opened up a big lead early as in the bottom of the second the Royals plated six runs which included a Salvador Perez homering to open the inning and then doubling home Hosmer nine batters later to go up 6-1. Just about the entire lineup contributed with either a run or an RBI. The only Royal to not reach base was Escobar who did have a sacrifice in the game. Another feature of this team has been two-out hitting. The Royals scored four runs with two outs in this game. In May a stat was floating around that the Royals were batting .330 with two outs and runners in scoring position. That could have only improved in this latest stretch. The Royals bullpen again looked a little shaky late, but they were able to hold off the surging Angels to take game three of the series. Johnny Cueto got his second win in a Royals jersey and improved on the season to 9-7.
LOS ANGELES (A) 4 - ROYALS 9

SUNDAY - AUGUST 16
There used to be a time when playing on national television was really a spectacle. You never used to be able to see all the games - save a handful on snowy television sets. You'd have to wait to see them on the Game of the Week with Joe Garagiola and Vin Scully. I remember fondly NBC breaking into coverage to show at bats of George Brett in the summer of 1980 as he tried to eclipse the .400 mark. Those times have changed now, of course, but it's still pretty rare to see the Boys in Blue on national television during the regular season. But Sunday Night Baseball made its second trip to The K THIS WEEK to show off the Royals and Fox Sports One broadcast Saturday's game. Could the Royals improve to 3-0 in national broadcasts this week? It took until the final swing of the bat to decide. If Saturday's game was “fun” to watch, Sunday's might be categorized as “tense.” The Angels are in second place in their division and couldn't afford another loss to fall further behind the Astros. So they sent Hector Santiago up against Yordano Ventura - a potential look ahead to an ALDS matchup? Santiago and Ventura both pitched well. The Royals again opened up with two runs in the first off of Zobrist and Hosmer RBIs while the Angels tied it at two in the sixth off of a David Murphy homer and a wild pitch. The bullpen of the Royals again showed their humanity allowing a third run in the eighth off of Wade Davis who hung a curveball to Cole Calhoun, who shot it to the stands in right field. The Royals trailed heading into the bottom of the ninth when Jarrod Dyson took over. Huston Street got into trouble and loaded the bases with Dyson on third. Alex Rios hit a sac fly to right and scored Dyson. Tied again at three, the game headed to extra innings. Kelvin Herrera retired the side in order and then the offense let loose. Ben Zobrist singled, Eric Hosmer walked and then big Kendrys Morales singled home Zobrist on a liner to left which left the Angels heading home taking only one of the four game series. The game left the Angels defeated and 3 1/2 back in the AL West and 1/2 game out of the second Wild Card.
LOS ANGELES (A) 3 - KANSAS CITY 4 (10 Innings)

WHAT'S AHEAD
The Royals are simply rolling. Every pothole that the road serves up is met and filled by the team as they just keep riding along. Even when they struggle - like the bullpen did several times this week, another element is there to pick the team up - whether it be the offense, or another reliever or that outstanding defense. The Royals now stand 25 games above .500 for the first time since 1989 and are a full 12 games ahead of the second place Minnesota Twins. They are five games ahead of the Yankees for the best record in the AL, which would give them home field advantage through the playoffs. It's a great time to be a Royal and their schedule does seem to be softening just a bit as they go back on the road for two against fourth place Cincinnati and four against the last place Red Sox.

 


HOMEWARD BOUND
Written 8/12/15

Week 18

If you've ever been to the horse track, you'll know that one of the strangest things to see is when a horse jumps out to a huge lead and then starts to flounder and fade down the stretch. The horse will feel the pack coming up on him. The horse can tire or just peter out. The Royals still have two months worth of work in a division that has no interest in coming up and taking it. But the challenge of home field advantage and positioning for the post season are still major themes for the season. But first up, the Royals need to finish out a difficult road trip.

TUESDAY - AUGUST 4
With their first day off since mid-July out of the way, the Royals took on the Detroit Tigers who start the series 11 1/2 games out of first place. That deficit increased to 12 1/2 on Tuesday as Danny Duffy pitched a great game going seven strong innings allowing only one run. Justin Verlander, on the other hand, he of the Kate Upton relationship, was less good. He gave up five runs in seven innings allowing ten hits. One of those hits was a two run homer to Salvador Perez who also had an RBI single. Perez notched his 16th homer of the year and leads all Royals. The game was about as clean as they come from the Royals. Strong defense. Strong hitting and great pitching. Your 2015 Kansas City Royals. Heard that one yet? The Royals really needed that off day.
KANSAS CITY 5 - DETROIT 1

WEDNESDAY - AUGUST 5
If the Royals weren't a million games in first place, this one would've really been frustrating. As it was, the Royals wasted one of the dozen or so starts from Johnny Cueto as a rent-a-player as he only allowed two runs, but the Royals offense couldn't do anything against rookie Matt Boyd in his first start as a Tiger. Boyd went seven allowing only one and striking out two. Kendrys Morales had a triple and an RBI in this one, but it was a really flat performance and the signs that the Royals’ road trip needs to end are everywhere. Wade Davis was unavailable with back stiffness and the Royals are really fighting through fatigue.
KANSAS CITY 1 - DETROIT 2

THURSDAY - AUGUST 6
Seriously? Will this road trip ever end? The Royals again jumped out to a 3-0 lead early, but immediately gave it back as Detroit scored four in the third featuring an Omar Infante RBI double. They were up by as many as 6-3 in the late innings until the seventh when the Royals took the lead, plating three with a Drew Butera homer and a Morales two run double. But the win wasn't to be as the Tigers tied it on an Jose Iglesias single and then Ian Kinsler sent everyone home with a walkoff home run off the arm of Ryan Madson. The Royals end their 10-game road trip 4-6 which easily could have been worse or better. And throughout all that, the Royals actually managed to gain two games on the division as the Twins are playing like hot garbage right now. The Boys in Blue return home for their longest homestand of the season and face off against a terrible Chicago White Sox team.
KANSAS CITY 6 - DETROIT 8

FRIDAY - AUGUST 7
I'll tell you what. When the Royals are clicking on all cylinders, it is really something to see. What are the three pillars we've talked about all season? Great offense? How about an RBI double by Lorenzo Cain off of John Danks to drive in Ben Zobrist from first. Great defense? How about a running catch in right field by Alex Rios to keep the lead in the eighth. Superb pitching? Seven innings of four hit, one run baseball by Edinson Volquez and a seventh, eighth, and ninth innings by Hochevar, Morales, and Greg Holland who picked up his 24th save. When it's all clicking, you can easily see how this club has the largest division lead in baseball and is now twenty games above .500.
CHICAGO (A) 2 - KANSAS CITY 3

SATURDAY - AUGUST 8
Watching the Chicago White Sox, you have to admire how the club hasn't thrown in the towel just yet. That being said, they are still not good enough to beat the Royals on a regular basis. The Royals pounded Jeff Samardzija for his seventh loss of the year knocking him out in the fifth inning allowing all seven runs. That offense was led by Salvador Perez who knocked in the go ahead run in the fourth. Hosmer has also been red hot as he got an RBI single. Jeremy Guthrie had just enough left in the tank to keep the Sox at bay, but they did mount a late charge against the b-side of the bullpen. Wade Davis has been out this week due to a back tweak. But Hochevar, Madson, Herrera and Holland all pitched shutout innings to pick up the Royals 65th victory of the year and another series win.
CHICAGO (A) 6 - KANSAS CITY 7

SUNDAY - AUGUST 9
With the series in the bag, the Royals sent Danny Duffy to the mound on Star Wars Day in an effort to strike down the evil empire. Duffy, however, was without The Force as he was chased from the game in the fourth inning allowing three runs. The Royals opened the game with three runs courtesy of and Eric Hosmer double and a Kendrys Morales two run homer. With the game tied in the fifth, Ben Zobrist gave the Royals the lead on an RBI single scoring Jarrod Dyson. The club used Zobrist at third to start the game for his first start at the hot corner in five years to rest Mike Moustakas. That's the kind of move you can make when you have a 10 1/2 game lead in the division. Kelvin Herrera entered in the eighth inning with the Royals up 4-3 and Adam Eaton immediately hit a leadoff double. Herrera has stepped in the eighth inning role the past week with Davis nursing a back injury. His 2.45 ERA took a hit though as he gave up a game tying RBI single to Melky Cabrera. So the game entered the bottom of the eighth tied at four. But time and time again, this is where the Royals have found a way. And they found a way by an Omar Infante RBI single. Ryan Madson came on for a three out save and the Royals have one three one-run games in a row for the first time since 2012. They now lead the AL Central by an overwhelming 11 1/2 games. Rany Jazayerli, Royals blogger, also mentioned that even in 1977, the year the Royals won 102 games, they never led by as many games. Quite a time to be a Royals fan in Kansas City.
CHICAGO (A) 4 - KANSAS CITY 5

WHAT'S AHEAD
The Royals continue at home with a three game set against Detroit and four games against the Angels. The Angels are fighting with the Astros for first place in the AL West and stand to be pretty tough. But the games are at home and the Royals do have the benefit of quite a cushion in the division. The additions of Zobrist and Cueto have been beneficial, but this team still has some flaws. Duffy, Guthrie and Rios are all underperforming right now so there is still work to be done.

 


 

CODA
Written 8/5/15

Week 17

In a previous life, I was a musician. I played in the marching band and also studied the foundations of music theory. If you know what to look for, you can find some great writing styles in both modern and classical music. You just need to know where to look. Music is structured the say way as the great stories are--through sentences and themes. The 2015 Royals season is shaping up to be a grand story--and it would be an incredible musical piece.

MONDAY - JULY 27
Any great musical piece will have one common theme throughout the season. And then several “B Stories” through the piece. For this Kansas City Royals 2015 season, the overall theme is getting that extra 90 feet to a championship and getting there as a predetermined destiny. The Royals showed a lot of that in Monday's game as Eric Hosmer, the team’s offensive leader, got four RBI's which included a three run homer. Kendrys Morales, the deft pickup to replace Billy Butler, also had a hand in the action with three RBI's. And the stable starter, Edinson Volquez, picked up his 10th win of the year. It also featured a nifty double play started by Lorenzo Cain to gun down Jason Kipnis at home. It is the primary thread. Powerful offense, just enough pitching and incredible defense. #UnfinishedBusiness
KANSAS CITY 9 - CLEVELAND 4

TUESDAY - JULY 28
Another theme for this season is the teams in the hunt for the AL Central title. It might be called “Where are they now?” because Cleveland was the nearly unanimous favorite to win the Central (with most pundits picking KC to finish third or lower.) But those pundits assumed the Cleveland offense would be better and that the Royals offense wouldn't be. A great microcosm of that was in Tuesday's game. Eric Hosmer provided all the offense needed with a homer in the ninth and an RBI single in the fourth driving in Lorenzo Cain after his triple. Trevor Bauer, the Indians’ stud pitcher pitched all nine, but the Indians offense limped only scoring one. The victory further provided evidence that the Royals are doing the little things and the Indians aren't. And that's why after two thirds of the season, the Royals sit in first place with a nine game lead in the division and you need to look all the way at the bottom for the Indiians who are 16 games out.
KANSAS CITY 2 - CLEVELAND 1

WEDNESDAY - JULY 29
The Royals aren't without their flaws and another recurring theme that has swooped in and out of this season is the inconsistency in the back of the bullpen. Jeremy Guthrie got rocked for eight runs, seven earned in this turd of a ballgame. Guthrie has been one of the worst performers over the past month for the Royals and the hope is that actions at the trade deadline could help that. But in this game, the Royals were out of it early and looked towards the plane flight to Toronto. Guthrie now stands at 7-7 on the year. The Royals were unable to touch up Corey Kluber who won the AL Cy Young last year, but had floundered against the Royals so far this season.
KANSAS CITY 1 - CLEVELAND 12

THURSDAY - JULY 30
A cool thing about musical pieces is that at any time in the piece you can pick up a new melody or tune. July 31 provides such an opportunity for a club with the trade deadline. The Royals learned that they'd be adding an arm and a bat for the stretch run and the playoffs as the Royals traded for pitcher Johnny Cueto and infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist. Cueto wasn't available on Thursday, however, and the Royals continued a couple of days of poor pitching and weak hitting. Danny Duffy again looked to be fighting control and the Blue Jays were themselves looking to work out of third place in their division. They were adding pieces as well in the form of Josh Donaldson (picked up from the A's). Donaldson would echo all through the weekend and started with a solo home run to give the Jays the lead. Zobrist did play in his first game as a Royal, but went 0-4.
KANSAS CITY 2 - TORONTO 5

FRIDAY - JULY 31
The Royals got their first opportunity to see Johnny Cueto in action. Cueto, from the Dominican Republic, now gives 3/5ths of the Royals rotation a Dominican heritage joining Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez. Cueto pitched well, but not dominantly allowing three in his Royals debut. Ben Zobrist had two hits in his debut and the Royals took the Jays to extra innings after jumping out early. The Jays came back to tie it in the fourth inning after Cueto was perfect through three. Cueto exited in the sixth with the game 6-3 for the Royals, but Ryan Madson came on to cough up the lead allowing it to be tied. The game featured contributions by newcomer to the Royals Zobrist but also newcomer to the Blue Jays Troy Tulowitzki who had an RBI double in the seventh. He later scored on a Josh Donaldson double. Donaldson would again make his name known in the eleventh to score Tulowitzki off of Franklin Morales with a double. Donaldson had four RBI's in the game and continues to work to make Royals fans forget he let Salvador Perez's game winning single in the 2014 AL Wild Card game.
KANSAS CITY 6 - TORONTO 7 (11 Innings)

SATURDAY - AUGUST 1
August 1. Two more months in the season. Four months in the books. The Royals are right where they want to be with a comfortable lead in the AL Central. Several questions remain, however, for the club and it's important to remember where you've been and what musical threads are left to be written. One of the major questions is do you let off on the gas just a bit to rest key players in the final two months? But the Royals also want to press hard toward getting home field advantage through the playoffs. And to do that, you've got to keep the gas pressed down hard. Helping with that is the addition of Ben Zobrist who homered twice in the Saturday game to give the Royals the victory. But teams like Toronto won't go away easy. Josh Donaldson put on another clinic with a homer in this one and single handedly almost won it. But in the ninth, against Greg Holland, once the games most dominant closer, and still today, pretty damn good - Holland was able to get Donaldson to strike out to close out the one run victory.
KANSAS CITY 7 - TORONTO 6

SUNDAY - AUGUST 2
But perhaps the greatest recurring thread to weave its way through this orchestral masterpiece is that of the villain. Just think back to the feelings when you hear Darth Vader's theme from Star Wars or the cannons blasting during the 1812 Overture. And so, in 2015, you can look to the Royals being the hunted rather than the hunters and as such, they are being challenged. The Royals are looking to not back down so spent much of the first month of the year fighting with their competition. The White Sox and Athletics were able to cause suspensions and drama. But that cooled off until this weekend as Josh Donaldson caused an international incident Sunday afternoon challenging Edinson Volquez after being hit. Both benches cleared in the third after another throw inside to Tulowitzki and again to Donaldson. The drama was enough to get the better of the Royals as the game was secondary and the Jays were able to win 5-2. The theme continued, however as the Jays are trying to dig out of a third place hole and the Royals are still pretty comfortably in first place. The song goes on, however and these two teams may be facing off again in the postseason. So stay tuned. There's more music between those two teams to be written.
KANSAS CITY 2 - TORONTO 5

WHAT'S AHEAD
Well, the Royals are in the middle of one of their longer road trips of the season and just completed a stretch of no days off since the All-Star Break. The Royals will take Monday off and finish up their trip in Detroit. Detroit is team that's also failing to reach anything near its potential this year and just this week traded off their prime pitching piece David Price. Additionally, the Minnesota Twins continue to flounder. The only drama left in the AL Central will be how the Royals take the last months of the season. But this team has their eye on one theme this season, and that's the primary musical theme - to win a World Title

 


SECOND CHANCES
Written 7/29/15

Week 16

Baseball is a game of second chances. It's built, unlike football, to allow for multiple chances to overcome failure through its 162-game schedule. You see a pitcher multiple times a game and you see a team multiple times in a season. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. But there's mostly always a tomorrow to look forward to.

MONDAY - JULY 20
I've got to be honest with you. I really like the Pittsburgh Pirates. I like their team. I like that they are near twins to the Royals in the way of small market success against the odds. I like their players and their manager. I just don't like them this week. And there was a lot to like and cringe at as this one evolved. Travis Ishikawa, for starters, was ungodly - striking for four RBI's in the game off of Yordano Ventura who had an absolutely dreadful appearance. One of his worst of the year - and that's saying something. Ventura only went four innings, allowing 10 hits and six runs as the Royals trailed 5-1 in the fifth. With the bullpen needing to take over in the fifth, the whole rhythm of the game was out of whack. Eric Hosmer had a three hit game and Kendrys Morales and Mike Moustakas both homered. But the Royals couldn't take their second chance all the way, as the hole dug by Ventura proved to be too great and the Royals lose the series opener in a horse race.
PITTSBURGH 10 - KANSAS CITY 7

TUESDAY - JULY 21
The Royals got a second chance at the Pirates on Tuesday night and it looked like it would be a tall order going up against the Pirates ace Garrett Cole. The Royals sent Jason Vargas, just off the DL to the mound and he lasted only about a half an hour. Vargas said he felt discomfort in the second inning and was taken for an MRI which showed he had shredded his elbow and would need to undergo Tommy John surgery. The Royals were then left with the task of finishing the game with a bruised and beaten bullpen and needing to squeak out some hits against the Bucs. Enter Joe Blanton who swerved through the fifth allowing only two hits. Ryan Madson pitched a perfect sixth. The Royals took their time scoring as Cole was masterful into the eighth, but began to tire and allowed the go ahead runs off of a huge Jarrod Dyson 2-RBI double. The defense shut the door featuring spectacular plays by Moustakas and Escobar, who threw a runner out at home. Then HDH did what they do - going three innings - allowing only one run and locking the door on a victory. There was much turmoil surrounding this game, however, as just prior, Ventura was sent to AAA Omaha to make room for Vargas. With Vargas now leaving to the DL, Ventura was called right back up. The team was also left without much of a bullpen for a couple of days as the pen needed to shoulder a heavy load on Tuesday night. But a win is a win.
PITTSBURGH 1 - KANSAS CITY 3

WEDNESDAY - JULY 22
No bullpen. One of the best teams in baseball. Stifling heat. No problem. Everyday Eddie Volquez at your service. Volquez put in one of his best outings of his career going seven and two-thirds allowing only one run with eight K's. But the “oh my” moment of this game was the home run that Eric Hosmer hit in the fourth inning. It went two-thirds of the way up the stairs in front of the restaurant in right field and marked the emotional end of a terrible month of baseball for Hosmer who has shown very clear signs recently of breaking out of a slump. Hosmer would hit .484/.543/.742 for the week with one homer and 15 hits. THAT is the way to pull out of a slump. And with the game tied at one, the Royals took advantage of the Pirates bullpen scoring four in the seventh that started with a Jarrod Dyson “safety squeeze” bunt scoring Omar Infante. But all that finesse really wasn't needed with Mike Moustakas blasting a three run homer to ice it. The win gives the Royals yet another series win and another statement to teams both in the AL and NL that the Royals are a force to be reckoned with.
PITTSBURGH 1 - KANSAS CITY 5

THURSDAY - JULY 23
What once was scheduled as an off day was made into a second chance to play baseball as the Royals took a one day road trip to St. Louis to finish out a three game series with the Cardinals. You'll recall the Royals lost the first two games of the series to the Cards in St. Louis and split a two-game series with them back in June. They didn't play much better against the team with the Best Fans in Baseball on Thursday. The Royals faced off against yet another ace, John Lackey this time, and they scored two in the first inning off of hits by Salvador Perez and Alex Rios. But Chris Young was ineffective allowing a two run homer in the bottom of the frame to Randal Grichuck. Matt Carpenter gave the Cardinals the lead with another two run homer in the fourth to give the STL the lead for good. The Royals would fight back to get a run in the eighth inning, but couldn't get over the hump. The game turned in the ninth as the Royals were threatening with runners at second and third and Rios was gunned down at the plate trying to tie it. Young has had a string of poor outings after his first eight were electric. As rumors of a trade for a possible new pitcher swirl, Young's spot in the rotation may be in jeopardy if Ventura and Duffy could both show promise in coming weeks.
KANSAS CITY 3 - ST. LOUIS 4

FRIDAY - JULY 24
The week gets no easier as the Royals open up with a second chance against the Houston Astros who swept them in Houston earlier in the month. The Astros themselves are battling in the AL West currently trailing the Angels by a game, but have one of the best teams in baseball featuring young talent, creative coaching and stifling defense. Preston Tucker homered in the third and scored a second run. Two more were tacked on in the fourth and that was all that was needed for Scott Kazmir, who was picked up via trade by the 'Stros the day before, proved he'll fit in nicely with the Astros rotation. The Astros have now won all four games against the Royals and dealt the Royals their second straight loss.The Astros certainly made a statement through Kazmir as they hope to face off against the Royals again in October.
HOUSTON 4 - KANSAS CITY 0

SATURDAY - JULY 25
Wearing uniforms celebrating the Hispanic heritage, the “Los Reales” entered into a pitching duel with the Astros looking to even the series at one. They got a tremendous outing from Danny Duffy who, himself was on his second chance section of the season. Battling back from injury, Duffy relied on tremendous defense as he retired the first six of the game. Duffy would only allow one run, coming in the sixth, on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Correa. Duffy did have a pretty high pitch count and would leave the game to a no decision in the sixth. The Royals bats remained quiet on a sweltering night in Kansas City until the sun went down in the seventh. With the bases loaded, Salvador Perez had his own sac fly that scored Alcides Escobar to tie it. Eric Hosmer hit a blast to left field in the bottom of the ninth but the hit landed inches short of going into the stands and Hos was stranded at third thanks to a spectacular play deep in the hole by shortstop Carlos Correa to end the inning. The Royals got their second chance, however, in the bottom of the 10th, as Paulo Orlando reached base, stole second on a delayed steal, and then later scored on a bloop single by Alcides Escobar. Escobar said to himself, “game over” as soon as he made contact as quoted by MLB.com. The win puts the Royals ever further in front of the Twins who now lead the AL Central by 6 1/2 games.
HOUSTON 1 - KANSAS CITY 2 (10 Innings)

SUNDAY - JULY 26
When the Royals faced All-Star starter Dallas Keuchel earlier in the season, he was dominating - allowing zero runs on seven hits and seven strikeouts through eight innings. So this second chance for the Royals was also to take a commanding lead in the division while also making a statement about the direction the American League would go the rest of the way out. The Royals jumped on Keuchel early with three quick hits to start the game. Omar Infante came up with a two run single with two outs and Cheslor Cuthbert doubled in two more one batter later - after one inning, the score was 4-0. But drama still remained on the mound as Yordano Ventura, the team's opening day starter, took the hill only a few days being removed from being sent to AAA Omaha but immediately called back when Jason Vargas blew out his elbow. Many opinions exist on why Ventura was demoted, including issues dealing with the pressure and possibly a mechanical issue. But now that he was back, the second chance Ventura received would likely be his last. Ventura had, quite simply, a tremendous afternoon. He located his pitches. His velocity was outstanding and he seemed to keep his cool on a 96 degree July afternoon. He allowed one run on six hits and six strikeouts and pitched seven innings. The Royals and Ventura made the most of their second chance to take out the Astros.
HOUSTON 1 - KANSAS CITY 4

WHAT'S AHEAD
The Royals now stand at 21 games over .500 and 7 1/2 ahead of the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. Going 4-3 on the week, they have managed to weather a storm of first or second place teams over the past couple of weeks. They've effectively buried the Detroit Tigers who are now in sell mode up against the trade deadline in a few days. They swung a hammer long-time fans of the team weren't sure they knew how to swing and, during the game Sunday, traded three minor league pitchers for Reds ace Johnny Cueto. Cueto has had a sub-three ERA the past four seasons and is immediately the team's best pitcher. The move now makes 60% of the starting rotation from the Dominican Republic and allows fellow Dominican Yordano Ventura a little bit of cover from the pressure of being the team's ace. Furthermore, it moves the Royals ever closer to stacking the deck for the ultimate second chance - a chance to finish their business in the World Series.


HEY NOW, YOU'RE AN ALL-STAR
Written 7/22/15

Week 15

For years and years, the All-Star Break was an actual break of a few days where players would head back to their respective homes, catch up on the honey-do list or just relax for a few days. Those days are gone as seven Royals players plus the majority of their coaching staff headed to Cincinnati for Tuesday's All-Star Game Week. Missing a few days of rest and relaxation is a small price to pay when your baseball team is playing so well. The challenge will be to make sure you're in that same position this time next year instead of sitting on your couch with the rest of us.

TUESDAY - JULY 14 ALL-STAR GAME
One of my earliest memories of the All-Star game was seeing Bo Jackson in the 1989 game crush a lead-off home run and eventually be named MVP of the game. It would be decades until the Royals were relevant in the game--sending such Royals “greats” as Aaron Crow, Ken Harvey, Dean Palmer, and Jose Roasado (twice!). My more recent memories of the game are staying up through the first and second wave of players to see if a random pitcher or Mike Sweeney would be a late inning replacement at first base.
Not this year. Royals fans pummeled the online voting at one point having eight Royals slated to start the game. Following a bunch of whining by the national media and at least one data scrub by MLB, three Royals started the game -- Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Salvador Perez; two pitchers were named to the squad -- Kelvin Hererra and Wade Davis; Mike Moustakas won the final players vote; and Alex Gordon was named a starter but didn't play due to injury. What a mouthful. No little children had to stay up past 9:30 p.m. waiting for a strikeout by a corner infielder (unless you count Moustakas who was fed to the dragon that is the 103 MPH fastball of Aroldis Chapman.)
And the Royals didn't disappoint. Davis pitched a scoreless eighth inning, Perez wore a golden chest protector. Escobar got a hit and Lorenzo Cain challenged Mike Trout for All-Star MVP.
All told, the American League handily defeated the Senior Circuit to give the Royals (errr...the AL) home field advantage in the 2015 World Series scheduled for early November.
Let's also take this opportunity to credit Ned Yost for spending a couple hours a day for a couple of months pregaming this non-exhibition exhibition. He might've given his squad a major benefit come November.
AMERICAN LEAGUE 6 - NATIONAL LEAGUE 2

FRIDAY - JULY 17 (Game 1)
The Royals went into the week as the team that has played the least games. Due to lots of rain in the first half of the season, the Royals would be playing their second doubleheader in as many weeks and they will not have a day off until early August. The Royals, fresh off their appearance in the All-Star Game, wasted no time jumping out to a lead thanks to a first inning RBI double by Lorenzo Cain. Chris Young opened the post-All-Star break pitching just well enough to keep the Sox at bay, allowing only two runs and notching his eighth win of the season. A clean 7th, 8th, and 9th by HDH along with homers by Mike Moustakas and Alex Rios showed the rest of the American League that the Royals weren't looking to slump after the break.
KANSAS CITY 4 - CHICAGO (A) 2

FRIDAY - JULY 18 (Game 2)
There's been a lot of talk about what the Royals might do at the trade deadline on July 31, if anything. A quick study on what the Royals look like at their worst was on display in the Friday night game. Their offense can be sluggish - especially without key bats including Alex Gordon (injury) and Mike Moustakas (night off.) The Royals could only scratch out four hits against the Royal killer John Danks. Additionally, their pitching rotation could use a boost as Edinson Volquez has been their most consistent starter, but can't go scoreless the entire time. Volquez pitched into the seventh, but allowed both runs to the White Sox who aren't a great offensive club. The Royals offense took the evening off, however, and the Sox notched a shutout. If you're gauging this game on what to trade for, you could go pitching or hitting.
KANSAS CITY 0 - CHICAGO (A) 2

SATURDAY - JULY 18
Put this game in the back of your head as another one of those milestones of the season. A team that split a doubleheader the day before. A team that had some struggles offensively and a team that doesn't have a lot of available pitching thanks to the All-Star game and a double header. Additionally, the normally solid Greg Holland gave up a two run save in the ninth inning. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. This is the 2015 Royals we're talking about. The game started with the Royals jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first as Moustakas, Hosmer and Perez all notched RBI's. But the Sox jumped back to tie it and the game went back and forth until the ninth inning with the Royals up 6-4. As mentioned, Holland allowed a two run double to J.B. Shuck to tie it. The game would continue until the 13th with the Royals decimating their bullpen in the process, pitching just about everyone they had including gutsy appearances by Luke Hochevar, Brandon Finnegan and Ryan Madson. In the top of the 13th, the Royals went ahead thanks to, who else, Lorenzo Cain who jacked a homer with a little bat flip that angered the Chicago broadcasting crew. No matter. The Royals would go on to win in 13 innings and send the White Sox plunging to the basement of the American League Central.
KANSAS CITY 7 - CHICAGO (A) 6 (13 Innings)

SUNDAY - JULY 19
Recently, a small spacecraft flew by the dwarf planet Pluto to oversee the vast wasteland of ice and nothingness. What they found was the Royals pitching staff on Sunday afternoon. The Royals used every pitcher in their staff except for two relievers and their starter Danny Duffy. Duffy had never gone past the seventh inning in his career and never into the seventh this season which has been riddled with injuries. Duffy, quite simply, was being asked to do something he had never done before - carry a club without a net. The concern with Danny has always been between the ears - he gets too amped for big games and gets too aggravated when he doesn't pitch the way he and others want. The task was mighty on Sunday afternoon - and Duffy rose and exceeded expectations. He pitched eight innings of scoreless baseball and allowed a homer in the top of the ninth. Duffy also did it by keeping his pitch count low, only hitting 100 with his third out of the eighth. It was a special outing by a player who has been counted on to be special for years, but rarely hit those expectations. It's exactly what the Royals needed to go into a huge series with the Pirates at full strength. It was, quite simply, Danny Duffy's best game of his career.
KANSAS CITY 4 - CHICAGO (A) 1

WHAT'S AHEAD
No games off. Oppressive heat. A one day road trip in the middle of a homestand. The Twins who won't go away. Two second place teams and a first place team all lined up this week. But the Royals simply refuse to lose (for any length of time, anyway.) The challenge continues to grow as the next three weeks will be without a break, but they will get a little relief as Kris Medlen returns this week and Jason Vargas is close as well to bolster the pitching staff.
And the Royals aren't going into the week without some bullets. Lorenzo Cain was last week's AL Player of the Week and Paulo Orlando hit another homer on Sunday. And then there's the defense by Alcides Escobar who on Sunday notched three of SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays - including #3 and #1. (Number 2 was a surfer who escaped a shark attack on live television. That's how good the Royals are playing right now.)
This team is quite simply fun to watch right now and they are 20 games above .500 for the first time since 1989 - the same year that Bo Jackson hit that homer to lead off the All-Star Game.


QUIT YER WORRYIN'
Written 7/15/15

Week 14

So last week the Royals went 2-5 on the week and were four and a half games up on Minnesota in the AL Central. The dark clouds began to gather and Royals Nation started getting a collective pain in their chest. With only one week remaining before the All Star Break, it's going to be critical to keep pace with the rest of the AL Central and keep them at bay as we face off against two teams battling for the AL East title.

TUESDAY - JULY 7 (Game 1)
Because of a deluge of rain on Monday night, the Royals played a day/night doubleheader (the first in the history of Kauffman Stadium) and it could easily stand as one of the key events in the 2015 season. This game had everything we've come to expect from the 2015 Royals including all of the drama as Chris Young had a shaky outing allowing four runs to the Rays through six innings. But the Royals offense battled back into the game scoring three in the bottom of the second and then tied it in the fourth off of an Alex Gordon home run. The All Star starter also had three hits and two RBI on the night. The Royals continued to show defense and pitching through the ninth, when Greg Holland gave up an uncharacteristic run to go down 5-4. But then it was time for the fireworks a few days late. The Royals loaded the bases against the Rays and Paulo Orlando stepped to the plate having been just called back up from Omaha and jacked a walk off grand slam into the left field bullpen. The walk off granny matched the intensity if not the significance of Justin Maxwell's in the final home game of the regular season in 2013 but it was certainly a great way to start the week. After having no walk offs in the first 76 games of the year, the Royals have now had three in the last five.
TAMPA BAY 5 - KANSAS CITY 9

TUESDAY - JULY 7 (Game 2)
Having walked off an hour earlier, the same two teams faced off for game two under the lights in what looked like the makings of a pitchers’ duel between Edinson Volquez and Matt Andriese. Going into the sixth, the game was tied at one as both starters left due to high pitch counts. The strength of the Royals is their bullpen and the opposite of that is the Rays who allowed four runs in the sixth and another two in the eighth off of a four RBI performance by Alex Gordon (who was 7-9 on Tuesday between the two games.) Alcides Escobar hit a bases-clearing double in the sixth. The “B team” of the bullpen cleaned up and left the Rays scoreless in the back half of the game which included great performances by Luke Hochevar and Ryan Madson.
TAMPA BAY 1 - KANSAS CITY 7

WEDNESDAY - JULY 8
If Tuesday's walk off grand slam might've signaled the high point of the season to date, the low point might've come in the fourth inning on Wednesday as Gordon severely injured his groin trying to catch a pop fly which resulted in an inside-the-park home run by Landon Forsythe. He had to be carted off the field as onlookers in the left field stands could be seen clutching their heads and weeping. Gordon's defense was overshadowed by his offense on Tuesday and the absence of Gordon for what they say is a minimum of eight weeks could be significant. Enter Jarrod Dyson who immediately made an incredible catch and had a hustle play to notch his own inside-the-park homer in the sixth. It's not often you see even one inside-the-parker. This game had a little bit of everything including a rare collapse by the Royals bullpen as Joe Blanton gave up three runs in the ninth. But Holland notched his 17th save of the season and the Royals won their fourth straight. It remains to be seen how impactful the injury to Gordon will be.
TAMPA BAY 7 - KANSAS CITY 9

THURSDAY - JULY 9
There's two ways to face adversity - you can sit around and mope, or you can stand up, dust yourself off, and keep grinding. The Royals made a concerted effort to do the latter on Thursday as Royals coach Rusty Kuntz was reportedly imploring his team to stay positive in the wake of the news that Alex Gordon would be out until September. The tactic seemed to work as the Royals jumped all over Rays starter Nathan Karns as he allowed homers to both Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez. Yordano Ventura still didn't look great, but pitched well enough to seal the four game sweep on the Rays making it into the fifth when the lights out bullpen could take over. The game also featured one of the best (and that's really saying something) highlight catches of the season by Jarrod Dyson in left field. Dyson made a Wille Mays-style catch only inches from the left field wall then spun around to double off the runner at first base. The play was immediately the top play on SportsCenter and gave Royals fans some hope that Gordon's injury wouldn't be as severely impacting as first thought. The win was the team's fifth straight and kept them in the driver's seat in the AL Central with only three more games at home before the much needed break.
TAMPA BAY 3 - KANSAS CITY 8

FRIDAY - JULY 10
Friday night started late thanks to a two plus hour rain delay that left Royals fans looking to see the Boys in Blue extend their winning streak to six games. Danny Duffy and the Royals bullpen did not disappoint. Duffy threw six scoreless innings. The Royals offense showed just enough flash including a homer by Salvador Perez. The full fury of H-D-H was unleashed on one of the best hitting teams in the American League as Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland each pitched scoreless innings to close the game out. Holland picked up his 18th save. Jarrod Dyson also had another outfield assist as the defense continued to shine. The Royals roll on as they now lead the Minnesota Twins by five and half games and the Detroit Tigers by eight.
TORONTO 0 - KANSAS CITY 3

SATURDAY, JULY 11
Someone on Twitter mentioned this after the Royals game on Saturday, “welp, you can't win 'em all.” If the Royals were going to lay an egg, Saturday was as good of a time as any. Chris Young had a decent outing, but allowed two runs in the fourth. Although the Royals were within a run until the ninth, the game really didn't have much of a flow and the Royals felt out of it - likely due to the 90 degree heat beating down on them much of the afternoon. It might've also had something to do with the fact that Marc Buherle has been an absolute crusher of the Royals in his career. Among active pitchers, he has more wins against the Royals than anyone else. The loss ends the Royals six game winning streak, and thanks to a Minnesota win, puts them back at four and a half up - where they've been most of the summer.
TORONTO 6 - KANSAS CITY 2

SUNDAY - JULY 12
What an incredible first half of the season for the Royals. Fifteen games above .500 puts them on a pace for 97 wins on the season and a final victory on Sunday would keep them well in command in the AL Central. But the final game before a long break often means focus breaks and goofy things. You saw just about all of it in this one. The Royals jumped out to a huge 6-0 lead in the first few innings thanks to a six run first including a homer by Kendrys Morales. And then it became a game of attrition as the hot July sun beat down on the Kauffman infield. The two teams would combine for seven errors in the game including a key one in the sixth by Alcedes Escobar. The Jays would score eight in the frame and take the lead. The crooked numbers would return in the bottom of the sixth as the Royals jumped back ahead as the Jays bullpen took over. Tied at 10 going into the eighth inning, Tuesday's hero Paulo Orlando muscled up to a fastball and jacked it for the game winning homer to finish the week 6-1 and win the game 11-10. Holland got his 19th save in the ninth and the Royals bolted into the All-Star Break with one of the best records in all of baseball at 52-34.
TORONTO 10 - KANSAS CITY 11

WHAT'S AHEAD
A crappy week last week and an amazing week this week and the Royals are still four and a half up on the Twins who don't seem to want to fade. The All Star Break comes at a great time for the pitching and offense as nagging injuries to Lorenzo Cain can be healed and the Royals can take a bit of a victory lap following last October at this week's All Star Game in Cincinnati. Seven Royals were selected as All Stars and with Alex Gordon sitting out due to injury, six will likely factor in the contest --three of them starters.

There was a time when I'd have to stay up late waiting for the single Royal to appear in the eighth or ninth of a meaningless game. (Jose Rosado?? Dean Palmer??) We won't have that problem this year with Escobar, Perez and Cain all starting the game, Moustakas coming in for defense later and Herrera and Davis ready to slam the door on the National League. It's the core of a team that has won more than 100 games over their last 162 and one that the country will see on full display Tuesday night.

 


OOF
Written 7/8/15

Week 13

Listen. If you're pregnant, or have back problems, or are just squeamish around medical shows on TV, you might want to skip this week's edition and go read the front page or the police blotter or something. This wasn't a pretty week. Let's be honest. But I'll give you a little spoiler alert, your Royals went into the week in first place and they exited the week in first place. But for those of you who really like blood and guts - let's dig in.

MONDAY - JUNE 29
I began last week's K Replay stating that Joe Blanton looks like your high school English teacher. Well, after Monday's performance, it's more likely that he will BE a high school English teacher this time next week. Blanton got rocked by the best team in the AL West as Jose Altuve and Chris Carter both homered early to put this one on cruise control for the Royals. Blanton, of course, was a fill-in the past few starts for an injured rotation which included spot starts for Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura who have both been nursing injuries. The offense picked a pretty crummy time to start the All Star Break early as well, notching only one run in the seventh. Blanton didn't make it out of the third, but it's likely he's on a short leash in any future starts for the Royals.
KANSAS CITY 1 - HOUSTON 6

TUESDAY - JUNE 30
One of the missing pieces for the starting rotation made his return on Tuesday. Danny Duffy pitched pretty well in his return as he struck out six into the seventh inning allowing four runs in the process. A pretty good start coming off of an injury. But these are the nights where the offense is supposed to pick up the team. They did scatter eight hits off of Dallas Keuchel but couldn't scratch out any runs. Lorenzo Cain and Kendrys Morales were the only extra base hits for the Royals in the game. Duffy gave up a homer to George Springs - an odds on favorite for an all-star if Cain doesn't mop up the voting. But without offense, you're simply not going to win no matter how good your pitching is.
KANSAS CITY 0 - HOUSTON 4

WEDNESDAY - JULY 1
This was a key game for Kansas City. You don't want to get swept ever - and you especially don't want to get swept by a team that you're probably going to face in the playoffs very soon. Everyday Eddie Volquez pitched poorly - as bad as he's been all season - allowing five runs and eight hits and only going five innings. But the Royals offense finally battled back to tie it with two runs in the top of the seventh with a two-run RBI triple by Lorenzo Cain. But the Astros wouldn't say die and pulled ahead with a go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh off of Kelvin Herrera on a very close slide by Jose Altuve. A sweep here meant the Royals would go into the four game series with the second place Twins with only a four and a half game lead and it meant the Astros pulled to a five game lead over the Angels. Hope you paid attention, because you're going to see the Astros in October. The scrappy up-and -comers are here and they played great this week.
KANSAS CITY 5 - HOUSTON 6

THURSDAY - JULY 2
This has been a dreadful 10 days for the Royals. They've been 5-5 (which really doesn't sound that bad if you think about it) and are opening up against the Twins who have been 4-6 over their last 10. But the Twins showed up in Kansas City on Thursday loaded for bear. Kyle Gibson was electric, improving his record to 6-6 as he absolutely shut down the Royals suddenly ineffective offense through eight innings. The Royals only managed four hits the entire night and Chris Young, while effective, allowed a run in the fifth to drop to 7-4 on the season. The Twins added another in the ninth and the Royals dropped their fourth straight allowing the Twins to climb to three and a half out in the Central. Furthermore, it seems that the tougher the teams get, the worse the Royals play.
MINNESOTA 2 - KANSAS CITY 0

FRIDAY - JULY 3
Through 76 games so far this season, the Royals have yet to have a walk-off win. Well that was fixed on Friday night in a game that harkened back to the loudest crowds in October of 2014. And it happened in the most improbable of ways. Jeremy Guthrie, who had struggled in the past month and fans began to call for his release, pitched fantastically - allowing only two runs through seven and a third innings. He only allowed one walk and had four strikeouts. The Royals looked to be having another weak night offensively as they only had one run on a weak single by Alex Rios to score Escobar. They scored another run in the eighth to tie it and take it into extra innings. Wade Davis lowered his ERA in the tenth to microscopic levels and then Lorenzo Cain doubled with two outs and came around to score with a Jarrod Dyson hit as he pulled the hook slide to give the Royals their first walk-off and end their four game losing streak. It was their first walk-off victory since October, 2014 and it might've helped keep Minnesota away from October baseball in 2015.
MINNESOTA 2 - KANSAS CITY 3 (10 Innings)

SATURDAY, JULY 4
The Fourth of July is a day for fireworks and celebrations of patriotism - not screaming obscenities at Joe Blanton. Yet there I was as Blanton took the wind out of Uncle Sam's sails early allowing three runs in the first off of a Joe Mauer hit. He would have four hits before the day was up. But for the Royals, the day ended early as they were never able to pull back to within spitting distance of the Twins who again creeped to three and a half back of the Royals and could get as close as two and a half on Sunday with a series victory. For Blanton, it would be his final start in the rotation as Yordano Ventura will pitch in his spot next week.
MINNESOTA 5 - KANSAS CITY 3

SUNDAY - JULY 5
But there's something funny about baseball. It is designed to be a 50/50 game. At least in the Major Leagues. You are average if you play .500 baseball. And over the past three weeks, the Royals have been an average team. They have hit at times and then other times they've gone quiet. They've had some good performances on the mound and some not so good. And that's why their early victories in April are so great. Every week the Royals stay playing .500 baseball means the teams trying to catch them need to play .600 baseball. And on Sunday, the Royals really soured the milk for the Twins. A two-game swing dropping them back to four and a half back - right where they started at for the series and have been for the past week and a half. And it was again the walk-off that did it. Another near sellout crowd watched Lorenzo Cain shred his hamstring as he went first to home on an Eric Hosmer double to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. The Twins were furious that they split the series with the Royals as second baseman Brian Dozier said the Twins should've won all four. But that's how the game falls sometimes. Thanks to the walk-off, the Royals split the series and held serve against the Twins.
MINNESOTA 2 - KANSAS CITY 3

WHAT'S AHEAD
This team is absolutely limping to the All-Star Break. And it will be interesting to see if this is much of a break at all for six (and maybe seven) Royals who will be going to the game. The “break” was extended from three to four days a few years ago, so they will get a couple of days to recuperate. But there are injuries, bumps and bruises all over the team. Sunday, Cain pulled a hamstring. Jarrod Dyson is also battling a leg issue. Escobar and Infante have both missed time with injuries and Mike Moustakas left the game Sunday with a family emergency and would hit the bereavement list. And that's not to mention the condition of the starting rotation. The Royals simply need to make it one more week and then they can get a little break. But the Tampa Bay Rays and the Blue Jays - both teams fighting to stay in the race - are hoping to catch the Royals when they are down.

ALL STAR GAME WATCH PARTY
All Landmark readers are invited to an official All-Star Game Watch Party on Tuesday, July 14 at 6 p.m. at Kelly's Westport Inn. We'll have drink specials, giveaways and lots of fun. It should include appearances by many of the Royals Twitter nerds as well as a few surprises. We'd love for you to come down and say hi. Thanks for reading! Buckle up.

 


JUST KEEP FINDING WAYS
Written 7/1/15

Week 12

It's easy to get spoiled watching this team play sometimes. The team with one of the best records in baseball cruised through a roadtrip in Milwaukee but stumbled a bit against Boston. However, they have now extended their American League Central lead. But coming off of losing that series at home to the Red Sox, the Royals went on a West Coast swing where they hit Seattle and Oakland. More importantly, four of the six games were after most of your bed times. Have no fear, The K Replay stayed up late and fought back the red eye. And it was fun to watch, too.

MONDAY - JUNE 22
Joe Blanton looks like your eighth grade math teacher. That is, if your math teacher could break off a curveball that could curl your hair. But nobody thought the Royals had a chance up against “King” Felix Hernandez of the Mariners. So of course Blanton completely outpitched the King to win 4-1 as Blanton went six innings allowing only one run. It was his second strong start after taking all of last year off to run a winery. Blanton joins Chris Young and Ryan Madson as pitchers Dayton Moore has plucked off of the trash heap and recycled into serviceable pitchers. That trio has helped not only tread water, but also thrive to overcome injuries to the majority of the rest of the pitching staff including Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy. And the offense seems to be doing just enough as they squeaked out four runs against Felix before he was shown the door. Alcides Escobar had three hits and two RBI's to put the Royals up 4-1 to take the first game of the nine game road trip.
KANSAS CITY 4 - SEATTLE 1

TUESDAY - JUNE 23
Listen, I could pad this area with lots of flowery words and talk about hard work and how teams go through slumps. But let me save the company the ink. Jeremy Guthrie pitched in this game. He did not pitch particularly well. In fact, he did not pitch well at all. He faced off against a pitcher the Royals used to have, Mike Montgomery. Montgomery pitched very well. The Royals lost.
KANSAS CITY 0 - SEATTLE 7

WEDNESDAY - JUNE 24
Let's talk a little bit about Mike Moustakas. On this date last year, Moose's batting average was .174/.242./.359 with eight home runs and 28 RBI. He was three weeks removed from a short one week stint in Omaha to get his head screwed on straight. He had an awful season by any measure - until the postseason. And that's when Mike Moustakas became legend. In the offseason, he completely retooled his swing, his hitting approach and his demeanor at the plate. And it worked. Moustakas still isn't hitting a lot of homers. But he smacked his seventh of the season for a two-run shot and is now batting .328/.379/.478 with seven homers and 30 RBI. The difference is amazing, to improve over 150 points in your average in just one calendar year. The Royals went on to rout Seattle's Roenis Elias on the heels of Mike Moustakas to win the series and extend their AL Central lead to three and a half over Minnesota and six over Detroit.
KANSAS CITY 7 - SEATTLE 2

FRIDAY - JUNE 26
What a difference a year makes. What a difference a game makes. Let's jump back to Sept. 30, 2014. The night of the infamous and legendary Wild Card game between the A's and the Royals. Two teams on the brink of greatness. The result of the game you, by now, know. But what happened to two teams since that night is still staggering. The Royals went on to win eight straight post-season games and lose 90 feet away in the World Series Game 7. They won their first eight games of the season and now have a four game lead in the AL Central with the American League's best record. The Oakland A's are nearly the mirror opposite. They never really recovered after making it only eight minutes into October baseball. General Manager Billy Beane signed Royals star Billy Butler in the “if you can't beat 'em join 'em” mode. The club jumped out to a horrible start, going 9-14 in April. Their big offseason signing, Butler, is being called on now to be dropped from the team as he has done absolutely nothing since Game 7 last year. Edinson Volquez of the Royals was plenty enough for the Royals on Friday night - holding the A's to only one run in the third. Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon both homered. One team with an arrow pointing up, and the other pointing down.
KANSAS CITY 5 - OAKLAND 2

SATURDAY, JUNE 27
On Saturday, the Oakland A's chose to wear uniforms from the 1962 Kansas City Athletics to honor the history of the famed Athletics franchise. Although the A's of the Kansas City era were famously woeful and dysfunctional. Under the thumb of Charley Finley, players often grumbled, most famously Hawk Harrelson, now the broadcaster of the White Sox, who quit (or was fired depending on what story you hear) after grumbling a little too loudly about Old Man Finley. The 2015 A's aren't grumbling publicly, but their fans are not happy that their Wild Card team last year is in last place in the AL West this year. The A's signed Butler in the offseason, the Royals signed guys like Chris Young who had another strong performance and Moustakas and Kendrys Morales picked up RBI's as the Royals held on through a shaky performance from Wade Davis to win the series. While the Oakland A's rattled off three World Championships after leaving Kansas City, there's no doubt the fans of Kansas City are happy with the ultimate outcome - at least in 2015.
KANSAS CITY 3 - OAKLAND 2

SUNDAY - JUNE 28
The subplot of the two teams' histories in Kansas City and the subplots from last October were overshadowed back in April as these two teams came to near blows. The upstart Royals seemed to be challenged often back in April and A's third baseman Brett Lawrie bulldozed into Alcides Escobar putting Esky on the disabled list. But as the Royals traveled out to Oakland in June, there wasn't a peep. That's got a lot to do with how those two teams played following the fracas. It seemed to inspire the Royals and the A's... well... They fell to the Royals on Sunday 5-3 with Wade Davis picking up his ninth save of the year and Jeremy Guthrie pitching better, allowing only two runs to improve to 6-5 on the year. The sixth and eighth were the Royals scoring innings as Salvador Perez hit a huge two run dong to sweep the Athletics down the Bay and improve to five and a half games over Minnesota and 16 games over .500. The sweep also guarantees a winning road trip and says that the Royals will go into the All-Star Break no worse than .500.
KANSAS CITY 5 - OAKLAND 3

WHAT'S AHEAD
The dog days of summer have hit the Boys in Blue, however, as a 5-1 week also yielded three different position players out with injuries. Lorenzo Cain is nursing a leg problem, Eric Hosmer and Escobar are both battling finger injuries. Jarrod Dyson is able to play, but hobbled by a leg condition and there's still a ton of pitchers out right now for the club. There's two more weeks until the All-Star break and it looks like the Royals will be limping to the halfway pole. The remarkable thing is that they just keep finding ways to win. In early June, the power seemed to stop for the team, so the last two weeks they started using their speed and hit-and-run more effectively. Their pitching began to tire, so their bullpen started to shape up. The recycle heap of Young and Blanton have also helped. They're doing it in whatever way they can right now and without a lot of thought going into it. They'll need to do it for three more games on the road - against the first place Houston Astros - before coming home for a Fourth of July weekend series and a long homestand against the second place Twins as they stay home up to the All-Star Break. Hold on tight, folks. This next week should say a lot about how much damage your credit cards may need to take in October.

 


 

CAN'T GET NO SATISFACTION
Written 6/24/15

Week 11

Last week in this space, I called for the seven game sweep. It didn't quite happen but it started out great. It is how the week ended, however that won't give no satisfaction for Royals fans as the pitchers had a hard time Painting it Black. But the good news is that time is on the side of the Royals and you can hear them knocking on another postseason berth.

MONDAY - JUNE 15
Following the rainout the day before in St. Louis, the Royals were looking to Milwaukee to give them shelter from an inconsistent week. The hapless Brewers were just the brown sugar the Royals bats were looking for as they opened up with three runs in the first inning of play thanks to former Brewers Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain who both plated runs in the first inning. The bats which had been cool, lit up and Edinson Volquez cruised. It was a rocky performance in clean-up duty for Greg Holland, however, who melted down in the ninth inning giving up three runs to make the game even close. But the Royals got what they needed even if it wasn't all that they wanted in the series opener.
KANSAS CITY 8 - MILWAUKEE 5

TUESDAY - JUNE 16
If Monday's game was a nail biter, Ruby Tuesday's was more of an emotional rescue that turned into a bit of a sad day for Brewer's fans. Chris Young looked more like Cy Young as he barreled through the Brewers like a rolling stone, pitching seven innings and allowing no runs with three K's. Lorenzo Cain remained hot with two RBI's and Young was the offensive leader as well with a 3 RBI game marking the first time a Royals pitcher has had a 3 RBI game in several decades. Time has certainly been on the side of Young who has pitched incredibly since joining the team in spot start duty due to the injuries in the rotation. The two game sweep in Milwaukee means the Royals will travel the moonlight mile back down to KC to open a short homestand with the Brewers and Red Sox.
KANSAS CITY 7 - MILWAUKEE 2

WEDNESDAY - JUNE 17
Drafted by the Brewers and then traded away in the Zack Greinke deal, Lorenzo Cain has been looking for an opportunity to open up a can of whoop-ass on his former team. On Wednesday he continued his barrage as he was the beast of burden for the offense. Cain had a huge RBI triple in the fifth inning with the Royals scoring three in the second, fifth and four in the eighth. Joe Blanton has been another surprise pick-up and made a great spot start for his first victory in over two years. All Royals recorded a hit except for the catcher's position in the order. The victory was especially sweet for Ned Yost, who has managed like he was a fortune teller since last July. He eclipsed Whitey Herzog's win total to become the winningest manager in Royals history. Good times for Yost indeed.
MILWAUKEE 2 - KANSAS CITY 10

THURSDAY, JUNE 18
The Royals let it loose on Thursday and concluded the two-city, one-team, four-game sweep against the Brewers as they were calling mercy, mercy towards the end. Mike Moustakas had an RBI single in the second inning that proved the difference maker in this one as the Royals scored three runs in the first two innings. Alcides Escobar, another former Brewer, scored two of those runs and Jeremy Guthrie pitched well enough through six allowing only two runs. The game was then turned over to the gas, gas, gas of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland to close out the seventh, eighth, and ninth. The Brewers had simply run out of time.
MILWAUKEE 2 - KANSAS CITY 3

FRIDAY, JUNE 19
As bad as the Brewers are, the Red Sox are right alongside. Here is a team that was looking to start it up in the beginning of the year, but turned out to be still a fool through the middle of the season, sitting in dead last in the AL East standings. But any team with Pablo Sandoval (he of the San Francisco Giants World Series team) and Big Papi David Ortiz are still plenty deadly as we saw in the opener. Alexi Ramirex hit a huge homer in the second inning and it really put Luis Pino, who was working in a spot starter role, and the Sox had the Royals under their thumb early and never looked back.
BOSTON 7 - KANSAS CITY 3

SATURDAY - JUNE 20
I had the fortune to attend Saturday's game and it looked like I'd be asking for my money back. It gives a good definition of winning ugly. The Royals took the first four innings off, it seemed as the team looked unfocused and out of it. And then the offense decided to show up like a bunch of wild horses. Those bats were so cold early on, but erupted for a five run fifth inning thanks to a Kendrys Morales three-run homer in the fifth. Rick Porcello pitched poorly for the Beantowners and the game also featured an ejection of David Ortiz in which Ortiz then gesticulated to the home plate umpire to throw him out of the game. The club's 11th sellout this season under the sweltering heat netted the first 15,000 fans who said let's spend the night together for Mike Moustakas bobblehead dolls and Moustakas had two hits and two RBI in the game. He is hitting .325, nearly 120 points higher than where he was last year.
BOSTON 4 - KANSAS CITY 7

SUNDAY - JUNE 21
Sunday's game looked like it might send fans crying “gimmie shelter” early on as a thunderstorm threatened the early innings, but it never materialized and the Royals really never showed up either. The club dropped the finale to Boston in their worst home loss in over a year. There's really not much to tell about this one - it had “getaway day” written all over it and I'd need to have a heart of stone to be able to dissect it with much detail. Let's just say that Chris Young finally proved he was human as he gave up a ton of runs in the middle of the game and dropped to 6-3 on the year. The Royals weren't too proud to beg as they did scrape together a couple of runs in the ninth inning, but the damage was definitely done.
BOSTON 13 - KANSAS CITY 2

WHAT'S AHEAD
While the final three games of the homestand were definitely not ideal, the team did go 5-2 on the week. The pitching was exposed again for some holes and some issues and we also learned that the team can lose a little bit of focus like on Saturday but still overcome it to win. I guess, in the end, you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you'll find, you get what you need. The Royals head out on the road for a series of West Coast games this week against the Mariners and the Athletics for a Country Breakfast reunion. Both teams are playing around .500 baseball this year and the Mariners just fired their hitting coach. Maybe the Royals could finally get some satisfaction against Billy Butler.

 

 

 

HEY NOW, YOU’RE
AN ALL-STAR

Written 7/15/15

Week 15

For years and years, the All-Star Break was an actual break of a few days where players would head back to their respective homes, catch up on the honey-do list or just relax for a few days. Those days are gone as seven Royals players plus the majority of their coaching staff headed to Cincinnati for Tuesday's All-Star Game Week. Missing a few days of rest and relaxation is a small price to pay when your baseball team is playing so well. The challenge will be to make sure you're in that same position this time next year instead of sitting on your couch with the rest of us.

TUESDAY - JULY 14 ALL-STAR GAME
One of my earliest memories of the All-Star game was seeing Bo Jackson in the 1989 game crush a lead-off home run and eventually be named MVP of the game. It would be decades until the Royals were relevant in the game--sending such Royals “greats” as Aaron Crow, Ken Harvey, Dean Palmer, and Jose Roasado (twice!). My more recent memories of the game are staying up through the first and second wave of players to see if a random pitcher or Mike Sweeney would be a late inning replacement at first base.

Not this year. Royals fans pummeled the online voting at one point having eight Royals slated to start the game. Following a bunch of whining by the national media and at least one data scrub by MLB, three Royals started the game -- Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Salvador Perez; two pitchers were named to the squad -- Kelvin Hererra and Wade Davis; Mike Moustakas won the final players vote; and Alex Gordon was named a starter but didn't play due to injury. What a mouthful. No little children had to stay up past 9:30 p.m. waiting for a strikeout by a corner infielder (unless you count Moustakas who was fed to the dragon that is the 103 MPH fastball of Aroldis Chapman.)

And the Royals didn't disappoint. Davis pitched a scoreless eighth inning, Perez wore a golden chest protector. Escobar got a hit and Lorenzo Cain challenged Mike Trout for All-Star MVP.

All told, the American League handily defeated the Senior Circuit to give the Royals (errr...the AL) home field advantage in the 2015 World Series scheduled for early November.

Let's also take this opportunity to credit Ned Yost for spending a couple hours a day for a couple of months pregaming this non-exhibition exhibition. He might've given his squad a major benefit come November.
AMERICAN LEAGUE 6 - NATIONAL LEAGUE 2

FRIDAY - JULY 17 (Game 1)
The Royals went into the week as the team that has played the least games. Due to lots of rain in the first half of the season, the Royals would be playing their second doubleheader in as many weeks and they will not have a day off until early August. The Royals, fresh off their appearance in the All-Star Game, wasted no time jumping out to a lead thanks to a first inning RBI double by Lorenzo Cain. Chris Young opened the post-All-Star break pitching just well enough to keep the Sox at bay, allowing only two runs and notching his eighth win of the season. A clean 7th, 8th, and 9th by HDH along with homers by Mike Moustakas and Alex Rios showed the rest of the American League that the Royals weren't looking to slump after the break.
KANSAS CITY 4 - CHICAGO (A) 2

FRIDAY - JULY 18 (Game 2)
There's been a lot of talk about what the Royals might do at the trade deadline on July 31, if anything. A quick study on what the Royals look like at their worst was on display in the Friday night game. Their offense can be sluggish - especially without key bats including Alex Gordon (injury) and Mike Moustakas (night off.) The Royals could only scratch out four hits against the Royal killer John Danks. Additionally, their pitching rotation could use a boost as Edinson Volquez has been their most consistent starter, but can't go scoreless the entire time. Volquez pitched into the seventh, but allowed both runs to the White Sox who aren't a great offensive club. The Royals offense took the evening off, however, and the Sox notched a shutout. If you're gauging this game on what to trade for, you could go pitching or hitting.
KANSAS CITY 0 - CHICAGO (A) 2

SATURDAY - JULY 18
Put this game in the back of your head as another one of those milestones of the season. A team that split a doubleheader the day before. A team that had some struggles offensively and a team that doesn't have a lot of available pitching thanks to the All-Star game and a double header. Additionally, the normally solid Greg Holland gave up a two run save in the ninth inning. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. This is the 2015 Royals we're talking about. The game started with the Royals jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first as Moustakas, Hosmer and Perez all notched RBI's. But the Sox jumped back to tie it and the game went back and forth until the ninth inning with the Royals up 6-4. As mentioned, Holland allowed a two run double to J.B. Shuck to tie it. The game would continue until the 13th with the Royals decimating their bullpen in the process, pitching just about everyone they had including gutsy appearances by Luke Hochevar, Brandon Finnegan and Ryan Madson. In the top of the 13th, the Royals went ahead thanks to, who else, Lorenzo Cain who jacked a homer with a little bat flip that angered the Chicago broadcasting crew. No matter. The Royals would go on to win in 13 innings and send the White Sox plunging to the basement of the American League Central.
KANSAS CITY 7 - CHICAGO (A) 6 (13 Innings)

SUNDAY - JULY 19
Recently, a small spacecraft flew by the dwarf planet Pluto to oversee the vast wasteland of ice and nothingness. What they found was the Royals pitching staff on Sunday afternoon. The Royals used every pitcher in their staff except for two relievers and their starter Danny Duffy. Duffy had never gone past the seventh inning in his career and never into the seventh this season which has been riddled with injuries. Duffy, quite simply, was being asked to do something he had never done before - carry a club without a net. The concern with Danny has always been between the ears - he gets too amped for big games and gets too aggravated when he doesn't pitch the way he and others want. The task was mighty on Sunday afternoon - and Duffy rose and exceeded expectations. He pitched eight innings of scoreless baseball and allowed a homer in the top of the ninth. Duffy also did it by keeping his pitch count low, only hitting 100 with his third out of the eighth. It was a special outing by a player who has been counted on to be special for years, but rarely hit those expectations. It's exactly what the Royals needed to go into a huge series with the Pirates at full strength. It was, quite simply, Danny Duffy's best game of his career.
KANSAS CITY 4 - CHICAGO (A) 1

WHAT'S AHEAD
No games off. Oppressive heat. A one day road trip in the middle of a homestand. The Twins who won't go away. Two second place teams and a first place team all lined up this week. But the Royals simply refuse to lose (for any length of time, anyway.) The challenge continues to grow as the next three weeks will be without a break, but they will get a little relief as Kris Medlen returns this week and Jason Vargas is close as well to bolster the pitching staff.

And the Royals aren't going into the week without some bullets. Lorenzo Cain was last week's AL Player of the Week and Paulo Orlando hit another homer on Sunday. And then there's the defense by Alcides Escobar who on Sunday notched three of SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays - including #3 and #1. (Number 2 was a surfer who escaped a shark attack on live television. That's how good the Royals are playing right now.)

This team is quite simply fun to watch right now and they are 20 games above .500 for the first time since 1989 - the same year that Bo Jackson hit that homer to lead off the All-Star Game.

 


QUIT YER WORRYIN'
Written 7/15/15

Week 14

So last week the Royals went 2-5 on the week and were four and a half games up on Minnesota in the AL Central. The dark clouds began to gather and Royals Nation started getting a collective pain in their chest. With only one week remaining before the All Star Break, it's going to be critical to keep pace with the rest of the AL Central and keep them at bay as we face off against two teams battling for the AL East title.

TUESDAY - JULY 7 (Game 1)
Because of a deluge of rain on Monday night, the Royals played a day/night doubleheader (the first in the history of Kauffman Stadium) and it could easily stand as one of the key events in the 2015 season. This game had everything we've come to expect from the 2015 Royals including all of the drama as Chris Young had a shaky outing allowing four runs to the Rays through six innings. But the Royals offense battled back into the game scoring three in the bottom of the second and then tied it in the fourth off of an Alex Gordon home run. The All Star starter also had three hits and two RBI on the night. The Royals continued to show defense and pitching through the ninth, when Greg Holland gave up an uncharacteristic run to go down 5-4. But then it was time for the fireworks a few days late. The Royals loaded the bases against the Rays and Paulo Orlando stepped to the plate having been just called back up from Omaha and jacked a walk off grand slam into the left field bullpen. The walk off granny matched the intensity if not the significance of Justin Maxwell's in the final home game of the regular season in 2013 but it was certainly a great way to start the week. After having no walk offs in the first 76 games of the year, the Royals have now had three in the last five.
TAMPA BAY 5 - KANSAS CITY 9

TUESDAY - JULY 7 (Game 2)
Having walked off an hour earlier, the same two teams faced off for game two under the lights in what looked like the makings of a pitchers’ duel between Edinson Volquez and Matt Andriese. Going into the sixth, the game was tied at one as both starters left due to high pitch counts. The strength of the Royals is their bullpen and the opposite of that is the Rays who allowed four runs in the sixth and another two in the eighth off of a four RBI performance by Alex Gordon (who was 7-9 on Tuesday between the two games.) Alcides Escobar hit a bases-clearing double in the sixth. The “B team” of the bullpen cleaned up and left the Rays scoreless in the back half of the game which included great performances by Luke Hochevar and Ryan Madson.
TAMPA BAY 1 - KANSAS CITY 7

WEDNESDAY - JULY 8
If Tuesday's walk off grand slam might've signaled the high point of the season to date, the low point might've come in the fourth inning on Wednesday as Gordon severely injured his groin trying to catch a pop fly which resulted in an inside-the-park home run by Landon Forsythe. He had to be carted off the field as onlookers in the left field stands could be seen clutching their heads and weeping. Gordon's defense was overshadowed by his offense on Tuesday and the absence of Gordon for what they say is a minimum of eight weeks could be significant. Enter Jarrod Dyson who immediately made an incredible catch and had a hustle play to notch his own inside-the-park homer in the sixth. It's not often you see even one inside-the-parker. This game had a little bit of everything including a rare collapse by the Royals bullpen as Joe Blanton gave up three runs in the ninth. But Holland notched his 17th save of the season and the Royals won their fourth straight. It remains to be seen how impactful the injury to Gordon will be.
TAMPA BAY 7 - KANSAS CITY 9

THURSDAY - JULY 9
There's two ways to face adversity - you can sit around and mope, or you can stand up, dust yourself off, and keep grinding. The Royals made a concerted effort to do the latter on Thursday as Royals coach Rusty Kuntz was reportedly imploring his team to stay positive in the wake of the news that Alex Gordon would be out until September. The tactic seemed to work as the Royals jumped all over Rays starter Nathan Karns as he allowed homers to both Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez. Yordano Ventura still didn't look great, but pitched well enough to seal the four game sweep on the Rays making it into the fifth when the lights out bullpen could take over. The game also featured one of the best (and that's really saying something) highlight catches of the season by Jarrod Dyson in left field. Dyson made a Wille Mays-style catch only inches from the left field wall then spun around to double off the runner at first base. The play was immediately the top play on SportsCenter and gave Royals fans some hope that Gordon's injury wouldn't be as severely impacting as first thought. The win was the team's fifth straight and kept them in the driver's seat in the AL Central with only three more games at home before the much needed break.
TAMPA BAY 3 - KANSAS CITY 8

FRIDAY - JULY 10
Friday night started late thanks to a two plus hour rain delay that left Royals fans looking to see the Boys in Blue extend their winning streak to six games. Danny Duffy and the Royals bullpen did not disappoint. Duffy threw six scoreless innings. The Royals offense showed just enough flash including a homer by Salvador Perez. The full fury of H-D-H was unleashed on one of the best hitting teams in the American League as Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland each pitched scoreless innings to close the game out. Holland picked up his 18th save. Jarrod Dyson also had another outfield assist as the defense continued to shine. The Royals roll on as they now lead the Minnesota Twins by five and half games and the Detroit Tigers by eight.
TORONTO 0 - KANSAS CITY 3

SATURDAY, JULY 11
Someone on Twitter mentioned this after the Royals game on Saturday, “welp, you can't win 'em all.” If the Royals were going to lay an egg, Saturday was as good of a time as any. Chris Young had a decent outing, but allowed two runs in the fourth. Although the Royals were within a run until the ninth, the game really didn't have much of a flow and the Royals felt out of it - likely due to the 90 degree heat beating down on them much of the afternoon. It might've also had something to do with the fact that Marc Buherle has been an absolute crusher of the Royals in his career. Among active pitchers, he has more wins against the Royals than anyone else. The loss ends the Royals six game winning streak, and thanks to a Minnesota win, puts them back at four and a half up - where they've been most of the summer.
TORONTO 6 - KANSAS CITY 2

SUNDAY - JULY 12
What an incredible first half of the season for the Royals. Fifteen games above .500 puts them on a pace for 97 wins on the season and a final victory on Sunday would keep them well in command in the AL Central. But the final game before a long break often means focus breaks and goofy things. You saw just about all of it in this one. The Royals jumped out to a huge 6-0 lead in the first few innings thanks to a six run first including a homer by Kendrys Morales. And then it became a game of attrition as the hot July sun beat down on the Kauffman infield. The two teams would combine for seven errors in the game including a key one in the sixth by Alcedes Escobar. The Jays would score eight in the frame and take the lead. The crooked numbers would return in the bottom of the sixth as the Royals jumped back ahead as the Jays bullpen took over. Tied at 10 going into the eighth inning, Tuesday's hero Paulo Orlando muscled up to a fastball and jacked it for the game winning homer to finish the week 6-1 and win the game 11-10. Holland got his 19th save in the ninth and the Royals bolted into the All-Star Break with one of the best records in all of baseball at 52-34.
TORONTO 10 - KANSAS CITY 11

WHAT'S AHEAD
A crappy week last week and an amazing week this week and the Royals are still four and a half up on the Twins who don't seem to want to fade. The All Star Break comes at a great time for the pitching and offense as nagging injuries to Lorenzo Cain can be healed and the Royals can take a bit of a victory lap following last October at this week's All Star Game in Cincinnati. Seven Royals were selected as All Stars and with Alex Gordon sitting out due to injury, six will likely factor in the contest --three of them starters.

There was a time when I'd have to stay up late waiting for the single Royal to appear in the eighth or ninth of a meaningless game. (Jose Rosado?? Dean Palmer??) We won't have that problem this year with Escobar, Perez and Cain all starting the game, Moustakas coming in for defense later and Herrera and Davis ready to slam the door on the National League. It's the core of a team that has won more than 100 games over their last 162 and one that the country will see on full display Tuesday night.

 


OOF
Written 7/8/15

Week 13

Listen. If you're pregnant, or have back problems, or are just squeamish around medical shows on TV, you might want to skip this week's edition and go read the front page or the police blotter or something. This wasn't a pretty week. Let's be honest. But I'll give you a little spoiler alert, your Royals went into the week in first place and they exited the week in first place. But for those of you who really like blood and guts - let's dig in.

MONDAY - JUNE 29
I began last week's K Replay stating that Joe Blanton looks like your high school English teacher. Well, after Monday's performance, it's more likely that he will BE a high school English teacher this time next week. Blanton got rocked by the best team in the AL West as Jose Altuve and Chris Carter both homered early to put this one on cruise control for the Royals. Blanton, of course, was a fill-in the past few starts for an injured rotation which included spot starts for Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura who have both been nursing injuries. The offense picked a pretty crummy time to start the All Star Break early as well, notching only one run in the seventh. Blanton didn't make it out of the third, but it's likely he's on a short leash in any future starts for the Royals.
KANSAS CITY 1 - HOUSTON 6

TUESDAY - JUNE 30
One of the missing pieces for the starting rotation made his return on Tuesday. Danny Duffy pitched pretty well in his return as he struck out six into the seventh inning allowing four runs in the process. A pretty good start coming off of an injury. But these are the nights where the offense is supposed to pick up the team. They did scatter eight hits off of Dallas Keuchel but couldn't scratch out any runs. Lorenzo Cain and Kendrys Morales were the only extra base hits for the Royals in the game. Duffy gave up a homer to George Springs - an odds on favorite for an all-star if Cain doesn't mop up the voting. But without offense, you're simply not going to win no matter how good your pitching is.
KANSAS CITY 0 - HOUSTON 4

WEDNESDAY - JULY 1
This was a key game for Kansas City. You don't want to get swept ever - and you especially don't want to get swept by a team that you're probably going to face in the playoffs very soon. Everyday Eddie Volquez pitched poorly - as bad as he's been all season - allowing five runs and eight hits and only going five innings. But the Royals offense finally battled back to tie it with two runs in the top of the seventh with a two-run RBI triple by Lorenzo Cain. But the Astros wouldn't say die and pulled ahead with a go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh off of Kelvin Herrera on a very close slide by Jose Altuve. A sweep here meant the Royals would go into the four game series with the second place Twins with only a four and a half game lead and it meant the Astros pulled to a five game lead over the Angels. Hope you paid attention, because you're going to see the Astros in October. The scrappy up-and -comers are here and they played great this week.
KANSAS CITY 5 - HOUSTON 6

THURSDAY - JULY 2
This has been a dreadful 10 days for the Royals. They've been 5-5 (which really doesn't sound that bad if you think about it) and are opening up against the Twins who have been 4-6 over their last 10. But the Twins showed up in Kansas City on Thursday loaded for bear. Kyle Gibson was electric, improving his record to 6-6 as he absolutely shut down the Royals suddenly ineffective offense through eight innings. The Royals only managed four hits the entire night and Chris Young, while effective, allowed a run in the fifth to drop to 7-4 on the season. The Twins added another in the ninth and the Royals dropped their fourth straight allowing the Twins to climb to three and a half out in the Central. Furthermore, it seems that the tougher the teams get, the worse the Royals play.
MINNESOTA 2 - KANSAS CITY 0

FRIDAY - JULY 3
Through 76 games so far this season, the Royals have yet to have a walk-off win. Well that was fixed on Friday night in a game that harkened back to the loudest crowds in October of 2014. And it happened in the most improbable of ways. Jeremy Guthrie, who had struggled in the past month and fans began to call for his release, pitched fantastically - allowing only two runs through seven and a third innings. He only allowed one walk and had four strikeouts. The Royals looked to be having another weak night offensively as they only had one run on a weak single by Alex Rios to score Escobar. They scored another run in the eighth to tie it and take it into extra innings. Wade Davis lowered his ERA in the tenth to microscopic levels and then Lorenzo Cain doubled with two outs and came around to score with a Jarrod Dyson hit as he pulled the hook slide to give the Royals their first walk-off and end their four game losing streak. It was their first walk-off victory since October, 2014 and it might've helped keep Minnesota away from October baseball in 2015.
MINNESOTA 2 - KANSAS CITY 3 (10 Innings)

SATURDAY, JULY 4
The Fourth of July is a day for fireworks and celebrations of patriotism - not screaming obscenities at Joe Blanton. Yet there I was as Blanton took the wind out of Uncle Sam's sails early allowing three runs in the first off of a Joe Mauer hit. He would have four hits before the day was up. But for the Royals, the day ended early as they were never able to pull back to within spitting distance of the Twins who again creeped to three and a half back of the Royals and could get as close as two and a half on Sunday with a series victory. For Blanton, it would be his final start in the rotation as Yordano Ventura will pitch in his spot next week.
MINNESOTA 5 - KANSAS CITY 3

SUNDAY - JULY 5
But there's something funny about baseball. It is designed to be a 50/50 game. At least in the Major Leagues. You are average if you play .500 baseball. And over the past three weeks, the Royals have been an average team. They have hit at times and then other times they've gone quiet. They've had some good performances on the mound and some not so good. And that's why their early victories in April are so great. Every week the Royals stay playing .500 baseball means the teams trying to catch them need to play .600 baseball. And on Sunday, the Royals really soured the milk for the Twins. A two-game swing dropping them back to four and a half back - right where they started at for the series and have been for the past week and a half. And it was again the walk-off that did it. Another near sellout crowd watched Lorenzo Cain shred his hamstring as he went first to home on an Eric Hosmer double to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. The Twins were furious that they split the series with the Royals as second baseman Brian Dozier said the Twins should've won all four. But that's how the game falls sometimes. Thanks to the walk-off, the Royals split the series and held serve against the Twins.
MINNESOTA 2 - KANSAS CITY 3

WHAT'S AHEAD
This team is absolutely limping to the All-Star Break. And it will be interesting to see if this is much of a break at all for six (and maybe seven) Royals who will be going to the game. The “break” was extended from three to four days a few years ago, so they will get a couple of days to recuperate. But there are injuries, bumps and bruises all over the team. Sunday, Cain pulled a hamstring. Jarrod Dyson is also battling a leg issue. Escobar and Infante have both missed time with injuries and Mike Moustakas left the game Sunday with a family emergency and would hit the bereavement list. And that's not to mention the condition of the starting rotation. The Royals simply need to make it one more week and then they can get a little break. But the Tampa Bay Rays and the Blue Jays - both teams fighting to stay in the race - are hoping to catch the Royals when they are down.

ALL STAR GAME WATCH PARTY
All Landmark readers are invited to an official All-Star Game Watch Party on Tuesday, July 14 at 6 p.m. at Kelly's Westport Inn. We'll have drink specials, giveaways and lots of fun. It should include appearances by many of the Royals Twitter nerds as well as a few surprises. We'd love for you to come down and say hi. Thanks for reading! Buckle up.

 


JUST KEEP FINDING WAYS
Written 7/1/15

Week 12

It's easy to get spoiled watching this team play sometimes. The team with one of the best records in baseball cruised through a roadtrip in Milwaukee but stumbled a bit against Boston. However, they have now extended their American League Central lead. But coming off of losing that series at home to the Red Sox, the Royals went on a West Coast swing where they hit Seattle and Oakland. More importantly, four of the six games were after most of your bed times. Have no fear, The K Replay stayed up late and fought back the red eye. And it was fun to watch, too.

MONDAY - JUNE 22
Joe Blanton looks like your eighth grade math teacher. That is, if your math teacher could break off a curveball that could curl your hair. But nobody thought the Royals had a chance up against “King” Felix Hernandez of the Mariners. So of course Blanton completely outpitched the King to win 4-1 as Blanton went six innings allowing only one run. It was his second strong start after taking all of last year off to run a winery. Blanton joins Chris Young and Ryan Madson as pitchers Dayton Moore has plucked off of the trash heap and recycled into serviceable pitchers. That trio has helped not only tread water, but also thrive to overcome injuries to the majority of the rest of the pitching staff including Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy. And the offense seems to be doing just enough as they squeaked out four runs against Felix before he was shown the door. Alcides Escobar had three hits and two RBI's to put the Royals up 4-1 to take the first game of the nine game road trip.
KANSAS CITY 4 - SEATTLE 1

TUESDAY - JUNE 23
Listen, I could pad this area with lots of flowery words and talk about hard work and how teams go through slumps. But let me save the company the ink. Jeremy Guthrie pitched in this game. He did not pitch particularly well. In fact, he did not pitch well at all. He faced off against a pitcher the Royals used to have, Mike Montgomery. Montgomery pitched very well. The Royals lost.
KANSAS CITY 0 - SEATTLE 7

WEDNESDAY - JUNE 24
Let's talk a little bit about Mike Moustakas. On this date last year, Moose's batting average was .174/.242./.359 with eight home runs and 28 RBI. He was three weeks removed from a short one week stint in Omaha to get his head screwed on straight. He had an awful season by any measure - until the postseason. And that's when Mike Moustakas became legend. In the offseason, he completely retooled his swing, his hitting approach and his demeanor at the plate. And it worked. Moustakas still isn't hitting a lot of homers. But he smacked his seventh of the season for a two-run shot and is now batting .328/.379/.478 with seven homers and 30 RBI. The difference is amazing, to improve over 150 points in your average in just one calendar year. The Royals went on to rout Seattle's Roenis Elias on the heels of Mike Moustakas to win the series and extend their AL Central lead to three and a half over Minnesota and six over Detroit.
KANSAS CITY 7 - SEATTLE 2

FRIDAY - JUNE 26
What a difference a year makes. What a difference a game makes. Let's jump back to Sept. 30, 2014. The night of the infamous and legendary Wild Card game between the A's and the Royals. Two teams on the brink of greatness. The result of the game you, by now, know. But what happened to two teams since that night is still staggering. The Royals went on to win eight straight post-season games and lose 90 feet away in the World Series Game 7. They won their first eight games of the season and now have a four game lead in the AL Central with the American League's best record. The Oakland A's are nearly the mirror opposite. They never really recovered after making it only eight minutes into October baseball. General Manager Billy Beane signed Royals star Billy Butler in the “if you can't beat 'em join 'em” mode. The club jumped out to a horrible start, going 9-14 in April. Their big offseason signing, Butler, is being called on now to be dropped from the team as he has done absolutely nothing since Game 7 last year. Edinson Volquez of the Royals was plenty enough for the Royals on Friday night - holding the A's to only one run in the third. Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon both homered. One team with an arrow pointing up, and the other pointing down.
KANSAS CITY 5 - OAKLAND 2

SATURDAY, JUNE 27
On Saturday, the Oakland A's chose to wear uniforms from the 1962 Kansas City Athletics to honor the history of the famed Athletics franchise. Although the A's of the Kansas City era were famously woeful and dysfunctional. Under the thumb of Charley Finley, players often grumbled, most famously Hawk Harrelson, now the broadcaster of the White Sox, who quit (or was fired depending on what story you hear) after grumbling a little too loudly about Old Man Finley. The 2015 A's aren't grumbling publicly, but their fans are not happy that their Wild Card team last year is in last place in the AL West this year. The A's signed Butler in the offseason, the Royals signed guys like Chris Young who had another strong performance and Moustakas and Kendrys Morales picked up RBI's as the Royals held on through a shaky performance from Wade Davis to win the series. While the Oakland A's rattled off three World Championships after leaving Kansas City, there's no doubt the fans of Kansas City are happy with the ultimate outcome - at least in 2015.
KANSAS CITY 3 - OAKLAND 2

SUNDAY - JUNE 28
The subplot of the two teams' histories in Kansas City and the subplots from last October were overshadowed back in April as these two teams came to near blows. The upstart Royals seemed to be challenged often back in April and A's third baseman Brett Lawrie bulldozed into Alcides Escobar putting Esky on the disabled list. But as the Royals traveled out to Oakland in June, there wasn't a peep. That's got a lot to do with how those two teams played following the fracas. It seemed to inspire the Royals and the A's... well... They fell to the Royals on Sunday 5-3 with Wade Davis picking up his ninth save of the year and Jeremy Guthrie pitching better, allowing only two runs to improve to 6-5 on the year. The sixth and eighth were the Royals scoring innings as Salvador Perez hit a huge two run dong to sweep the Athletics down the Bay and improve to five and a half games over Minnesota and 16 games over .500. The sweep also guarantees a winning road trip and says that the Royals will go into the All-Star Break no worse than .500.
KANSAS CITY 5 - OAKLAND 3

WHAT'S AHEAD
The dog days of summer have hit the Boys in Blue, however, as a 5-1 week also yielded three different position players out with injuries. Lorenzo Cain is nursing a leg problem, Eric Hosmer and Escobar are both battling finger injuries. Jarrod Dyson is able to play, but hobbled by a leg condition and there's still a ton of pitchers out right now for the club. There's two more weeks until the All-Star break and it looks like the Royals will be limping to the halfway pole. The remarkable thing is that they just keep finding ways to win. In early June, the power seemed to stop for the team, so the last two weeks they started using their speed and hit-and-run more effectively. Their pitching began to tire, so their bullpen started to shape up. The recycle heap of Young and Blanton have also helped. They're doing it in whatever way they can right now and without a lot of thought going into it. They'll need to do it for three more games on the road - against the first place Houston Astros - before coming home for a Fourth of July weekend series and a long homestand against the second place Twins as they stay home up to the All-Star Break. Hold on tight, folks. This next week should say a lot about how much damage your credit cards may need to take in October.

 


 

CAN'T GET NO SATISFACTION
Written 6/24/15

Week 11

Last week in this space, I called for the seven game sweep. It didn't quite happen but it started out great. It is how the week ended, however that won't give no satisfaction for Royals fans as the pitchers had a hard time Painting it Black. But the good news is that time is on the side of the Royals and you can hear them knocking on another postseason berth.

MONDAY - JUNE 15
Following the rainout the day before in St. Louis, the Royals were looking to Milwaukee to give them shelter from an inconsistent week. The hapless Brewers were just the brown sugar the Royals bats were looking for as they opened up with three runs in the first inning of play thanks to former Brewers Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain who both plated runs in the first inning. The bats which had been cool, lit up and Edinson Volquez cruised. It was a rocky performance in clean-up duty for Greg Holland, however, who melted down in the ninth inning giving up three runs to make the game even close. But the Royals got what they needed even if it wasn't all that they wanted in the series opener.
KANSAS CITY 8 - MILWAUKEE 5

TUESDAY - JUNE 16
If Monday's game was a nail biter, Ruby Tuesday's was more of an emotional rescue that turned into a bit of a sad day for Brewer's fans. Chris Young looked more like Cy Young as he barreled through the Brewers like a rolling stone, pitching seven innings and allowing no runs with three K's. Lorenzo Cain remained hot with two RBI's and Young was the offensive leader as well with a 3 RBI game marking the first time a Royals pitcher has had a 3 RBI game in several decades. Time has certainly been on the side of Young who has pitched incredibly since joining the team in spot start duty due to the injuries in the rotation. The two game sweep in Milwaukee means the Royals will travel the moonlight mile back down to KC to open a short homestand with the Brewers and Red Sox.
KANSAS CITY 7 - MILWAUKEE 2

WEDNESDAY - JUNE 17
Drafted by the Brewers and then traded away in the Zack Greinke deal, Lorenzo Cain has been looking for an opportunity to open up a can of whoop-ass on his former team. On Wednesday he continued his barrage as he was the beast of burden for the offense. Cain had a huge RBI triple in the fifth inning with the Royals scoring three in the second, fifth and four in the eighth. Joe Blanton has been another surprise pick-up and made a great spot start for his first victory in over two years. All Royals recorded a hit except for the catcher's position in the order. The victory was especially sweet for Ned Yost, who has managed like he was a fortune teller since last July. He eclipsed Whitey Herzog's win total to become the winningest manager in Royals history. Good times for Yost indeed.
MILWAUKEE 2 - KANSAS CITY 10

THURSDAY, JUNE 18
The Royals let it loose on Thursday and concluded the two-city, one-team, four-game sweep against the Brewers as they were calling mercy, mercy towards the end. Mike Moustakas had an RBI single in the second inning that proved the difference maker in this one as the Royals scored three runs in the first two innings. Alcides Escobar, another former Brewer, scored two of those runs and Jeremy Guthrie pitched well enough through six allowing only two runs. The game was then turned over to the gas, gas, gas of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland to close out the seventh, eighth, and ninth. The Brewers had simply run out of time.
MILWAUKEE 2 - KANSAS CITY 3

FRIDAY, JUNE 19
As bad as the Brewers are, the Red Sox are right alongside. Here is a team that was looking to start it up in the beginning of the year, but turned out to be still a fool through the middle of the season, sitting in dead last in the AL East standings. But any team with Pablo Sandoval (he of the San Francisco Giants World Series team) and Big Papi David Ortiz are still plenty deadly as we saw in the opener. Alexi Ramirex hit a huge homer in the second inning and it really put Luis Pino, who was working in a spot starter role, and the Sox had the Royals under their thumb early and never looked back.
BOSTON 7 - KANSAS CITY 3

SATURDAY - JUNE 20
I had the fortune to attend Saturday's game and it looked like I'd be asking for my money back. It gives a good definition of winning ugly. The Royals took the first four innings off, it seemed as the team looked unfocused and out of it. And then the offense decided to show up like a bunch of wild horses. Those bats were so cold early on, but erupted for a five run fifth inning thanks to a Kendrys Morales three-run homer in the fifth. Rick Porcello pitched poorly for the Beantowners and the game also featured an ejection of David Ortiz in which Ortiz then gesticulated to the home plate umpire to throw him out of the game. The club's 11th sellout this season under the sweltering heat netted the first 15,000 fans who said let's spend the night together for Mike Moustakas bobblehead dolls and Moustakas had two hits and two RBI in the game. He is hitting .325, nearly 120 points higher than where he was last year.
BOSTON 4 - KANSAS CITY 7

SUNDAY - JUNE 21
Sunday's game looked like it might send fans crying “gimmie shelter” early on as a thunderstorm threatened the early innings, but it never materialized and the Royals really never showed up either. The club dropped the finale to Boston in their worst home loss in over a year. There's really not much to tell about this one - it had “getaway day” written all over it and I'd need to have a heart of stone to be able to dissect it with much detail. Let's just say that Chris Young finally proved he was human as he gave up a ton of runs in the middle of the game and dropped to 6-3 on the year. The Royals weren't too proud to beg as they did scrape together a couple of runs in the ninth inning, but the damage was definitely done.
BOSTON 13 - KANSAS CITY 2

WHAT'S AHEAD
While the final three games of the homestand were definitely not ideal, the team did go 5-2 on the week. The pitching was exposed again for some holes and some issues and we also learned that the team can lose a little bit of focus like on Saturday but still overcome it to win. I guess, in the end, you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you'll find, you get what you need. The Royals head out on the road for a series of West Coast games this week against the Mariners and the Athletics for a Country Breakfast reunion. Both teams are playing around .500 baseball this year and the Mariners just fired their hitting coach. Maybe the Royals could finally get some satisfaction against Billy Butler.

 

 

SEE SAW
Written 6/17/15

Week 10

Ask anyone who played baseball and they'll tell you that it's a great game to determine how you measure up against your competition. There's plenty of opportunities to play against the best in the game and this week presented one such opportunity as the Royals took on the first place Minnesota Twins and the St. Louis Cardinals, who have the best record in baseball.

MONDAY - JUNE 8
Toe to toe - that's all you ask for. Go up against the king of the mountain and ask for a shot to knock them down a peg. Dozens of times in the past few years, it seems we've seen the Royals be in these situations and blink. They'd lose two of three or maybe get swept on the road. But this isn't your grandma's Royals. Oh no. This team has Jason Vargas, Greg Holland, and Kendrys Morales who combined to beat the formerly first place Twinkies 3-1 in the series opener. The Royals handled the Twins handily in Kansas City at the beginning of the season and picked up where they left off with a Morales homer in the second inning. Vargas looked great through six innings and Holland worked a perfect ninth. The win put the Royals into a tie for first and enough for their second straight victory.
KANSAS CITY 3 - MINNESOTA 1

TUESDAY - JUNE 9
We've mentioned more than once in this space about the problems the Royals are having with starting pitching. Right now they're doing it with duct tape and baling wire. Ventura is a wreck. Plenty of arms on the DL (Vargas would go on the DL after Monday's game) and it's been a patchwork of glue to get them by. The glue that has been most surprising has been Chris Young, who improved to 5-2 on the season and who threw the Royals back into sole possession of first place with a near no-hitter through six and a third. Young wasn't on the opening day roster but was magical on the mound in Minnesota as the Royals combined for a shutout - their fourth of the season. It was a 1-0 game after a Moustakas RBI in the first, but an insurance homer by Perez in the ninth gave enough cushion to give Greg Holland his 11th save of the year.
KANSAS CITY 2 - MINNESOTA 0

WEDNESDAY - JUNE 10
When the season started, the Royals were famously picked to finish in the middle of the back in the AL Central. The computers and their PECOTA predictions picked the Royals to win somewhere near 78 games for the season. Those prognosticators also picked the Indians and the Tigers to finish in the lead. Nowhere listed was the Twins. They were almost an afterthought. It's understandable that the Royals could pop back up to lead the AL Central, but folks were really scratching their heads when the Twins were near first place on June 1. Were they for real? Or were they just having a good month? Well, all doubt was set aside as the Royals came into Minneapolis and waxed the Twins for a series sweep on Wednesday. The third game was the most decisive as Alex Gordon went to dongtown for a three-run homer in the first inning and the Boys in Blue never looked back. Edinson Volquez pitched seven innings and the Royals made their trip up to the land of 10,000 lakes profitable as they came in trailing by a game and left leading by a game.
KANSAS CITY 7 - MINNESOTA 2

FRIDAY, JUNE 12
Oh but the worm can turn on a dime. As the Royals traveled back to Missouri to take on their I-70 rivals, the Cardinals, there was a sense that the unstoppable Royals might be traveling right into a buzzsaw. Wednesday, the Royals held the best record in the American League. But the Cardinals had the best record in baseball and they showed why as Jaime Garcia shut down the Royals offense with eight shutout innings. He also helped his own cause with an RBI single as the Cards blanked the Royals. The news didn't get any better as Yordano Ventura left the game in the third with “right hand weakness” causing Royals nation to go into a panic. It sucks to lose to your big brother, but the Cardinals showed they were still the top dog in Missouri.
KANSAS CITY 0 - ST. LOUIS 4

SATURDAY - JUNE 13
A lot of people asked me why Royals fans didn't crash the party at Busch Stadium like they did last month in Chicago for Wrigley Field. Well, I'll tell you why. It's because St. Louis is St. Louis. It's the armpit of Missouri. The self-proclaimed “Best Fans in Baseball” act like they are better than everyone and God forbid when they actually have something to crow about. This was a rough weekend for me because the Royals picked a crummy time for their power to go back into the basement. Jeremy Guthrie was serviceable, allowing two runs in the third and another in the fifth, but the Royals couldn't get to Tyler Lyons who struck out six Royals and was a spot starter. The only runs were on solo homers by Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez, but the series victory by the Cardinals was definitely the topic of conversation at my office on Monday by that obnoxious Cardinals fan who walked in asking, “Hey, did you see the games this weekend?” The only thing more obnoxious was him asking what high school I went to. God, I hate St. Louis.
KANSAS CITY 2 - ST. LOUIS 3

SUNDAY - JUNE 14
What a terrible time for a rainout. Man, I really wanted to see the Royals leave St. Louis with some semblance of dignity. The makeup hasn't been announced but will likely be in July.
RAINOUT

WHAT'S AHEAD
There's a couple of ways to look at last week - the first is positive. You did show plenty of offense against your division rival. You took over first place and won more than you lost for the week. The downside is the stinker you left in the STL. But the upcoming week could really be big for the Royals. They have a split four game series with the Brewers and then play the Red Sox. Both of these teams are awful. AWFUL. The AL Champions have GOT to go 5-2 this week because they simply are better than both of these teams. A seven game sweep of the week isn't out of the question. The Royals aren't going away. They aren't going to fade. Their pitching is a mess, but defense and just enough offense seems to be a great formula so far in the season. Get ready for an exciting week.

 


 

TREADING WATER
Written 6/10/15

Week 9

Baseball is hard. That's something I think we don't often have enough appreciation for. Every pitch, play and hit. It's damn hard. That's why the greatest baseball players of all time are enshrined for immortality for failing 70% of the time. Baseball is hard. So it's completely reasonable to think that good teams will play poorly and poor teams will play well. The kicker is to determine which team is which. Are the 2015 Royals just a poor team that started out hot? Or a hot team that's hit a rough patch? We continue to examine.

TUESDAY - JUNE 2
By this time, you should know a good deal about what is working for this team, and what isn't. The starting pitching has been inconsistent, the offense has been a cornerstone and the defense is out of this world. Except the past couple of weeks, the team has started to reverse those trends in just about all areas. Some of the pitching has been amazing, some of the offense has cooled. The Indians were supposed to be fresh meat for a hungry team to fatten up on. What we ended up getting was a good old fashioned pitchers duel. Jeremy Guthrie and Carlos Carrasco went toe to toe and the game was tied into the 8th. Guthrie made up for one of his worst performances of his career last week with a gem as he went 5 and two-thirds innings allowing only one run. The back of the bullpen with Herrera, Davis and Holland was lights out last year, and Wade Davis has been head and shoulders above all other relievers in the AL this year. But he allowed his first run of the season in the 8th to give up the game as the Indians try to climb out of the bottom of the AL Central now looking up at Kansas City, Minnesota and Detroit.
CLEVELAND 2 - KANSAS CITY 1

WEDNESDAY - JUNE 3
At the beginning of the season, we almost came to expect this offense to score seven and eight runs every night. Then, the past couple of weeks, there have been a ton of two run and three run and one run ballgames. But Lorenzo Cain and the offense at least dropped four on the Indians against Corey Kluber who has been absolutely dreadful against the Royals this season. Kluber went a complete game, but Moustakas, Hosmer and Cain all doubled in runs to even the series and again tie the Twins for first place in the AL Central. It was nice to see the offense back - even though it was just for a night.
CLEVELAND 2 - KANSAS CITY 4

THURSDAY - JUNE 4
One of the few bright spots in the starting rotation that's had to endure injuries and suspensions has been the play of Chris Young. Young has been, essentially, a spot starter for the past month and a half improving his record to 4-1. But in this game, he was ineffective allowing all six Cleveland runs. The offense was ineffective as well scratching out only two runs and dropping out of first place again to the surging Twins. The only good news is that the Detroit Tigers have seemed to run and hide. Dropping now five games out of first place and three behind the Royals.
CLEVELAND 6 - KANSAS CITY 2

FRIDAY, JUNE 5
It's understandable how the Royals could struggle and lose their first home series to a team like the Indians. They were preseason favorites for the AL Central. They were on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The Rangers? The Rangers are just a bad baseball team. Nearly their entire lineup and pitching staff is on the disabled list. They started a guy named Chi Chi for crying out loud in only his second professional start. So, if you are any student of the game of baseball, of course that means that black is white and Chi Chi Gonzalez pitched a complete game and looked like Cy Young doing so. Edinson Volquez looked awful and the offense again crawled under a rock.
TEXAS 4 - KANSAS CITY 0

SATURDAY - JUNE 6
I'm starting to worry about Yordano Ventura. The Royals have a long history of brilliant pitchers with a screw loose. Kevin Appier was famously aloof. They called him “Planet Appier.” Zack Greinke continues to baffle media to this day with his crazy answers and looking like he'd want to be doing anything other than pitching in a Major League ballpark. Danny Duffy has struggled with his own demons - quitting baseball for a short time in the minor leagues. But Ventura's gray matter may be the most unstable of them all. Ventura only went three innings on Saturday, allowing four runs which was more than enough to defeat the limp Royals offense. At times he appeared disgruntled and mad at himself or the world--displaying the kind of body language you'd see from a five year old tantrum at Wal-Mart. This marks the shortest outing of the year which has included suspensions, cramping, amazing pitching and crappy pitching. If anybody wants to look under the hood and try to figure out Ventura, you're welcome to do so. It looks like a fixer-upper.
TEXAS 4 - KANSAS CITY 2

SUNDAY - JUNE 7
Being a major league ballplayer in Kansas City right now means, simply, you're the king of the castle. You can likely walk into any bar or coffee shop in town and make a ruckus. But there is no bigger King of Kansas City right now that Salvador Perez. Perez leads all catchers in All-Star voting. His walk off single in the 2014 Wild Card game made him immortal in the pantheon of Kansas City history. His drive and determination behind the plate makes him hard to take out of any game and his smile melts the hearts of even the most hardened baseball follower. When I got to the stadium on Sunday, it was early enough to catch the tail end of Royals batting practice. The largest cheers were for Salvador Perez. Easy. By a factor of two or three. And Perez didn't disappoint, jacking homer after homer into the Hall of Fame section where his number 13 will someday hang. The sweaty and sultry Sunday afternoon started with the Royals jumping ahead 3-0 in the first few innings which was a pleasant surprise. The Royals had fallen behind early nearly all week. The back of the bullpen again coughed up the lead allowing the Rangers to tie it in the seventh. Guthrie threw another gem, but started to fade and Kelvin Herrera allowed those inherited runners to cross. And then the afternoon belonged to Salvador Perez. Perez, who is already the architect of, arguably, the greatest hit in Royals history, strode to the plate. Salvy took the count to 0-2 and then looked at a ball in the dirt - a pitch he would normally swing at. It was at this point (I swear this) that I turned to my son and reminded him of how many homers he hit in batting practice. “If he can get a pitch...” Perez did and shot a laser beam into the Royals bullpen. Right in front of the Hall of Fame.
TEXAS 3 - KANSAS CITY 4

WHAT'S AHEAD
Someone on Twitter mentioned that if you take the 7-0 start away, that the Royals are basically a .500 team through this point. That might be so, but you could do the same goofy math with the Indians and Tigers and Twins. That's not how it works, however, and the Royals are still the most dynamic and dangerous team in the AL Central. As it stands, the Royals are one game out of first, but a huge series this week looms as the Royals travel to the Twin Cities to reclaim first place from the Twins. At a minimum, the Royals would like to take two of three and then stay alive this weekend as they travel to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals who are also having an incredible season. The road gets no easier and the schedule starts to become a grind as the club will only have two days off in the next 35 days until the All-Star Break. Should be a fun week.

 


CRACKS APPEAR
Written 6/3/15

Week 8

There's an old joke that says even the most beautiful model in the world has a few cracks around the edges. And as we've mentioned several times this year, the Royals aren't without their blemishes. Last week, we mentioned the starting pitching. A few weeks previous, we mentioned that the offense might not have 162 games of awesomeness in it. And those things that we take for granted, the defense and the bullpen can't possibly remain flawless all season. The problem is that nobody would've suspected that all of these elements would sour all at the same time. We present Week 8 of the MLB season. The week begins with games against the New York Yankees and a historic trip for the Royals to Wrigley Field. Their first in 14 years.

MONDAY - MAY 25
Hopes were high as the Royals came flying into the Bronx to take on the Yankees who were nursing their own six game losing streak. Those high hopes were shot down in the first inning as Jeremy Guthrie had one of the worst outings in his career. He gave up three homers in the first inning on his way to allowing 11 runs in the first two innings of play. Not good. There was absolutely no good news to come out of this game other than it might have spelled the final days as a Royal for Guthrie, who has entered in the death rattle of his career.
KANSAS CITY 1 - NEW YORK (A) 14

TUESDAY- MAY 26
A second day in the Big Apple meant another set of runs in the first inning off a Royals pitcher. Jason Vargas at least limited the damage to two in the opening frame, but the Royals bats shrunk away and managed to score only one run for the second game in a row. It was Mark Texiera who blasted a two-run homer in the first and all but put away the Royals. A three run fifth capped it. Paulo Orlando was the lone bright spot as he hit his first Major League homer in the game to provide the only offense. He would be playing in Omaha before the week was over. The Royals are still near the top of the American League in most offensive categories, but simply cannot get anything organized against the Yankees on the road.
KANSAS CITY 1 - NEW YORK (A) 5

WEDNESDAY - MAY 27
There were a ton of reasons that Wednesday's game was important. It would've kept the Royals from their first three game sweep of the season. It would've kept them in sole possession of first place in the American League Central and it would've kept them from their first four game losing streak of the year. It was not to be however, thanks to a three run bomb from Alex Rodriguez. Youngsters may not realize that at one time Rodriguez was the most feared hitter in all of baseball. A-Rod reminded the Yankee faithful as he pounded a Chris Young fastball into the stands to take the lead for good in the third inning. All weekend, the Stadium played like a matchbox, allowing pop flies to curl around foul poles and liners to graze the back of the fence. A-Rod's was legit and spelled the longest losing streak the team had faced to this point. Chris Young also took his first loss of the year. The bats remained quiet although they did manage to match the sum of the first two games with two runs as Mike Moustakas homered in the first. A missed opportunity with runners in scoring position ended weakly and the Royals had their longest skid since August, 2014. Adding to it is the fact that the Royals are now tied with... the Minnesota Twins? Yep. They've strung together a couple of good weeks and now would be in sole possession of first place going into Friday's game thanks to the Royals off day.
KANSAS CITY 2 - NEW YORK (A) 4

FRIDAY, MAY 29
We mentioned that just about everything went wrong for the Royals in New York. No hitting. No pitching. No reason for defense since the games were over early. A markedly friendly crowd at the “friendly confines” welcomed the Royals to historic Wrigley Field for the first time since July, 2001. At Wrigley, the wind never stops. It only blows out or in and on Friday it was absolutely blowing out. Three homers by the Royals opened up a pretty decent lead early thanks to making Wrigley #DongTownNorth from Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez. The pitching also roared back to life in the form of Edinson Volquez who made it into the sixth. The bullpen did flop around a bit allowing the Cubs to tie it in the seventh, but the Royals offense went to work again scoring three in the top of the 8th thanks to the opposite of good defense from the Cubs and then tacking on an insurance run in the ninth. A passing rain shower in the top of the ninth washed away all the Wrigley Faithful and cries of “LETS GO ROYALS” filled the air of the Second City as an estimated 10,000 Royals fans were left before spilling out into Wrigleyville to celebrate their first win in Wrigley in over a decade.
KANSAS CITY 8 - CHICAGO (N) 4

SATURDAY - MAY 30 (Rained Out)
Chicago weather on Friday was 80 with passing showers. That turned on a dime Saturday as it rained the entire day and the temperature continued to drop.

SUNDAY - MAY 31
You can pick the reason that Sunday's loss hurt so much. First, it spoiled what could've been a pretty epic trip to Chicago for tens of thousands of Kansas Citians who made the historic trip. Second, it allowed the Twins to end the week in first place. Third, it spoiled what was easily Yordano Ventura's best outing of the season getting into the seventh and allowing only one run while touching 100 on multiple pitches. Or fourth, that I had to watch the final and extra innings from a tiny little television in an airport bar at Midway Airport. All are good choices. The Royals left Ventura in one batter too long. That batter was Chris Coughlin who had an RBI single to tie it in the seventh. The game remained tied into the 11th, then reliever Ryan Madson loaded the bases twice and allowed a blooper to fall for the walk-off on a raw day with wind chills in the 40's. If Friday the wind was blowing out, Sunday the wind was completely blowing in and sometimes down. The loss drops the Royals a half game back of the Twins and is the team's fifth loss in six games.
KANSAS CITY 1 - CHICAGO (N) 2

WHAT'S AHEAD
A 1-4 week flat out stinks. The Royals don't play best on the road and Saturday's rainout was a missed opportunity for a pro-Royals crowd to steal a home game away from the Cubbies. The team's offense was the worst part of the week, stringing together one run in three of the five games in the week. The week ahead brings a pair of teams filling space at the bottom of their divisions, the Indians and the Rangers, but both teams have played better lately. The Indians were picked by many to win the Central and the Rangers just got a very motivated Josh Hamilton back. The upside is that the series is at home and many of the same fans who made the trek up to Chicago by air, land and rail will also be filling The K after last month's record breaking homestand. The downside is that the Royals are now very much in contention with two teams, the Twins and the Tigers, for the AL Central crown. First team to blink may spend the rest of the summer trying to leapfrog over two teams.

 


SHORT BUT SWEET
Written 5/26/15

Week 7

You are watching history. Point blank. You are watching the best Royals start in history. Not the '85 team. Not the '76 team. Not the '14 team. This week, the Royals will have eclipsed the greatest 40-game start in franchise history. And by all measures, the town is enjoying it. The team is averaging over 32,000 fans per game this year and as of today, the past 10-day homestand drew over a quarter of a million people. Enjoy. We've still got a long way to go.

TUESDAY - MAY 19
As we talked about last week, Yordano Ventura hasn't looked good at all this year and that, coupled with the struggles of Danny Duffy have meant the top of the rotation has floundered at times. Not tonight. Ventura was the 2014 World Series Game 6 starter on Tuesday night, out dueling the Reds ace Johnny Cueto as the Royals picked up single runs in the second, fifth and seventh off Cueto. Mike Moustakas again carried the mail with two RBI doubles but it was Ventura who had easily his best start of the season, touching triple digits several times with his fastball and displaying restraint on a ball hit back up the middle - the same play that launched a couple of shouting matches earlier in the season. If Ventura could put a string of good games together, it should plug the final hole in this team that could make them world beaters.
CINCINNATI 0 - KANSAS CITY 3

WEDNESDAY - MAY 20
History hasn't just been made in the wins column. The Royals also combined the two shutouts from the previous two days and coupled it with six scoreless innings from Jeremy Guthrie to tie the franchise record for scoreless innings, matching the 1976 Royals with 24 innings. Guthrie was great, allowing only one run as the offense sparkled in this one. Eric Hosmer started the second inning with a double and was driven in by Alex Gordon. Gordon made, perhaps one of his best catches of the season (a list that is growing long) by catching a Todd Frazier liner and then crashing into the left field chain link fence in the fifth inning. Gordon's catch and offense led the Royals to their ninth series win and their third sweep of the season.
CINCINNATI 1 - KANSAS CITY 7

FRIDAY - MAY 22
History was all around Kauffman Stadium on Friday. The Royals spent the weekend celebrating the 1985 World Series Championship by hosting the St. Louis Cardinals who they beat four games to three in the '85 World Series. But it was the history making 2015 Royals that put this one away early. Not with the two Kendrys Morales homer runs which accounted for all of the scoring. Or with the fourth consecutive win from Chris Young, who wasn't in the rotation at the beginning of the year. The game was won in the first inning when Alcides Escobar made a sliding catch (one of two web gems he'd have in the game) into shallow left-field foul territory to lead off the game. The catch seemed innocuous at the time, but set the tone and stopped a potential rally for the Cardinals to allow the first inning homer by Morales. Young shut the Cards down and the Royals cruised to a 5-0 victory against their in-state rivals.
ST. LOUIS 0 - KANSAS CITY 5

SATURDAY - MAY 23
On Friday, the Royals won with power. On Saturday, they would need to win with water as one of the wettest May's in history needed not only a deluge of rain but also exact timing of the storm. The Royals steadiest starter this season, Edinson Volquez, was not perfect and allowed the Cardinals to score runs in the second and fifth innings. But the Royals were able to get to John Lackey, normally one of St. Louis's best, in the second with a Gordon two-run homer. Salvador Perez tacked on another run in the fifth as he drove in Eric Hosmer for what would be the game winner. And then Mother Nature took over, ending the game in six innings. Cardinals fans were particularly surly for losing the series. Ahhhh St. Louis. The Best Fans in Baseball.
ST. LOUIS 2 - KANSAS CITY 3 (F/6)

SUNDAY - MAY 24
The Royals started the day wearing celebratory hats signifying the 1985 World Series victory, but they were ultimately out of it early. Yordano Ventura was back to shaky Ventura and walked the first two batters of the game. Both would come around to score and that was really all the offense Michael Wacha needed. The loss would be the first loss to a National League team in Ventura's career as he got no run support from one of the best offenses in baseball. Still the loss capped another series victory against another first place team. Not a bad start at all.
ST. LOUIS 6 - KANSAS CITY 1

WHAT'S AHEAD
The Royals hit the road after a tremendously successful homestand. The Royals were 6-2 on the homestand, and faced two first place teams and won all three series. The Royals face the Yankees again to start off the week with a matinee on Memorial Day along with a historic trip to Wrigley Field against the Cubs that we'll cover completely here at The Landmark. History folks, you're watching it. We'll bring it to you all season long.

Between the Lines by Ivan

TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN
Written 5/20/15

Week 6

Heading into the sixth week of the season, the Royals were clinging to a 1 1/2 game lead after defeating the Tigers in extra innings. The thinking was that the schedule softened with a four game set against the lowly Texas Rangers and then tightened up considerably as the goombas from New York headed into town. Could the Royals stay atop the Central with both the Tigers and resurgent Twins nipping at their heels?

MONDAY - MAY 11
If this team has a glaring weakness, it's not “just” the starting pitching. It might be that the team has a problem running too hot. Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura are both examples of that. Duffy has a miserable outing against the Rangers. Duffy at least made it out of the second, but couldn't make it through the fourth, giving up six runs including a moonshot homer #399 to Adrian Beltre. Duffy appeared visibly rattled in the last two innings and looked like he was really struggling keeping his emotions in check. Social media determined this would all go away if he just shaved his beard, but let's hope it's something a little more complicated, yet still easy to correct.
KANSAS CITY 2 - TEXAS 8

TUESDAY - MAY 12
Even so early into this young season, you can see that the Royals power has come back in full force. This was something desperately lacking at times last year (heck, the last 10 years, maybe) and already we've seen displays of power from just about the entire lineup. So the Royals found themselves up by one going into the ninth when a usually steady Greg Holland, just back off the DL, gave up a run for the first time in nearly a year to blow a save. To the 10th we went when Alex Gordon went to #DongTown on a crushing blow to the Rangers. Also evident was the amazing defense this team has shown nearly every night this season as both Gordon and Alcides Escobar put in Top 10 worthy plays to keep the game close.
KANSAS CITY 7 - TEXAS 6 (10 Innings)

WEDNESDAY - MAY 13
We mentioned above that Duffy and Ventura have both been struggling between the ears lately and Ventura turned in another sub-par performance on Wednesday as he picked up his third straight loss. Ventura gave up runs in the first three innings of the ballgame and allowed the Rangers to play with the lead wire to wire. The story of the game though was the pitcher for the Rangers. Yovani Gallardo stymied the Royals bats through seven, squirting out a couple of runs before finally chasing Gallardo from the game. The Rangers proved to be tougher than their record showed as the Royals needed to win the fourth game of the series to even earn a split. Detroit was also able to stay on the heels of the Royals trailing by only a game.
KANSAS CITY 2 - TEXAS 5

THURSDAY - MAY 14
In years past, the Royals always seemed to find a long losing streak to shatter the hopes of the fans. Contrast that with this 2015 squad, which has only lost back to back games twice this season. The Royals bounced back to split the series with Texas, as clutch hitting and defense were the markers of the victory again. Eric Hosmer hit in his 11th straight game and crushed a two run homer in the sixth and Alcides Escobar had three hits in the game. Jeremy Guthrie kept the game close - which is all we ever ask from JGuts and the Royals keep pace in the Central heading into a first place showdown with the Yankees.
KANSAS CITY 6 - TEXAS 3

FRIDAY - MAY 15
The year was 1976. A five year old Chris Kamler lies weeping on the brown shag carpeting watching Cris Chambliss navigate around the bases dodging New Yorkers who were streaming onto the Yankees Stadium field following one of the biggest homers in ALCS history. From that day forward, the word “Yankees” has elicited a cold, clammy chill throughout my body. But since the late 80's, the rivalry has been pretty pathetic, frankly. Yet this weekend marks one of the first times since that both teams enter the weekend in first place. Royals-Yanks. Buckle up. Game one. If you like seeing Yankee carnage, Game 1 didn't disappoint. The Royals took the Bronx Bombers to the woodshed with bombs of their own. Mike Moustakas came inches away from the first Royals cycle since birthday boy George Brett in 1990 and Lorenzo Cain tied a career high with five RBI. It was a statement win against a Yankee team coming in with a bunch of swagger, and it made a five year old wallowing in his brown shag carpeting very happy.
NEW YORK (A) 1 - KANSAS CITY 12

SATURDAY - MAY 16
And then we come back to Duffy. He struggled yet again on Saturday and Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia turned back the clock a few years and looked unstoppable as the Royals dropped game 2 to the Yankees. Duffy lasted slightly longer (5 innings) in this one, but allowed a key homer to take the wind out of the sails of the Royals who were simply unable to put anything together against Sabathia who went seven innings. The game did welcome back reliever Joe Blanton, who bridged the game after Duffy left. Blanton last pitched in the big leagues in 2013 and had actually left baseball for a year.
NEW YORK (A) 5 - KANSAS CITY 1

SUNDAY - MAY 17
There might be no more special day of the year than Negro Leagues appreciation day in Kansas City. The game featuring authentic jerseys from the Negro Leagues is rivaling even Opening Day for me. And the Royals pulled out all the stops - bunting, organ music, signatures by Negro League all stars and those gorgeous uniforms. And the past three years it's also been Dressed to the Nines day where fans are encouraged to look the part and dress in their Sunday best. The Royals didn't disappoint, improving their Dressed to the Nines record to 3-0 as they started the offense in the second inning with Salvador Perez bending to a 90 degree angle at the waist to swat a homer into left field. Edinson Volquez was electric and kept Yankee batters off balance through the first warm day of the spring as he was perfect into the fourth inning. Volquez and the bullpen combined for the team's first shutout of the year. The fourth inning was also when the Royals scored three as RBI's were hit in by Kendrys Morales, Perez and Omar Infante. The Royals looked absolutely sparkling in the box score and on the field and took two of three from the Yankees who might just see them again at the end of the year in the postseason.
NEW YORK (A) 0 - KANSAS CITY 6

WHAT'S AHEAD
When you pan back and look at it so far, the Royals remain in first place despite not having a full team for over a month. Alex Rios now stands as one of the only Royals still on the DL. The club is still struggling with a starting pitching problem, but the rest of the team is hitting on all cylinders. The offense ranks among the best in the AL. The defense is among the best in all of baseball and the bullpen, after suffering a few injuries and suspensions, is now back to full strength. The Royals now have the benefit of two off days this week and a weaker opponent at home for a two game series against the Reds. The weekend will bring another first place showdown - this time with the Cardinals. Since interleague play, these two teams haven't really had much to crow about and the series has kind of sputtered out. This weekend will be different as both teams will be in first on Friday - the Cardinals off to a tremendous jump on the NL Central. The series will also mark the 30th anniversary of the first time these two teams faced off in the 1985 World Series. Plenty of plot lines to follow this weekend.

(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter @TheFakeNed)