Royals Outpost

The heart-felt musings of a Kansas City Royals fan who isn't always right, or logical, but does always care.


Strong Effort, But Win Streak Ends

And SHAME on me for trying to capitalize on my team's personal struggles! Okay, I'll admit it: on Friday night, I thought I could get an easy win from Cleveland sinkerballer Paul Byrd the following day. After seeing how mightily the offense had struggled of late, I foresaw a cruise control-type outing for Mr. Byrd. Folks, it turns out I'm not clairvoyant.

The Royals, behind the strength of an 11-run spike on Saturday and a rare quality start by Jeremy Affeldt Sunday, won the last two of a three-game rendezvous with the youth-laden Indians over the weekend. Suddenly, the losing streak was in the rearview. In fact, they were only 2.5 games away from escaping the AL Central basement, and with the fourth-place Twins arriving in town on Tuesday, the boys in blue had an opportunity to remedy their standing quickly. For seven innings tonight, even the most calloused KC fan was entertaining the notion of a third consecutive 'W'. Unfortunately, this game went the full nine innings.

Luke Hudson (great first name), who had impressed me with his sharp curveball and plus four-seamer, gave up three singles without getting a batter out to start the eighth. Andrew Sisco gave up a go-ahead sacrifice fly, and the smothering Minnesota bullpen did the rest.

Scott Elarton had another strong outing, but a deeper look into the numbers gives cause for reserved expectations. Both of his strikeouts for the night came in the seventh inning, when he was pitching with runners on first and third. He also recorded 11 flyball outs to seven groundouts. He's doing just fine now, but when he doesn't have his best stuff with him, some of those flyballs are gonna land in fans' gloves, not outfielders'. Still, his 3.16 ERA should be rewarded with a 4-0 record, not 0-4. Hey, no one said signing with KC came with much glory.

Mark Grudzielanek grounded out in the fourth inning tonight, plating Mark Teahen. Minnesota starter Kyle Lohse, the only talented starter Minnesota couldn't mold into a go-to guy in recent memory, lived dangerously tonight: in six innings, he allowed 10 baserunners. Most teams would have scored more than one run against him.

Ambiorix Burgos, still stuck with a single save for the season, came in in another non-save situation tonight, logging 1.1 perfect innings, mowing down two. It's comforting to see our (temporary?) closer pitch well despite it not being with a lead to protect. He's definitely something special.

These two team will be back at it again tomorrow, precipitation permitting. Second-year right-hander Scott Baker will toe the rubber for Minnesota. Despite not being a power pitcher, Baker has been impressive, shutting down the Yankees for seven innings in his start before last. He has a 3.31 ERA on the year.

Runelvys Hernandez will make his first 2006 start in the majors tomorrow after being sent to the minors to get in playing shape. Let's see if our chubby buddy has dropped a few!


Two Rallies, One (More) Loss

When Steve Phillips made the emphatically bold pick of Cliff Lee as the best lefty in the AL, I rolled my eyes and changed the channel. After seeing Lee struggle to subdue an offense that was just crushed under the mighty heel of the Chicago rotation, I scoff at Phillips' ascenine analysis even more audibly.

Kansas City rallied from 3-0 and 6-3 deficits in this one, but fell one ninth inning double shy of their third victory of April. Mark Grudzielanek added three more hits to his club-leading tally of 14, and Mike Sweeney finally broke free of his funk with four hits in five trips to the plate, including two doubles. Reggie Sanders stole his second base of the season, giving him 299 for his career. He is five homers and a swipe away from the 300/300 club.

Cliff Lee went 5.2 innings, but allowed nine hits and a walk. By comparison, the recently activated Mark Redman allowed five hits in six innings, and even matched Lee's strikeout total of five. Lee is a fine young talent, but his lack of size reminds me a bit of Casey Fossum, and I could easily see some consistency troubles with him down the road. Definitely not deserving of such heady accolades. Steve Phillips should be modest with his words, lest he tarnish his sterling reputation (hhha!).

The Royals hung tough in this one against a tougher, younger team, and eventually pounded out 14 hits, although nobody but Sweeney contributed an extra-base hit. Wouldn't you know it, it was the previously-unflappable Elmer Dessens that let this one slip away. That's just the way it goes on a team struggling for some scrap of identity. Just when you think you've got one department covered, it fails you the one time you actually need it for a win. Oh well, at least we made 'em sweat, eh?

Paul Byrd will take the mound for the Tribe tomorrow, and he could be trouble. The Royals don't have much of the left-handed thunder that Byrd fears, so if he's economic with his pitches early, he could initiate cruise control pretty quickly. Royals have to get aggressive and, sadly, a little lucky in the first and second innings to do any significant damage.

Let's beat the streak, fellas!


Royals Score One Run, ChiSox Sweep


After arriving home this afternoon and bringing up my fantasy team's page, I checked the live box score and this message greeted me. I was immediately conflicted.

My rotisserie team, named the Dyna-Moe's and currently sitting second in the league, had just acquired Mr. Vazquez from an owner that was perhaps a little too desperate for saves, as I only had to surrender temporary Giants' closer Tim Worrell to get my hands on Chicago's new dart-throwing #5. After seeing how Vazquez fared against the Kansas City lineup at Kauffman, I suspected his first start for me would be good.

But seeing that he held the Royals without a hit until Doug Mientkiewicz nubbed a ball 50 feet up the third base line on a check swing left me with a hollow feeling in my stomach. The White Sox swatted Kansas City aside with such nonchalance that it actually made me not want to watch my team fight the inevitable.

The Royals, after surprising the White Sox by stealing two of three 10 days ago, have lost 10 games straight, sending their season into a swift tailspin. Their record stands at 2-12, and unless they start playing at least .400 ball soon, the team will undoubtedly be stripped of the few veterans even faster than expected. If you haven't seen Mike Sweeney live in a Royals' uniform, you're running out of time.

Despite the complete control Chicago was in from Jose Contreras' first pitch of the series, it was actually an accurate representation of the differences between the teams. They are such perfect opposites that one would think the Royals were actually Chicago's evil twin from a parallel universe. Right down to the pastel uniforms and untimely errors, Kansas City is the yang to Chicago's Fall Classic-winning ying.

In a series where a Kansas City cleat touched home just once, the Royals were done in by what they are so starved for most: starting pitching. In 21.1 innings against Chicago pitchers, the Royals' bats generated just nine hits. Joe Mays gave up 11 hits in just 5.1 IP (his longest and, sadly, best outing of the young season).

When presented with a performance like this one, it is reinforced in my mind just how far Kansas City has to go as an organization. Now, on to some KC happenings that aren't quite so bleak.

Opening Day starter Scott Elarton has been a pleasant surprise, although his short stint in tonight's game left something to be desired. He's starting to allow too many baserunners to keep this up, but with his ERA standing at 4.07, he's certainly been more useful than I honestly expected. If he can keep that number in the low 4's, I'll be extremely pleased. No doubt about it; he's the ace, now. Actually, with Denny Bautista proving once again that he should be in the rotation, Zack Greinke wrapping up his personal affairs, and Bobby Madritsch's left shoulder creeping back toward healthy, Kansas City could have a serviceable rotation by July. Until then, well.. it's Jeremy Affeldt every five. Yeesh.

The real surprise disappointment so far is how unhelpful the offense as a whole has been. They are scoring 3.75 runs per game, and yes, that is at the bottom of the AL. David DeJesus has been out with a lame hamstring (who called it?), but that's no excuse for Shane Costa to be the team's co-leader in home runs! Seriously: John Buck is second on the team in OBP. That is never, ever a good sign. I think it's a case of everyone looking to Mike Sweeney to lead the way, and the capitan feeling pressure to step up and lead the youngsters. Hard to hit when you're pressing, even harder when you've got a bone bruise in your hand. Hang in there, Big Mike.

With the mauling at the hands of the White Sox mercifully over, the Royals are off Thursday, then welcome the hot-hitting Indians at Kauffman. Their starters are expected to be Cliff Lee, former-Royals Paul Byrd, and Jason Johnson. Our boys will counter with Mark Redman, Mike Wood, and Joe Mays. Dang, overmatched again.