Monday, April 30, 2007

Mariners Take Game, Series

Game Date: April 29, 2007
Mariners 5, Royals 1 / Box Score
WP: Morrow (2-0), LP: Bannister (0-1)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 8-17

If you look at Brian Bannister's line yesterday (3 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 6.2 IP) without knowing the real story, you might think he had a decent game, but in the end, he was out-pitched by Cha Seung Baek (1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 6.1 IP). Ultimately that might be true, especially given that the Royals didn't even get a hit off Baek until the sixth inning, but at one point, Bannister had retired 14 straight, and the game had all the makings of a good old fashioned pitcher's duel.

I love those, by the way.

But then John Buck was unable to hold onto a third strike in the seventh inning with two outs and the game tied 1-1, and as Bob Dutton pointed out in the Star this morning, you just knew that it would come back to haunt the Royals.

It did.

Willie Bloomquist (hitting .083) continued his at bat and delivered a two-run double, knocking Bannister out of the game, and the wind out of the Royals sails. The Royals never recovered. But, as Bell said after the game, the Royals only had five hits in the entire game, and you won't win many games with so few hits.

Tony Pena made another error in the game, his seventh, and he's now made more errors than any other shortstop in MLB. I hate to point this out, but Pena's .947 fielding percentage is worse than Angel Berroa's. Berroa had a .964 fielding percentage with the Royals.

Pena's still young and he's going to make mistakes and I'd still rather have him as our shortstop, but you have to admit that he looks a lot like a younger version of Berroa--the ridiculously long swings (even with two strikes), the low batting average (.200), the low on base percentage (.242), and the knack for making errors at crucial moments. Let's hope that Pena is more teachable than Berroa was.

The Royals open a new series at home tonight against the Angels. Odalis Perez (2-2, 7.54) goes up against John Lackey (3-2, 2.35). Perez is 1-3 in his career against the Angels with a 3.94 ERA. Lackey is 1-2 against the Royals with a 4.13 ERA.

Royals Cruise to Win

Game Date: April 28, 2007
Royals 8, Mariners 3 / Box Score
WP: Meche (2-1), LP: Weaver (0-4), SV: Duckworth (1)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 8-16

The Royals pounded Jeff Weaver in the first inning--starting the game off with five hits in a row against him--and Weaver was gone after one third of an inning. He gave up six earned runs and Gil Meche was able to cruise to his second win of the season. He didn't give up any earned runs. He did give up three unearned runs after Mark Grudzielanek and Tony Pena made errors. Brandon Duckworth came in and got an old school save--going the final three innings.

Everybody in the Royals line up had at least one hit. Mike Sweeney had two hits and Grudzielanek had three.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bullpen Falters Again

Game Date: April 27, 2007
Mariners 7, Royals 4 / Box Score
WP: Ramirez (2-1), LP: De La Rosa (2-2), SV: Putz (3)
Royal Home Runs: Gload (2)
Royals Record: 7-16

Another frustrating game on so many levels.

Emil Brown, in spite of his three hits, couldn't get the job done with runners in scoring position--twice. Early in the game, he couldn't the runner home from third with one out. That's the second straight game he's failed to do so.

De La Rosa pitched reasonably well, even though his line doesn't show it (5 ER, 8 H, 1 BB, 3 K, in 6.1 IP). After leaving in the seventh, Ryan Braun allowed both inherited runners to score. Not good.

And then, with the Royals trailing 5-1 in the top of the eighth Ross Gload hit a pinch-hit three-run home run to bring the Royals to within a run only to see the Mariners score two more in the bottom half of the inning with David Riske came into the game. 

To date, the bullpen has been awful, posting a 5.86 ERA, and they've blown five games already. Joel Peralta, a guy who has been reasonably steady the past couple of seasons, is really struggling. He's 0-2 with a 7.11 ERA. David Riske, another guy who is normally solid, has a 6.97 ERA. Todd Wellemeyer is off to a disastrous start with a 10.13 ERA. Ryan Braun is at 4.82. The only two bright spots so far are Jimmy Gobble who has a 2.16 ERA and Joakim Soria who has three saves and a 3.00 ERA.

Throw in two errors by the Royals (made by Alex Gordon and Tony Pena) last night and the frustration level in Royal-land continues to grow. Alex Gordon has made four errors already and his .926 fielding percentage ranks him third from the bottom among all qualified major league third baseman. He's also third from the bottom in zone rating (.714). Tony Pena has made some incredible plays this season, but he's also made five errors, placing him 19th among qualified major league shortstops in fielding percentage. He's currently 15th in zone rating (.843). I'll still take him any day over Angel Berroa. Overall the Royals rank 20th with their .981 fielding percentage.

So, the combination of poor performances by the bullpen, poor defense, and hitters being unable to drive in runners in scoring position has put the Royals in an early hole again. At 7-16, we have the worst record in baseball. Here's something that might soften the pain a little though--take a look at the bottom of the AL East standings. The evil Yankees are 8-13 and 6.5 games back of the Red Sox. How sweet is that?

Tonight, Gil Meche (1-1, 2.55) faces his former team. He'll go against a struggling Jeff Weaver (0-3, 13.91). Meche has obviously never faced the Mariners. Weaver is 5-7 in his career against the Royals with a 3.91 ERA.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Royals Notes

If you haven't had a chance to read the Royals Notebook in the Star today, head on over and check it out...after you read the section about Zack Greinke hitting Torii Hunter, you'll find a touching story about Mike Sweeney hitting a home run for an 11-year old boy who was about to go in for brain surgery, you'll read about Luke Hudson's good outing in Wichita on Wednesday night, and you'll see that the Royals promoted Billy Buckner to Omaha and released Dewon Brazelton.

Royals Lose in 11 Innings

Game Date: April 26, 2007
Twins 1, Royals 0 / Box Score
WP: Rincon (1-0), LP: Wellemeyer (0-1)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 7-15

Welcome to bizzaro-world.

The Royals drew 10 walks yesterday afternoon in Minnesota and didn't score one run. I wonder if that has ever happened before? It doesn't even seem possible, but yet, we did it. Boof Bonser had awful control (as evidenced by his seven walks in five innings), but he gave up just three hits. Zack Greinke's control wasn't any better. He walked four and hit two guys--including Torii Hunter, who Greinke hit in the face. Thankfully, Hunter only needed a few stitches in his lip.

On one hand, you wanted to applaud two starters who found a way to keep putting up zeros on the board when neither was anywhere near having his best stuff. On the other hand, you kept thinking that surely such awful pitching would eventually catch up with one of them. It didn't.

The Royals had chances to score--especially after Bonser left the game. In the seventh, the Royals had runners at the corners with one out, but Emil Brown popped out to short. Reggie Sanders tried to score from third but he was thrown out.

The game was tied 0-0 after nine innings.

The Royals had a chance in extra innings too. In the 10th Alex Gordon singled to right with Ross Gload on second base, but Brian Poldberg held Gload up because Gordon hit the ball so hard that Poldberg thought Gload would have been out at home. Joe Nathan wiggled off the hook after that and kept the Royals from scoring.

You know the rest of the story by now. Todd Wellemeyer gave up three straight singles in the eleventh inning and the Twins won the game 1-0.

Tonight in Seattle, Jorge De La Rosa (2-1, 3.04) goes against Horacio Ramirez (1-1, 6.30). De La Rosa has never pitched against the Mariners and Ramirez has never faced the Royals.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Gload in the Times

If you haven't had a chance to read the recent article about Ross Gload in the New York Times, here's a link: Long Islander's Long Road to the Major Leagues. It's good stuff. I love his attitude.

Here's a quote from the article:

“I’m just enjoying my time,” he said. “They’re going to have to go into my locker and pry the uniform out of there to make me go home.”

Hat tip: to Michael in Chicago for letting me know about the article.

Bullpen Finally Keeps a Lead

Game Date: April 25, 2007
Royals 4, Twins 3 / Box Score
WP: Perez (2-2), LP: Ponson (1-3), SV: Soria (3)
Royal Home Runs: DeJesus (4), Sweeney (2)
Royals Record: 7-14

Maybe we ought to only give the ball to Odalis Perez when we are playing the Twins. He beat the them on April 20, and he did so again last night. He gave up three earned runs on five hits and two walks. His ERA is still a rather lofty 7.54, and I don't expect him to remain in the rotation after Luke Hudson and Scott Elarton return, but for now, I say figure out a way to let him pitch against Minnesota.

Mike Sweeney got things going for the Royals with a two-run home run in the first inning--his second home run of the season. Ironically, he hit his first home run of the season off Ponson on April 20. David DeJesus hit his fourth home run of the season--a two run-shot in the fifth inning, and finally the bullpen found a way to keep a lead. The combination of Brandon Duckworth, David Riske, Jimmy Gobble, and Joakim Soria shut down the Twins over the final three innings, getting this short five game road trip off to a good start.

This afternoon, Zack Greinke (1-2, 4.82) will go against Boof Bonser (0-1, 6.53). Greinke is 1-3 in his career against the Twins with a 4.66 ERA. Bonser is 1-2 against the Royals with a 4.95 ERA.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It Happened Again

Game Date: April 24, 2007
White Sox 9, Royals 7 / Box Score
WP: Logan (1-0), LP: Soria (1-1), SV: Jenks (8)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 6-14

I honestly didn't think it was possible for the Royals' bullpen to be nearly as bad as they were last year, but so far, the names have changed, but he results have been the same. Going into the game last night, the bullpen was 1-6 with a 6.05 ERA. And they've already blown five saves.

Bob Dutton's article in the Star this morning makes the point that several of the guys we've have been counting on are on the DL. Octavio Dotel hasn't even thrown a pitch for the Royals yet this season. Neither has John Bale. And neither are expected back for at least a few more weeks. And Joe Nelson and Leo Nunez are out long-term.

So, in order to give the bullpen a break, the Royals called up Brian Bannister and moved Brandon Duckworth to the pen. I really don't understand this move. Bannister pitched 4.1 innings last night--how is that saving the bullpen? Bell's options are limited though until some of the guys return from the DL.

Neal Musser is an option (he's 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in Omaha). So is Jason Shiell (0-0, 2.92 in Omaha) and Thad Markray (0-0, 2.25 in Omaha). But Moore must not be convinced that these guys are ready for the bigs yet.

Something has to happen soon or we're in for another very long summer.

Brian Bannister's first start with the Royals was somewhat over-shadowed by the events at the end of the game. To be honest, I wasn't that impressed with him. He left a lot of pitches up and he wasn't even able to get through five innings even though he was handed a 4-1 lead. Let's hope his next start yields different results.

Odalis Perez (1-2, 8.64) goes against Sidney Ponson (1-2, 9.39) tonight. Perez is 1-1 in his career against the Twins with a 7.52 ERA. Ponson is 9-6 against the Royals with a 4.53 ERA. 

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bullpen Falters in Royals Loss

Game Date: April 23, 2007
White Sox 7, Royals 4 / Box Score
WP: Buehrle (2-0), LP: Gobble (0-1), SV: Jenks (7)
Royal Home Runs: Buck (4)
Royals Record: 6-13

What started out as a pitchers duel quickly turned into a battle of the bullpens. The Sox pen did the job. The Royals pen did not.

But let's start with the starters. Gil Meche was solid again tonight, going seven innings and giving up three earned runs on eight hits and no walks. Mark Buehrle, who was fresh off a no-hitter, pitched well--putting up similar numbers to Meche: three earned runs on five hits and one walk.

The game was tied 3-3 after seven innings and that's when the bullpens came into play. Bell brought in Gobble to face the left-handed Jim Thome to lead off the eighth inning and Thome singled. Gobble was gone and replaced by David Riske, who just can't see to get on track this season. Riske immediately gave up a two-run bomb to Paul Konerko to give the Sox a 5-3 lead.

Neil Musser walked the only guy he faced. And Ryan Braun, after getting out of the eighth, gave up two runs in the ninth. The Royals made a little noise in the bottom off the ninth against Bobby Jenks. They had runners at the corners with one out, but David DeJesus grounded into a game-ending double play.

Tomorrow, the Royals plan to give Brian Bannister his first start in a Royals uniform. He'll go up against Javier Vazquez (2-0, 2.50). Bannister was 1-1 in four starts in Omaha with a 2.61 ERA. Vazquez is 4-1 in his career against the Royals with a 1.88 ERA.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

De La Rosa Dominant in Win

Game Date: April 22, 2007
Royals 3, Twins 1 / Box Score
WP: De La Rosa (2-1), LP: Ortiz (3-1), SV: Soria (2)
Royal Home Runs: Gload (1)
Royals Record: 6-12

Jorge De La Rosa had better command today than he's ever had. He got ahead of hitters with his fastball and then he went to his change up (that looks more like a split finger fastball). And he kept hitters guessing after he got ahead. At one point, he retired 16 guys in a row. They finally broke through for a run against him in the sixth inning, but it wasn't enough. De La Rosa gave up just one run on five hits and one walk in eight innings--the longest outing of his brief career.

Joakim Soria came in throwing strikes and he picked up his second save of the season.

The Royals didn't have a great day offensively, but Ross Gload's first home run of the season, a two-run shot in the third inning, was all they needed. Mike Sweeney was 3-for-4 with an RBI and he raised his average, which was quite dismal just a week ago, to .269. Looks like he's finally getting caught up after not getting many at bats during Spring Training.

Mark Teahen played center field after David DeJesus was a last minute scratch. Teahen didn't have any problems out there. In fact, he even made a good catch. And he went 2-for-4 at the plate.

Ryan Shealy was back in the line up after getting a few games off to "clear his head." He went 1-for-2.

Tomorrow night, the Royals begin a short two-game series at home against the White Sox. Gil Meche (1-1, 2.22) goes against Mark Buehrle (1-0, 2.08). Should be interesting to see what Buehrle does after pitching a no-hitter the other night. Meche is 5-2 in his career against the White Sox with a 4.62 ERA. Buehrle is 15-6 against the Royals with a 3.26 ERA.

Minor League Notes

Before the game this afternoon, Ryan Lefebvre interviewed J.J. Picollo, the director of player development for the Royals. Picollo spoke about a few players in the minor leagues that Royals fans are definitely interested in hearing more about.

Here's a summary of what he said...

  • Billy Buckner (currently pitching in Wichita): Picollo said that Buckner has found the right release point on his breaking ball. Let's hope it helps. He's off to a bit of a rough start. In his three starts, he's 1-2 with a 4.70 ERA.

  • Luke Hochevar (currently pitching in Wichita): The Royals recently boosted his pitch count by 15 pitches. He was on a low pitch count because he missed so much time last season. He was dominant in his last outing, during which he threw 7.2 innings of shut out ball against the San Antonio Missions. He struck out eleven guys. After three starts, he's 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA.
  • Billy Butler (currently playing in the outfield in Omaha): Picollo said that Butler has noticed a difference between Double-A pitching and Triple-A pitching already. In Triple-A, he's noticed that pitchers change speeds better. Butler is working on laying off pitches that are off the plate. He's doing a pretty good job of it. In 17 games, he's hitting .322 with 4 HR and 16 RBI. He's also drawn 12 BB.

Pitchers Can't Hold the Lead

Game Date: April 21, 2007
Twins 7, Royals 5 / Box Score
WP: Neshek (2-0), LP: Peralta (0-2), SV: Nathan (6)
Royal Home Runs: Teahen (2), Gordon (2)
Royals Record: 5-12

Royals hitters handed Zack Greinke several leads yesterday. He just couldn't hold them. Afterward he said that he couldn't locate his fastball and his offspeed pitches "weren't working." That's not a good combination. He ended up giving up four runs on nine hits and one walk in five innings.

The Royals scored in their half of the fifth to give Greinke another lead, 5-4, but then it was the bullpen's turn to give up the lead--culminating in Joel Peralta giving up two runs in the seventh to ultimately lose the game. Peralta's ERA has now climbed to 8.31 and he already has three blown saves.

Neal Musser made his debut out of the pen, going a third of an inning and giving up two hits and one run (unearned). Jimmy Gobble held his own, pitching a scoreless inning. And Todd Wellemeyer finally had a good outing, going two innings without giving up a run. His ERA is still a rather inflated 9.39.

It was nice to see Mark Teahen and Alex Gordon hit home runs, but when you look at how many times the Royals struck out (13), you can't be real encouraged about their offensive performance.

This afternoon, Jorge De La Rosa (1-1, 4.34) goes against Ramon Ortiz (3-0, 2.05). De La Rosa is 0-3 in his career against the Twins with a 7.02 ERA. Ortiz is 3-4 against the Royals with a 7.09 ERA.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Bats Come to Life

Game Date: April 20, 2007
Royals 11, Twins 7 / Box Score
WP: Perez (1-2), LP: Ponson (1-2) SV: Riske (2)
Royal Home Runs: Grudzielanek (1), Sweeney (1), Sanders (2)
Royals Record: 5-11

Odalis Perez wasn't good tonight, but he was better than Sidney Ponson. Perez gave us four runs on seven hits and one walk in five innings. The Royals got to Ponson for six runs on ten hits in just 4.1 innings.

Mike Sweeney got the ball rolling for the Royals, hitting his first home run of the season--a solo shot to left field in the second inning. Sweeney ended up having a big night, going 2-for-4 with 2 RBI. Teahen singled in Pena in the third. The Twins were up 3-2 at that point.

It stayed that way until the fifth, when the Twins scored a run in the top half of the inning to go up 4-2. In the Royals half of the inning, DeJesus singled to lead off. Mark Grudzielanek hit a two-run home run to left field and the game was tied. But the Royals weren't done yet.

Teahen and Sweeney both singled. Then Ross Gload hit into a fielder's choice and Mark Teahen scored. After Reggie Sanders flied out, Alex Gordon hit an RBI double. Later in the inning, Gordon scored on a wild pitch. The Royals were up 7-4 after five.

They tacked on one more in the seventh and three more in the eighth. The bullpen, while hardly stellar, held the lead and the Royals got their second straight win.

You've got to like the pitching match up tomorrow afternoon. Zack Greinke (1-2, 3.95) goes against Boof Bonser (0-1, 6.89). Greinke is 1-3 in his career against the Twins with a 4.28 ERA. Bonser is 1-2 with a 4.80 ERA against the Royals.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Express Down the O Royals

I just got back from Rosenblatt Stadium where the Round Rock Express defeated the Omaha Royals 6-1. Juan Gutierrez for the Express tossed seven shut out innings against the Royals, the included this line up:

1. Joey Gathright, DH
2. Angel Berroa, 3B
3. Shane Costa, RF
4. Billy Butler, LF
5. Mike Aviles, SS
6. Mitch Maier, CF
7. Justin Huber, 1B
8. Fernando Cortez, 2B
9. Paul Phillips, C

The Royals managed just four hits for the game, and like the big league club, many of the O. Royals are struggling at the plate. Gathright got a hit, but he's hitting just .217. Justin Huber was 0-for-3 and is now hitting .160. And Paul Phillips was 0-for-3 and is hitting .091.

Here's a photo of Gathright's first at bat:

Billy Butler was 1-for-3 with a walk. By the way, today is his 21st birthday.

Angel Berroa was 0-for-4, and he looks like the same old Berroa--during one at bat in the sixth inning, he swung at a pitch that bounced in the dirt for strike two and then he swung and missed a pitch that was way up out of the strike zone. I have no idea what he's doing playing third base, but here's a photo of him in action:

Dewon Brazelton pitched six innings, giving up two earned runs on four hits. He changed speeds relatively well and he had five strike outs. The Royals just couldn't get their bats going to support him.

Buck's Blast Lifts Royals

Game Date: April 18, 2007
Royals 4, Tigers 3 / Box Score
WP: Soria (1-0), LP: Rodney (1-3) 
Royal Home Runs: Buck (3)
Royals Record: 4-11

This one had all the makings of another disaster. Gil Meche was cruising until Alex Gordon made a bad throw to second in the sixth inning trying to get a force, and maybe even a double play. Gordon's throw was to the left field side of the bag and for some reason, Esteban German was wrong footed and didn't even make the catch. The Tigers ended up scoring three unearned runs that inning and the way Jeremy Bonderman was pitching, it looked like they wouldn't need any more.

Mike Sweeney came up with an RBI single in the seventh, and the score remained 3-1 going into the Royals half of the ninth. Todd Jones came in and walked David DeJesus after DeJesus fell behind in the count. German grounded to third, but DeJesus was able to take second. Then Mark Teahen doubled to right, scoring DeJesus to put the Royals within one run. Mike Sweeney clubbed a high fast ball for a single to right and that put runners at the corners with one out and the Royals down 3-2. Ross Gload hit the ball up the middle and it looked like the Tigers might get a double play, but Gload ran hard down the first base line and barely beat the throw--allowing Teahen to score from third, and that tied the game 3-3.

Joakim Soria kept the Tigers in check in the bottom of the ninth. And Fernando Rodney came on for the Tigers in the 10th. John Buck hammered a ball way over the wall in left field to lead off the inning and that run held up. Soria pitched the bottom of the 10th to pick up his first major league win.

But really, this game belonged to Gil Meche. He pitched eight innings, giving up just six hits on three walks, and he didn't give up any earned runs. He had his fastball, curve ball, and change up working equally well, and he looked every bit the ace that he was intended to be. I've been highly impressed by Meche so far. I didn't expect anything more than an innings eater, and I certainly didn't expect to see him dominate good hitting teams. But after four starts he has a 2.22 ERA, which is just slightly better than Jeremy Bonderman, who currently sits at 2.25.

The Royals have the the day off tomorrow, then they open a new series at home against the Twins on Friday night. Odalis Perez (0-2, 9.26) will go against Sidney Ponson (1-1, 8.18). Perez is 0-1 in his career against the Twins with a 7.63 ERA. Ponson is 9-5 against the Royals with a 4.21 ERA.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Another Heartbreaker

Game Date: April 17, 2007
Tigers 7, Royals 6 / Box Score
WP: Ledezma (3-0) LP: Riske (0-2) SV: Jones (7) 
Royal Home Runs: DeJesus (3)
Royals Record: 3-11

Another April heartbreaker.

After falling behind 5-2 after five innings, the Royals came roaring back with four runs in the top of the sixth inning to take the lead. I won't say that De La Rosa pitched well (4 ER, 8 H, 6 K, 2 HR in 6.0 IP), but once again, we had a starter put us in a position to win and it didn't happen.

Joel Peralta and David Riske gave the lead back to the Tigers for good. The go-ahead run occurred when Placido Polanco hit an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to give Detroit a 7-6 lead. Todd Jones made sure it stuck.

Royals fans have a lot of things to lament right now. A bullpen that hasn't lived up to expectations. Multiple position players hitting under .200. Poor defense on the left side of the infield. And Shealy and Gordon are off to horrible starts at the plate.

But let's keep it all in perspective. It's still early. More pitching help is on the way in the form of Luke Hudson and Scott Elarton. Guys like Sweeney, Teahen, Brown, and Shealy are going to find their way at the plate. David Riske and Joel Peralta will presumably figure things out. And hopefully, Octavio Dotel will get healthy and help the back end of the bullpen retain leads.

I have to admit though, a 3-11 start doesn't exactly fill me with optimism. But the great thing about this game is, you never know when a team will turn things around. So, you keep watching and hoping.

Tomorrow afternoon, Gil Meche (1-1, 3.10) goes against Jeremy Bonderman (0-0, 2.57). Meche is 5-4 in his career against the Tigers with a 4.33 ERA. Bonderman is 8-5 against the Royals with a 4.18 ERA.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Royals Lose Fifth in a Row

Game Date: April 16, 2007
Tigers 12, Royals 5 / Box Score
WP: Verlander (1-0) LP: Greinke (1-2) 
Royal Home Runs: Shealy (1)
Royals Record: 3-10

I missed the first few innings of this one. I met my mom for dinner and when I came out of the restaurant I flipped the radio on. The first thing I heard about was Jason LaRue taking a ground ball off the chest. I'm thinking, okay, the Royals are down 21-2 in the second inning and Buddy Bell has given the ball to Jason LaRue to burn a couple of innings.


He was playing third. What in the world? Then I hear that Alex Gordon is playing shortstop and Tony Pena is playing second.

Okay, I know. I'm not really driving. I'm actually having a nightmare--one that involves Tona Pena Sr. still managing the Royals.


Finally I find out that Esteban German left the game with an injury and Bell was forced to change the defense around. I'm not sure why he didn't move Gordon to second and leave Pena at short so that we would have only had two guys out of position instead of three, but when you're down 8-2 after three innings, does it really matter?

Pudge Rodriguez's first inning grand slam pretty much did in the Royals as Zack Greinke didn't even make it out of the first inning. That's three games in a row in which our staff has given up a grand slam. That has to be some sort of record, doesn't it? 

And how about the lack of production by Royals hitters at the plate? We had six guys in the line up yesterday who are hitting less that .180. John Buck on the other hand is on fire, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk to raise his average to .429. I'm thinking it's about time he moved up in the order, even if it is temporary.

Tomorrow, Jorge De La Rosa (1-1, 3.55) goes against Mike Maroth (2-0, 4.91). De La Rosa is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his career against the Tigers. Maroth is 10-8 with a 4.29 ERA against the Royals.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rained Out

The Royals and Orioles were rained out this afternoon. No make up date has been scheduled or announced. Buddy Bell told the players not to lift weights or run, hoping that they'd get some rest and maybe feel rejuvinated for the series that opens in Detroit tomorrow.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Orioles Make it Three Straight

Game Date: April 14, 2007
Orioles 6, Royals 4 / Box Score
WP: Williamson (1-0) LP: Peralta (0-1) SV: Ray (3)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 3-9

Already feels like mid-June in one of our previous 100-loss seasons, doesn't it?

Balls dropping in between players. The bullpen giving up leads. And another heart-wrenching come from behind victory by the opposing team. The things is, this year's team is better than the last several years. Our starting pitching, even when it isn't lights out, is getting the ball into the hands of the bullpen with leads or with deficits that aren't out of reach. We're hitting cut off guys in the field, and with a couple of exceptions, our defense hasn't been bad.

But loses tend to breed more loses and that's what seems to be happening right now.

Odalis Perez battled tonight. I don't think he fits into the long term plans in Kansas City, especially when Scott Elarton and Luke Hudson come back. But he left the game with two guys on base in the sixth inning with a 4-2 lead.

In came Joel Peralta, who got Kevin Millar to hit a pop fly that dropped in between Tony Pena, Reggie Sanders (who was playing left field), and David DeJesus. DeJesus should have taken charge of the play by calling everybody else off, but he let Pena take charge and Pena had his back to the plate. He had little chance of making the catch--even if he was calling for it.

That loaded the bases for Chris Gomez, who Peralta fell behind 3-1 before Gomez smashed a line drive grand slam home run over the left field wall. The Royals tried to mount a come back in the 7th inning when DeJesus singled to start the inning, followed by Grudzielanek reaching base after being hit by a pitch. But Mark Teahen struck out, which obviously didn't advance the runners. And then Sanders did the same thing. Just for good measure, Mike Sweeney pinch hit for Ross Gload and he struck out as well.

The Royals went in order the final two innings.

The Royals have lost three games in a row to a team that really is probably only slightly better than them. The Orioles haven't finished over .500 since 1997. They're hitting .248 as a team and they don't really have any starters that strike fear in you. But they're still finding a way to beat us.

Let's hope that tomorrow is different.

Zack Greinke (1-1, 1.38) goes against Jeremy Guthrie (0-0, 3.18). Greinke is 0-2 with a 11.88 ERA in his career against the Orioles. Guthrie is 0-0 with a 6.10 ERA against the Royals.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bats Cold Again

Game Date: April 13, 2007
Orioles 8, Royals 1 / Box Score
WP: Bedard (2-1) LP: Duckworth (0-1) 
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 3-8

Brandon Duckworth did what you would hope your number five guy will do when he doesn't have great stuff or even good command. He kept his team in the ball game. He gave up two earned runs in five innings. He gave up four runs total (two of which were unearned because of an error on Esteban German).

I think I was most impressed with his performance in the fifth inning. Baltimore was up 4-1. They had two guys on base with no outs. This is the point where Royals pitchers usually give up the big hit and the game is over half way through. But Duckworth buckled down and struck out Corey Patterson. Then he got Paul Bako to ground into a double play and the inning was over.

Ryan Braun pitched two scoreless innings and the Royals were still in the game. They just couldn't get their bats going. Then Todd Wellemeyer came in. He clearly didn't have his best stuff. He allowed a single to Kevin Millar, and a one out single to Paul Bako. Then he walked Brian Roberts to load the bases. I have no idea why Bell didn't take him out at this point, but he didn't. Somehow Wellemeyer got Melvin Mora to pop up. But Nick Markakis did something the Royals couldn't do all night--he got a big hit with two outs. His was the ultimate big hit--a grand slam and this game was over.

As bad as our offensive was, I did see a few positives:

  • Reggie Sanders continues to tear the cover off the ball. He was 3-for-4 and raised his average to .500 for the season.
  • John Buck was 1-for-1 with three walks. He's hitting .389 now.
  • And as a team, the Royals drew six walks.

Tomorrow, Odalis Perez (0-2, 10.80) goes against Daniel Cabrera (1-1 3.07). Perez is 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA in his career against the Orioles. Cabrera is 3-0 with a 2.35 against the Royals.

Meche Injures Hamstring

Well, now we know why Gil Meche left the game after six innings last night while he was still mowing down Oriole hitters. At the end of the sixth inning he said he felt something in his leg, according to this article, it's a hamstring injury. Let's hope that it's nothing more than a minor tweak.

Dotel Has a Setback

The Royals received disappointing news yesterday about Octavio Dotel. During a session in Surprise, he felt a pain in his left oblique area and it sounds like he may have re-injured it. That's not good news for a team that spent $5 million for a solid guy at the back end of the bullpen. Sounds like Buddy Bell is planning to use a rotating group of guys, including David Riske, Joel Peralta, and Joakim Soria, to close games for now. 

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Royals Lose in 10

Game Date: April 12, 2007
Orioles 2, Royals 1 / Box Score
WP: Ray (1-1) LP: Standridge (0-1) 
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 3-7

Gil Meche was impressive tonight, but his six strong innings weren't enough to carry the Royals to victory. As soon as he left, Jimmy Gobble gave up a run and the game was tied 1-1 after seven innings. Joakim Soria was solid in the ninth, but the game went into the tenth and Jason Standridge gave up the game-winning hit to Jay Gibbons.

It's a shame that Royals hitters couldn't have given Meche and the pen a little more support. Ross Gload and John Buck each had two hits, Tony Pena had a single, and Mark Grudzielanek had a big RBI single in the sixth, but that was it for the offense. Mark Teahen, Mike Sweeney, Alex Gordon, and Emil Brown continue to struggle. None of them are over .200 for the season yet.

The obvious positive in this one was Gil Meche's performance. In his six shutout innings, he gave up seven hits and one walk. He adjusted nicely as the game went on. In the early innings, he came with hard stuff and when he wanted to change speeds, he used his curve ball. As he got into the order for the third time, he began to use his change up a lot more often and he kept hitters guessing. My only real complaint was that he only went six innings. He was pitching well and he'd only thrown 91 pitches. Surely he had one more inning in him--especially given how much the bullpen has been used in the past couple of games.

Tomorrow, Brandon Duckworth (0-1, 0.00) will go against Erik Bedard (1-1, 6.94). Duckworth is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA against the Orioles in his career. Bedard is 1-1 with a 3.63 ERA against the Royals.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mediocre Pitching and Defense Costly

Game Date: April 11, 2007
Blue Jays 7, Royals 4 / Box Score
WP: Chacin (1-0) LP: De La Rosa (1-1) SV: Ryan (3)
Royal Home Runs: DeJesus (2)
Royals Record: 3-6

A sub-par outing by De La Rosa coupled with two bad defensive plays cost the Royals this one. De La Rosa went 5.2 innings, giving up nine hits, four earned runs, one base on balls, and he had three strikeouts. He kept trying to throw his version of a change up, which really looks more like a splitter, and he repeatedly left it up in the zone. A good example was Frank Thomas' at bat in the fourth inning. De La Rosa got ahead of him 0-2, but then he threw his change/splitter and he hung it over the plate. Thomas whacked it for a single. Thomas came around to score.

Wellemeyer didn't get the job done in relief either. He gave up two runs on two hits and two walks in one inning. And like I said, the defense cost the Royals a couple of runs. In the second inning, Alex Gordon bobbled a ground ball with two outs and he failed to throw out Aaron Hill in time at first base--allowing a run to score from third. The official scorer originally called it an error, which it should have been, but then he changed his ruling to a single. Then, in the sixth inning, with two outs and a guy on third, Pena bobbled a ball and it cost the Royals another run. This one was rightly ruled an error. The Royals ended up losing by three, but it may be changed the complexion of the game.

David DeJesus had another good night at the plate, going 2-for-5 with a home run and an RBI. Esteban German was 2-for-4 with an RBI filling in for Grud. Shealy and LaRue had the other two RBI.

This is the third straight series that the Royals have lost, but they've played three very good teams. The guys are off to Baltimore to begin a new series there tomorrow. Gil Meche (1-1, 4.40) will go against Steve Trachsel (0-0, 4.05). Meche is 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA against the Orioles in his career. Trachsel is 0-3 with a 6.21 against the Royals, so you've got to like our chances in this one.

Greinke Leaves Team Briefly

RSTN is reporting that Zack Greinke left the team early this morning to head to Orlando, Florida. His grandmother on his mom's side of the family suffered a stroke and died last week on the day that Zack was pitching against Dice-K. That same day, his grandfather on his mom's side also died. They would have been married for 59 years this June.

Greinke stayed with the team and pitched an unbelievable game last night and then flew to Orlando to be with his family for the memorial service. He's expected to be back with the team for the Baltimore series.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Greinke Strong Again; Gordon Goes Deep

Game Date: April 10, 2007
Royals 6, Blue Jays 3 / Box Score
WP: Greinke (1-1) LP: Towers (0-1) SV: Soria (1)
Royal Home Runs: Gordon (1)
Royals Record: 3-5

That's two straight good starts for Zack Greinke. Something tells me that we're going to see many more this summer. I think I said this about his first start, but he really seems to have an idea about how to pitch now, rather than simply throwing pitches.

How many guys have you seen in recent years move Frank Thomas back in the box? After Greinke struck him out twice with inside fastballs, Thomas finally moved back, but in his final at bat against Greinke, Zack still got him to ground out to short. Greinke gave up one run on six hits and no walks. He had pinpoint control with his fastball. He missed a few times with his change up, but usually he missed in, and he even got a few outs that way.

Josh Towers looked like a number five guy against the Royals. The Royals scored a run in the first against him on a sacrifice fly by Mike Sweeney, his 800th career RBI. The Royals scored another run in the third after David DeJesus tripled and Mark Grudzielanek drove him in with a single.

The big blow in the game came in the sixth inning when Alex Gordon hit first career home run on a 1-0 fastball right down main street. Towers tried to get it inside and he failed. It was nice to see Gordon smile a little. Sweeney was on base (after reaching on an error) and he was all smiles for Alex as well.

This past weekend I popped into the Royals clubhouse several times. I was in Kansas City to write several stories for a publication I work for. Most of my work was done in the Tigers clubhouse, but I also interviewed a couple of Royals. The Royals clubhouse is newly remodeled and most of the players' lockers aren't where they used to be, so it took me a while to find the guys I needed to talk to. I was happy to see that Alex Gordon's locker is right next to Mike Sweeney's.

I know fans are on Mike Sweeney right now, and frankly I don't understand why. Yes he's making a ton of money and yes he's been hurt a lot in the last five seasons. But he could have bailed on this club when he was healthy and they were horrible. And it's not like he isn't putting forth 100%, so it'd be nice to see Royals' fans stick by him now.

He wants to finish his career in Kansas City. He's creeping up many of the Royals' all-time top ten lists and if you look at what the guy has done with RISP over his career (.330, 399 H, 62 HR, 614 RBI coming into the 2006 season), then you have to tip your cap to him. And everybody knows what kind of guy Mike is off the field.

It'll be interesting to hear what Alex Gordon says five or six years from now about his first season when he lockered next to Mike Sweeney.

Well, enough about all that. Back to the game. Joel Peralta faltered a bit in the seventh inning, giving up a two-run home run to Gregg Zaun. But he settled down to get the final two outs of the inning, and Joakim Soria shut down the Blue Jays for the final two innings to pick up his first major league save.

Tomorrow night, Jorge De La Rosa (1-0, 1.29) goes against Gustavo Chacin (0-0, 4.50). De La Rosa is 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two innings of work in his career against the Blue Jays. Chacin is 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA against the Royals in 7.2 innings.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Royals Never in This One

Game Date: April 9, 2007
Blue Jays 9, Royals 1 / Box Score
WP: Burnett (1-1) LP: Perez (0-2)
Royal Home Runs: Buck (2)
Royals Record: 2-5

It's all about starting pitching, and we got very little of it tonight. Odalis Perez was chased from the game after just 1.1 innings. He gave up four earned runs on seven hits and a walk. It's a wonder that he didn't give up more. With two outs in the first inning, he gave up three straight singles without giving up a run--thanks to Emil Brown who threw out Vernon Wells at the plate by a mile.

Blue Jay hitters were all over Perez in the second inning. At one point, he allowed five guys in a row to reach base, but there was a controversial play that cost the Royals a run. With two outs and based loaded Lyle Overbay hit an apparent double down the right field line. A fan reached over the fence (why do fans do this? I just don't get it) and interfered with the ball. The umpire ruled that all three Blue Jays would have scored. Replays showed that the runner was close to half way to third base and had no chance of scoring. Buddy Bell got tossed for arguing the play.

A.J. Burnett was on and he simply shut down the Royals. He gave up just three hits (two of which were infield singles by Mike Sweeney) over 6.2 innings. The Blue Jays bullpen got the job done as well. John Buck hit a harmless solo home run in the seventh inning.

A couple of things to note about the game:

  • Bell isn't planning to play Sweeney a lot during this series since it's on turf, but Mike did reach base four times tonight.
  • Alex Gordon was 0-for-3 (he reached in the second when he was hit by a pitch) and he saw his average drop to .045. He had a couple of good swings--particularly in his first at bat when he worked the count full, but he still looks uncomfortable at the plate. He's not exactly tearing things up in the field either. He made his second error of the season and he bobbled another attempt before barely throwing a guy out at first.

The Royals finally have the advantage in a pitching match up tomorrow when Zack Greinke (0-1, 1.29 ERA) goes against Josh Towers (0-0, 0.00 ERA). Towers didn't even have a roster spot going into Spring Training, but he found a way to make the club. He hasn't pitched yet this season. Greinke is 0-2 with a 7.50 against the Blue Jays in his career. Towers is 2-0 with a 1.06 against the Royals.

Rodriguez's Shot Lifts the Tigers

Game Date: April 8, 2007
Tigers 3, Royals 2 / Box Score
WP: Rodney (1-1) LP: Riske (0-1) SV: Jones (3)
Royal Home Runs: Mark Teahen (1)
Royals Record: 2-4

After our bullpen blew 31 saves last season, you think we'd get used to losing in such heartbreaking fashions, but the fact that it's still heartbreaking tells you that's not true. But let's back up a little.

Brandon Duckworth was outstanding in his 6.1 innings of work. He gave up just four hits and one walk. He was keeping the ball down and at one point he got 11 straight Tigers out.

Meanwhile, the Royals built a 2-0 lead thanks to Mark Teahen who always hits Jeremy Bonderman well. Teahen hit a solo home run in the first and he drove in a run in the third. The lead held up behind Duckworth, Jimmy Gobble, and Joakim Soria, but then the wheels came off in the ninth.

Riske gave up a double to Magglio Ordonez and a walk to Carlos Guillen (nearly always the kiss of death late in a close ball game) to set the stage for Ivan Rodriguez. Riske thought that Rodriguez would put down a sacrifice bunt since there weren't any outs in the inning, so he grooved a four-seamer and Rodriguez jumped all over it and knocked it over the left-center field wall.

Todd Jones came in and nailed down another save.

Blown saves are going to happen from time to time, and we have a number of positives to take from this game--the first of which is our number five starter shut down the Tigers. Our middle relievers did their job. And we played steady defense. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough.

Tonight, the Royals begin a new series in Toronto. Odalis Perez (0-1, 6.75 ERA) goes against A.J. Burnett (0-1, 27.00).

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Meche Gives up 3 HR in Loss

Game Date: April 7, 2007
Tigers 6, Royals 5 / Box Score
WP: Maroth (1-0) LP: Meche (0-1) SV: Jones (2)
Royal Home Runs: Reggie Sanders (1)
Royals Record: 2-3

Gil Meche challenged Tiger hitters today, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they were up to the task—starting with Gary Sheffield who took him deep into a stiff wind in the first inning. And then in the third, Meche went right at guys again. Monroe doubled to lead off the inning. And after Meche got Brandon Inge to ground out, Granderson, Polanco, and Sheffield singled. Ordonez hit a sacrifice fly and the Royals were down 4-1.

The Royals had a big third inning too. Pena started things off with a single. I was impressed by his at bat because after he fell behind 1-2, he stayed back on a change up and was able to take it up the middle for a hit. He has a long swing, but he’s showing signs of patience, and that’s always a good thing. After he singled, DeJesus doubled, and Grudzielanek got him home with a ground ball out. After Sweeney made an out, Reggie Sanders hit a 1-0 pitch for a two-run home run to left field.

Unfortunately, the Tigers came right back and hit a solo home run in the fourth and then again in the fifth. The Royals put one more on the board in the bottom of the sixth, but they fell a run short.

Gil Meche’s line certainly wasn’t good—six runs, eight hits, two walks, four strikeouts, and three home runs—but he did go seven innings, and he challenged hitters. He just didn’t have great stuff and Tiger hitters knew it. You’d like to see Meche figure out how to get guys out anyway, given that he’s our ace, but let’s be honest, he’s not really an ace. Joel Peralta was impressive in his two innings of work—giving up no hits and one walk, and striking out three.

Tomorrow, Brandon Duckworth (0-0, 0.00 ERA) goes against Jeremy Bonderman (0-0, 4.50).

Friday, April 06, 2007

Another Good Outing from a Starter

Game Date: April 6, 2007
Royals 3, Tigers 1 / Box Score
WP: De La Rosa (1-0) LP: Mesa (0-1) SV: Riske (1)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 2-2

For the fourth game in a row, a Royals’ starter held his own. This time it was Jorge De La Rosa who threw 103 pitches by my count, going seven innings, striking out five, walking three, on four hits and one run. He walked too many guys, but he’s probably always going to struggle with his control. The nice thing to see was his ability to strike guys out with his change up. In the seventh inning, he struck out Craig Monroe and Curtis Granderson back to back on change ups. Joakim Soria and David Riske closed out the game—Riske looked especially impressive, getting the Tigers in order in the ninth.

The Royals scored their first run in the bottom of the first inning. David DeJesus doubled to start the game and the ball got by Magglio Ordonez in right field, so DeJesus took third on the error. Mark Grudzielanek hit a ground ball to second to score DeJesus. The game was tied at 1-1 through the sixth inning. In the seventh inning, Jason LaRue doubled, Tony Pena tripled him in, and David DeJesus singled him in. The Royals did their damage after Justin Verlander left the game. They got to Jose Mesa for both runs in the seventh.

Alex Gordon continues to struggle. He went 0-for-4 and at this point he seems to be pressing. I’d look for Buddy Bell to drop him a spot or two in the order if he continues to struggle. Mike Sweeney seems to be pressing as well. He struck out in the fifth inning with two outs and bases loaded. The game was tied at the time and he had a chance to give the Royals a lead. He was punched out looking. He did draw a walk earlier in the game.

Tomorrow afternoon, Gil Meche (1-0, 1.23 ERA) goes against Mike Maroth (0-1, 0.00).

Dotel to the DL

You've probably saw by now that Octavio Dotel was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique. The Royals purchased the contract of Jason Standridge from Omaha to replace Dotel's spot. The Royals knew that they were taking a risk when they signed Dotel. Thankfully, this injury isn't related to the Tommy John surgery he had in 2005. So, for now, David Riske will be the closer and Todd Wellemeyer will probably pitch a little later in games that originally planned.

Road Ramblings

I glanced over at the clock next to my bed this morning and it read 2:06 AM. The refrigerator in my Kansas City hotel room buzzed. A toilet flushed next door. Sirens wailed down I-70 for an instant and then they were gone. I grabbed The Soul of Baseball and read a few chapters. I love that book by the way. I'm sure I'll be blogging about it more in the immediate future.

Anyway, I'm currently in Kansas City for a couple of reasons. One of the publications I write for sent me here to write several articles this weekend about players from both the Tigers and the Royals. But I went in a couple of days early to spend some time with a good friend. A guy named Bear—the one I wrote about here last year.

He moved from Omaha to Cincinnati last year but he promised to meet me at least once this season so we could catch a Royals game or two together. Since early April worked out well for both of us, we met here on Wednesday and had a great time. We watched the second game of the Red Sox series together in nearly freezing temperatures. We enjoyed a couple of nice meals in area restaurants. And we got caught up with what's been going on in each other's lives.

We decided to watch the third game of the Red Sox series from a restaurant, where it wouldn't be so cold, and where we could share another meal before he headed back. We watched Dice-K and Zack Greinke duel, and then Bear hit the road. I went back to my hotel room--where I promptly feel asleep at a ridiculously early hour. So, by 2:06 AM I was feeling completely rested.

That's how life on the road goes sometimes. I don't travel often for publications that I write for, but when I do, I get a small taste of what it feels like for sports writers who do. As a single guy, I really don't mind it. You meet some interesting people. You do your interviews. You write your stories. And you accumulate all sorts of new experiences that work together to make you feel a little more alive.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Game Date: April 5, 2007
Red Sox 4, Royals 1 / Box Score
WP: Matsuzaka (1-0), LP: Greinke (0-1)
Royal Home Runs: DeJesus (1)
Royals Record: 1-2

I wondered how long it would take some national press figure to question the validity of Matsuzaka's great performance this afternoon in Kauffman Stadium. The answer: not long.

Not longer than an hour after the game, had a poll up asking, "What did you think of Daisuke Matsuzaka's first start?" The options were, "Dominant," "Pretty good," and "It's just the Royals, not impressed." As of this writing, 35% say dominant, 40% say pretty good, and the remaining 25% say it's just the Royals.

I have no idea what Dice-K is going to do for the remainder of the season, but if I had to guess, he's going to have a good year. He keeps the ball down. He has so many pitches that I don't think anybody can really label them all. And he seems to have a knack for knowing which pitch to throw in any given situation.

Zack Greinke didn't look too bad this afternoon either. He went seven innings (101 pitches), giving up just one earned run on eight hits and a walk. He also struck out seven guys. And he frustrated a lot of Red Sox hitters with change ups at the knees for called strikes.  

Unfortunately, the Royals just couldn't get anything going against Red Sox pitching. David DeJesus looked the most comfortable, going 2-for-4 with a home run. Esteban German was 2-for-4. And Alex Gordon finally got his first hit of the season. Oddly, Bell sat Mike Sweeney and put Emil Brown in the DH spot.

Even though the Royals lost, I enjoyed watching this game. I love watching pitchers dueling and for the better part of seven innings, that's what happened.

The Tigers roll into town to kick of a new series tomorrow night. Jorge De La Rosa goes against Justin Verlander.

Beckett Too Tough

Game Date: April 4, 2007
Red Sox 7, Royals 1 / Box Score
WP: Beckett (1-0), LP: Perez (0-1)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 1-1

Eight walks. Royals pitchers issued eight walks to one of the best hitting teams in baseball. The result wasn't good. Nobody will say that Odalis Perez was sharp, but I don't think anybody expected him to be sharp after having blister problems the past couple weeks of Spring Training. After giving up three runs in the first, he settled down and did a reasonably good job. But you can't discount the three runs in the first.

Joakim Soria followed him by walking a guy. Todd Wellemeyer walked three, and gave up a two-run bomb to Kevin Youkilis. Ryan Braun came in and walked a guy and gave up yet another run. And for some reason, Bell brought in Jimmy Gobble to pitch the ninth in the middle of a blow out.

At the plate, the Royals were outmatched by Josh Beckett. One particular at bat by Grudzielanek stands out in my mind. Beckett had been coming at Royals hitters with hard stuff. I think it was the second time through the line up when he started Grud with a curve ball for a called strike. Then he threw another curve ball for a called strike. And then he busted him inside and easily got him out. Impressive.

Grud wasn't the only guy who had problem with Beckett though. Alex Gordon looked baffled. Sweeney didn't do anything against him. Neither did DeJesus or Pena.

Let's hope game three of the series goes a little better for the Royals. Zack Greinke will go against Daisuke Matsuzaka, or Dice-K.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

KC Article Links

The Omaha World Herald has a couple of interesting articles in today's edition that you might want to check out if you get a chance:

Curt Schilling's Blog

Curt Schilling has a blog and he broke down his performance yesterday on it if you are interested in reading it. I enjoyed reading what was going through his mind as he made key pitches.

Here's what he said about Meche's performance:
When you are facing a guy like Gil certain things can make it easier or harder. He’ll walk some guys if you give your offense a chance. His stuff is so good that when offenses have to press against him, or their (sic) down and need to make something happen, he can eat you up. After the first he settled into a nice groove and executed. He pitched a hell of a game and hats off to the KC fans, this towns (sic) always been a great baseball city with great sports fans, pretty sure the day and the standing O will be lifetime memories, just always hope you aren’t the guy on the other side when someone has one of those kinds of days.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Meche, Outstanding in Debut

Game Date: April 2, 2007
Royals 7, Red Sox 1 / Box Score
WP: Meche (1-0), LP: Schilling (0-1)
Royal Home Runs: John Buck (1)
Royals Record: 1-0

As Gil Meche strode off the mound in the eighth inning to a thunderous standing ovation, I couldn’t help but wonder about the look on Dayton Moore’s face as he sat watching in his VIP box. Surely one fantastic outing doesn’t make a $55 million contract, but I’m guessing that Moore was at least giving a nod of approval as Meche tipped his cap to the crowd. I doubt that anybody expected Meche to pitch into the eighth inning. He gave up just one earned run on six hits and a walk.

His fastball had life. It didn’t hurt that he hit 96 mph on the gun. He threw his breaking pitches for strikes. And he kept the ball down—which was a good thing given the ferocious wind that was blowing out to left field. I think I was most impressed with his ability to stop the bleeding in the first inning after giving up a run. How many times have we seen Royals pitchers in the past lose focus after giving up a couple of hits early?

Unfortunately, ESPN decided to black out the game in Omaha—which makes no sense whatsoever. I live 200 miles from the stadium. And it was completely sold out. What in the world is MLB doing blacking out a game like that? Sometimes I think that MLB executives do more harm to the game than they do good. If people want to consume your product, you do everything in your power to make sure they have access to it, you certainly don’t block access.

But even over the radio, I could feel the excitement in the air when Alex Gordon approached the plate for the first time in his major league career. Bases were loaded with one out. Surely, everybody was thinking, “How cool would it be if he hit a grand slam home run in his first at bat ever?” I was sort of thinking that, but I was also thinking, “The Royals are down 1-0, I hope that he figures out how to get the guy in from third.” Unfortunately Curt Schilling got the best of him and struck him out with a splitter in the dirt. That could have been a huge turning point in the game, but Ryan Shealy had a great at bat and he picked up his first RBI of the season by drawing a walk. The game was tied 1-1 after the first inning.

Then we got to see a little unexpected excitement from the bat of Tony Pena. He tripled in the second inning with one out. And after David DeJesus failed to get him home, Mark Grudzielanek drove him in with a single. In the fourth inning, John Buck doubled with one out and Pena drew a walk (remember how long it took Angel Berroa to draw his first walk last season?). After DeJesus flew out to center, Grudzielanek came through again, this time with a two-run double. Then Teahen singled in a run and the Royals were up 5-1.

While Curt Schilling was done after four innings, Meche continued to cruise and the Royals continued to score. Buck homered in the sixth and Pena tripled in a run in the eighth.

The Royals didn’t make any errors in the field and Pena made a great play in the fifth inning. Teahen still seems to be trying to get settled in the outfield. His first step doesn’t seem to be the surest, but I’m surprised at his ability to adapt as quickly as he has.

Joel Peralta came in and closed the door on the Red Sox, going the final 1.2 innings, giving up two hits and striking out four.

This one had to be a confidence builder for the Royals. Now let’s see what they can do on Wednesday night against the Red Sox. Odalis Perez is scheduled to pitch against Josh Beckett.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Opening Day Thoughts

This is the time of year when all baseball fans get to be optimistic. Deep down, Royals fans know that the evil Yankees have a $200 million payroll. And we know that we are in the toughest division in baseball. And we know that we’ve lost 100 games four of the last five seasons. But 2003 gave all of us hope. Maybe too much. And maybe it was false hope. But numerous small market teams have proven over the years that they can compete. So, why can’t 2007 be the Royals’ year?

The major reason is pitching. Nearly every small market team who competes does so because it has developed an outstanding starting rotation. I don’t think anybody in the know would consider our current five outstanding. The truth is, they are probably slightly below average. And the problem with rotations that are slightly below average is that you have guys like Gil Meche matching up against number one guys on other teams. And you have guys like Odalis Perez matching up against number two guys. In reality these are middle of the rotation types of guys, but they are the best we could do for right now.

Help does appear to be on the way. Luke Hochevar may be in Kansas City by the break, and certainly he’ll be in KC as the Royals break camp next season. Brain Bannister appears to be a good young talent who needs a bit more time in the minor leagues. Zack Greinke appears to be on the verge of developing into legitimate major league starter. And every time you turn around, Dayton Moore is adding more arms to the system. We’re not there yet, but there’s hope.

In addition to having a less than average rotation, our current bullpen is full of question marks. Thankfully, Moore completely dismantled the pen that blew 31 saves last year and ranked as one of the worst pens in major league history. The new version includes Ryan Braun, Jimmy Gobble, Joel Peralta, Joakim Soria, Todd Wellemeyer, David Riske, and Octavio Dotel.

Let’s start with middle relief. Jimmy Gobble has settled in nicely as a long reliever. His ERA is under control and he’s striking guys out. He looks comfortable in the role and I think he’ll be fun to watch this season. Ryan Braun has had success at the minor league level and he had a great spring. But he’s unproven at the major league level. Joel Peralta has shown that he has major league stuff. He has a 4.24 ERA in 92 career appearances and his strike out to walk ratio is nearly 3-to-1 (87 K to 31 BB). Todd Wellemeyer is coming off a good season with the Royals (3.63 ERA in 28 appearances). He had a bad spring, but if he can find a way to stay healthy, and if he can repeat his success from last season, he’ll be counted on heavily. Joakim Soria is a Rule 5 guy with outstanding stuff. He had a good spring (3.12 ERA, 18 K, 3 BB), but he’s a bit of a wildcard because of his lack of experience.

As for the back end of our pen, David Riske will probably be the primary set up guy. He’s proven himself in 328 career appearances. He has a 3.59 ERA and he strikes out two guys for every guy he walks (346 K to 152 BB). Unfortunately, he’s been bit by the injury bug the past couple of seasons and he hasn’t pitched more than 35 innings in a season since 2005. Octavio Dotel is another guy who has proven himself (71 saves, 3.75 ERA, 732 K, 270 BB in 395 appearances), but he too has had injury problems in recent seasons. In fact, he’s already battling an injury with an oblique muscle and it sounds like he might be headed for the DL. If that happens, Riske will probably become the temporary closer and Wellemeyer and Soria will pitch later in games.

Overall, I feel better about our pitching, but it still contains too many question marks, and I’m not all that convinced that our rotation will be able to compete against other rotations on a regular basis. With that said, I don’t think the Royals are going to struggle to score runs this season. The Royals were 20th in runs scored in the major leagues last season. With the addition of Alex Gordon, a full season from Ryan Shealy, and the subtraction of Angel Berroa, surely the Royals will score more runs than last season. And if you want to dream a little, you can think about a healthy Mike Sweeney or Reggie Sanders filling the DH role, and maybe a more productive offense can make up for sub-par pitching. But only if it is sub-par, not atrocious, as it has been the past several seasons.

Things won’t be easy for the Royals in April. They play Boston, Detroit twice, Toronto, Minnesota twice, and Chicago. They still need to get off to a decent start though. I’ve already gone on record with my 2007 prediction. I’m saying that the Royals will go 74-88 and unfortunately, in the AL Central, that’s good for last place. But if their many pitching “ifs” work out for the best, who knows, right?

So, what’s your prediction for Royals record in 2007?

Bullpen Implodes Again

Game Date: March 31, 2007
Astros 5, Royals 3 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 11-18

Okay, I know it’s only Spring Training, but what is the deal with the bullpen blowing yet another game yesterday? This time it was the combination of otherwise steady Ryan Braun and possible closer David Riske (Dotel is nursing an injury). Let’s hope that this isn’t an indication of what’s to come during the regular season. Brandon Duckworth, the newly appointed number five starter, pitched 4.1 innings in his final start of the spring, giving up one earned run on six hits and no walks.

Several Royals had big days at the plate. David DeJesus was 3-for-3. Esteban German was 2-for-2 with an RBI. Reggie Sanders was 1-for-2 with 2 RBI. And Emil Brown as 3-for-4.

Hopefully the guys can put this one behind them and get ready for the beginning of a brutal schedule in April that begins on Monday. Stop back for another post tonight about my thoughts regarding the new season. I’ll make a predication regarding the Royals record, and invite you to do the same.
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