Friday, June 29, 2007

Royals Win Fifth Straight

Game Date: June 29, 2007
Royals 8, White Sox 1 / Box Score
WP: Bannister (5-4), LP: Contreras (5-9)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 34-46

Maybe I ought to go on business trips a little more often. I came home to a four game winning streak and the win tonight makes it five. The fans seem more lively. The players are smiling. Alex Gordon is on fire. Joey Gathright is making major contributions. And Zack Greinke is throwing smoke at the back end of the bullpen.

I could go for more of this.

Brian Bannister struggled with his command early, but he righted himself and ended up pitching 6.1 strong innings, giving up just one earned run, to win his fifth game of the month (and of the season).

The Royals fell behind 1-0 early, but quickly bounced back in the third with an RBI infield single by Esteban German. Billy Butler singled in a run in the fourth and John Buck drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the same inning to give the Royals a 3-1 lead. The Royals blew the game open in the seventh with German drove in Gathright with a single to center and Shane Costa singled in David DeJesus and German to make it 6-1. The Royals tacked on two more in the eighth.

The Royals improved to 15-11 in June and have secured their first winning month since July 2003. They have crept to within one game of the White Sox in the Central.

I ran across a story on today called "Bad Investments." It chronicles the ten ten worst investments in baseball this season. Strangely, there is no mention of Gil Meche--not even to acknowledge that maybe Dayton Moore wasn't as crazy as most pundits seemed to believe.

Tomorrow night, the Royals will try to make it six straight. Odalis Perez (4-7, 5.92) will go up against John Danks (4-6, 4.78). Perez is 0-4 against the White Sox in his career. Danks has never faced the Royals.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I'll be traveling for the next week, so posts will be lighter than normal.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cardinals Even the Series

Game Date: June 19, 2007
Cardinals 5, Royals 1 / Box Score
WP: Thompson (5-2), LP: Elarton (2-3)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 29-43

What can you say about Scott Elarton? He clearly hasn't found a way to recapture the magic and you have to wonder if time isn't running out for him in Royal blue. In recent days, he said he's been watching tape of his performances when he was with Cleveland and he's been trying to emulate his arm motion based on those tapes.

In recent starts, he's been "long." Which, in his case, means a longer stride than he used to take and his arm action is longer than it used to be. He's bringing the ball too low after he takes it out of his glove and according to him, it's making his pitches flat. That might explain the 9.17 ERA and ridiculously short outings as of late. But I didn't see any real corrections last night and I'm guessing that Buddy Bell didn't either.

The problem is, we don't have a lot of options to replace Elarton. Luke Hudson is a possibility if he is truly healthy. Joakim Soria wants to be a starter and with Octavio Dotel back, maybe we should give him a turn or two in the rotation to see how he does. Zack Greinke seems dialed in from the bullpen--no need to mess with him. Same with Jimmy Gobble. Nobody in Omaha is ready to make the leap. It's too quick to bring up Luke Hochevar. He's 3-6 with a 4.63 ERA in Wichita. A trade is always a possibility. Joe Posnanski is advocating a return to the four-man rotation. I wouldn't argue. Whatever we do, I just hope we replace Elarton before his turns comes up again.

As bad as Elarton was last night, that doesn't explain the lackluster offensive performance against a very hittable pitcher in Brad Thompson. But it's hard to complain about our offense given how well it has been lately. I guess we'll have to chalk this one up to a bad night.

Before the game, the Royals placed Mike Sweeney on the DL with an injured knee and they recalled Billy Butler. I was highly critical of Moore for bringing up Butler earlier this season, but this time it makes sense. Butler is a DH, period. Our primary DH is on the shelf, so let's slide Butler into that spot and see how he does. You get the feeling that if he does well, that Mike Sweeney might never get his spot back.

Tonight, the Royals try to win their fourth straight series. The pitching match up is quite interesting. Gil Meche (4-6, 3.00) will face Royal castoff Todd Wellemeyer (2-0, 4.88). Neither pitcher has ever pitched against the opposing team.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Royals Beat Cardinals Again

Game Date: June 18, 2007
Royals 5, Cardinals 3 / Box Score
WP: Perez (4-7), LP: Wainwright (5-6), SV: Dotel (6)
Royal Home Runs: Buck (13)
Royals Record: 29-42

It's hard to get too excited when you look at the AL Central standings and you see that we are 13.0 games out of first place. But admit've been watching the standings to see how close the White Sox are. For the record, the Royals are just two behind them. If the Royals catch them, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the axe fall on Ozzie Guillen.

Odalis Perez was pretty much what you'd expect tonight--six innings, three earned runs, three walks. But he could have given up a lot more. The Cardinals had bases loaded in the first inning with no outs, but Perez allowed just one run that inning. He got Juan Encarnacion to ground into a double play, and that was huge.

If you didn't have a chance to see the play that Alex Gordon made in the third inning, you must find a way. With the Royals leading 3-1, So Taguchi hit a ball that bounced over Gordon's head. Gordon was playing in and he had to leap for the ball while retreating. He picked it out of the air, came down, and made a perfect throw to Ryan Shealy at first to get Taguchi by less than half a step.

The top of the line up got it done for KC tonight. David DeJesus was 1-for-4 with an RBI. Esteban German was 0-for-4 with an RBI and a walk. Mark Teahen was 2-for-5 with an RBI. And Emil Brown was 2-for-4 with an RBI. The other run came off the bat of John Buck, who blasted his 13th home run of the season.

The combination of David Riske, Joakim Soria, and Octavio Dotel closed the door on the Cardinals over the final three innings--giving up no runs on three hits.

Tomorrow night, Scott Elarton (2-2, 8.54) goes against Kip Wells (2-11, 6.93) in the lets-see-who-can-last-past-the-third-inning match up of the year. Elarton is 4-3 in his career against the Cardinals with a 5.28 ERA. Wells is 3-3 against the Royals with a 10.44 ERA.

Royals With Third Straight Series

Game Date: June 17, 2007
Royals 5, Marlins 4 / Box Score
WP: Bannister (4-3), LP: Olsen (5-6), SV: Dotel (5)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 28-42

Esteban German came up big in the bottom of the sixth inning yesterday. With the score tied 4-4, he plugged the gap in right center with two outs and Tony Pena on first. Pena scored what proved to be the winning run. And it was a nice conclusion to the homestand in which the Royals went 6-3, winning all three series. 

Brian Bannister struggled, and once again his stuff looked adequate at best, but he kept the Royals in the game long enough to give them a chance to win. Zack Greinke came on in relief of Bannister and was outstanding over two innings, striking out two and not giving up any hits. Octavio Dotel was able to nail down his fifth save of the season and lower his ERA to 2.79.

While the hitting wasn't exactly explosive, Alex Gordon made a contribution by going 2-for-4 with an RBI (to bring his average to .215) and Tony Pena actually appeared to shorten his swing a little yesterday as he went 2-for-4, including a bunt single that set the table for German's game-winning double.

The Royals are off to St. Louis where they'll begin a new nine-game road trip. Tonight, Odalis Perez (3-7, 6.19) goes against Adam Wainwright (5-5, 4.66). Perez is 2-4 in his career against the Cardinals with a 9.32 ERA. Wainwright is 1-0 against the Royals with a 1.42 ERA.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Comeback Falls Short

Game Date: June 16, 2007
Marlins 9, Royals 8 / Box Score
WP: Vanden Hurk (2-2), LP: De La Rosa (4-7), SV: Gregg (11)
Royal Home Runs: Buck 2 (12)
Royals Record: 27-42

I didn't get a chance to see the game last night, so I can't offer any first hand analysis. I was watching my Blackberry closely though as the Royals made a run toward the end of the game.

After reading the account of the game in the Star this morning, I'm concerned about Jorge De La Rosa. If you look at his game log, you'll see a steady rise in his ERA starting in mid-May to the present. He hasn't won since May 13 and it's largely due to his poor performance. On June 10, he only went 3.2 innings against the Phillies before being removed. On June 5, he had a good game against the Indians. But on May 29 against the Orioles he gave up five earned runs in five innings. The outing before that, on May 24, he gave up nine earned runs in 4.1 innings against the Indians.

His problem has been his control. Last night he was "really wild right down the middle of the plate," according to Buddy Bell. In his other recent outings, he's been wild off the plate.

I don't mind having one struggling pitcher in the rotation if you think he can turn things around, but right now we have two. Scott Elarton isn't pitching well either. You can't go into 40% of your games with little or no chance to win and stay competitive. Hopefully Luke Hudson will be back soon. If not, we're going to have to look at other options.

How about John Buck? Two more home runs. He also drew a walk and scored three runs. I guess a little competition really is a good thing, huh?

This afternoon Brian Bannister (3-3, 2.91) goes against Scott Olsen (5-5, 4.81). Neither pitcher has ever pitched against the opposing team before.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Royals Keep on Rollin'

Game Date: June 15, 2007
Royals 6, Marlins 2 / Box Score
WP: Meche (4-6), LP: Mitre (2-3), SV: Dotel (4)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 27-41

This is how baseball is supposed to look when you have your ace on the mound. Meche threw 114 pitches in eight innings, giving up just one earned run on six hits. He was laboring in the eighth, but he dug down and found a way to get through it.

And finally, the Royals found a way to give him some run support, as well as supporting him defensively. Tony Pena made a number of great plays--including one over the shoulder catch in center field. I'm not sure I've ever seen a shortstop make a play like that before. Alex Gordon made a couple of nice plays at third as well. Esteban German struggled a bit in the field, as did Mark Teahen, but overall, you had to be happy with the team's effort. 

With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Emil Brown rocketed a ball down the left field line to score two runs to give the Royals a 3-1 lead. Meche came out and hung a zero on the board in the seventh. In the bottom of the inning, the Royals got something going. Pena singled to lead off the inning. David DeJesus reached on an infield single. After a sacrifice by German, the Marlins elected to intentionally walk Mark Teahen to get to Mike Sweeney with just one out.

On paper, it made sense. Teahen has the hotter bat. And the Marlins wanted to set up the double play, but Mike Sweeney took it personally. Those were the words he used after the game. He said he was looking for a sinker from Mitre and he got one. He smashed the ball down the left field line and cleared the bases to give the Royals a 6-1 lead. I loved the look on Sweeney's face as he stood on second. He had a furrowed brow that told you he really did feel like he'd been challenged.

Typically, after putting up such huge offensive numbers like the Royals did against the Cardinals on Thursday, the Royals follow up the next game with an offensive dud. It didn't happen this time...and they were facing a starting pitcher who had a 1.59 ERA coming into the game.

The Royals have won six of their last nine games and are finally playing well at home. Let's hope they can win one of the next two against the Marlins to take their third straight series at home.

Tonight, Jorge De La Rosa (4-6, 4.73) goes against Rick Vanden Hurk (1-2, 8.61). De La Rosa is 0-1 in his career against the Marlins with a 7.71 ERA. Vanden Hurk has never faced the Royals.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Royals Pound Cardinals Pitching

Game Date: June 14, 2007
Royals 17, Cardinals 8 / Box Score
WP: Greinke (4-4), LP: Wells (2-11)
Royal Home Runs: Gordon (5)
Royals Record: 26-41

An eight run second inning--are you kidding me? The Cardinals have to be second-guessing themselves for not resigning some of their starting pitchers from last season. If you look at their starting staff right now, Brandon Looper is having the best season with a 6-5 record and a 4.12 ERA. Brad Thompson is struggling (obviously). Kip Wells is beyond struggling. Adam Wainwright has been decent. But things are so bad that Todd Wellemeyer is listed as their number three starter. Yikes.

The Royals pounded Cardinals pitching last night for 15 hits and they drew seven walks. Mark Teahen was 3-for-5 with 5 RBI, including two triples--one to left field and one to right. Emil Brown was 3-for-5 with 3 RBI. Alex Gordon hit another blast to right field that easily cleared the fence for his fifth home run and he saw his average climb over the .200 mark for the first time in his major league career. Tony Pena wasn't swinging out of his shoes and he was 4-for-5 with an RBI. And Joey Gathright, who was 0-for-2, walked three times and scored three runs.

Ryan Shealy, while he continues to struggle at the plate, made several nice picks in the field. The Cardinals, on the other hand, looked off defensively. Scott Rolen is looking incredibly slow. So slow that Paul Splittorff speculated that something must be wrong with him. And Adam Kennedy was far from graceful in his attempts to field ground balls.

A few notes about the Royals roster:

Brandon Duckworth has a torn left he'll probably be out for quite a while, which is too bad. He's having a good season. Neal Musser was called up to take Duckworth's spot. Musser has been putting up good numbers in Omaha. In fact, he's 2-1 with a 0.00 ERA in 17 appearances (31 innings of work) with a 0.84 WHIP. He hasn't been nearly that good in his earlier stints in KC this season (0-0, 9.39 ERA in 7.2 innings), but let's hope he's figured something out in Omaha.

Mark Grudzielanek has a torn meniscus in his left knee. He's scheduled for surgery today. He'll certainly be out for a while. It's the same knee he had operated on in the spring. Esteban German will take over second base. The Royals needed a utility guy to fill German's spot, so they called up Fernando Cortez who is said to be able to play multiple positions. He was hitting .299 in Omaha with 3 HR and 19 RBI. His OBP was .355 and his SLG was .402. I was expecting Angel Berroa to get the call up, so I was quite happy when I heard that it was Cortez instead.

Mike Sweeney is said to have a sore back, but it's not bad enough that he can't play. Bell chose to keep him out of the line up last night for precautionary reasons.

And finally, the Royals got a little recognition from Tim Brown on his blog over at Yahoo! Sports for playing .500 ball over the last month.

Tonight, the Royals begin a new series at home against the Marlins. Gil Meche (3-6, 3.16) goes against Sergio Mitre (2-2, 1.59). Meche is 0-1 in his career against Florida with a 7.20 ERA (in four innings of work). Mitre has never faced the Royals.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cardinals Strike Back

Game Date: June 13, 2007
Cardinals 7, Royals 3 / Box Score
WP: Wainwright (5-5), LP: Perez (3-7)
Royal Home Runs: Gordon (4)
Royals Record: 25-41

Odalis Perez is probably sympathizing with Brad Thompson this morning. Two nights ago, Thompson was hit hard by the Royals in the early innings. Last night, it was Perez's turn.

In the second inning, Perez gave up five runs on five hits and the Royals never recovered. In fact, Adam Wainwright took a no hitter into the sixth inning, but even after Esteban German broke it up, the Royals managed little offense until Alex Gordon took Tyler Johnson deep, and I do mean deep, in the ninth inning--a three run shot.

Odalis Perez has kept the Royals in a lot of games this year, but his rising ERA (6.19) and WHIP (1.67) have to be a concern. And you have to wonder what will happen when Luke Hudson returns. Scott Elarton isn't pitching well right now, but over the long haul, I'd chose Elarton over Perez. Meche, Bannister, and De La Rosa are secure.

Unfortunately, the injuries are starting to pile up for KC. Mark Grudzielanek left the game two days ago with a sore back. He's day to day. Sweeney fell down on his way to first last night and injured his back. He's listed as day to day, but how can you not hear the word "back" in the same sentence as "Sweeney" without cringing? Brandon Duckworth injured his ribs on the left side of his body last night. He's supposed to have an MRI today, but he's DL bound.

Tonight, the Royals will try to win their second straight series at home. Scott Elarton (2-2, 7.34) goes up against Kip Wells (2-10, 6.33). Elarton is 4-3 in his career against the Cardinals with a 4.30 ERA. Wells is 3-2 against the Royals with an 8.75 ERA.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Royals Strike First in I-70 Series

Game Date: June 12, 2007
Royals 8, Cardinals 1 / Box Score
WP: Bannister (3-3), LP: Thompson (4-2)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 25-40

Ever since Brian Bannister ended the Royals seven game losing streak in Tampa on June 1, the Royals have been a different team. They've won six of eleven games, and over that stretch, Bannister is 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA in 22 IP. He's struck out 14, walked just two, and given up just one home run during that span of games.

To be honest, his stuff doesn't look like it's anything special, but he thinks like a pitcher. Last night, he saw that the Cardinals were sitting on his fastball in the first inning. With the bases loaded, he decided it was time to start utilizing his change up more and he was able to strike out Juan Encarnacion using it to end the inning without allowing any runs. 

In the bottom half of the first, the Royals took advantage of a couple of misplays by Scott Rolen at third base and they put a five spot on the board. Mark Teahen had an RBI triple down the left field line. Esteban German singled in Mike Sweeney and Mark Teahen. And Jason LaRue doubled in German and Alex Gordon.

Speaking of Gordon, he had three more hits last night and is now flirting with the Mendoza line. He seems much more relaxed at the plate than he's been all year. The Cardinals weren't afraid to test him in the second inning though. They gave a Mike Sweeney a free pass in order to pitch to Gordon. Gordon singled in Teahen.

Tony Pena, on the other hand, failed to get the job done twice with runners on third with less than two outs. He continues to take gigantic swings in such situations and I'm having a difficult time understanding why Bell or Barnett aren't all over him. Maybe they are, but if they are, he isn't listening.

David Riske saw his scoreless inning streak come to an end in this one. He'd gone 18 straight appearances spanning 17.1 innings without allowing a run. He gave up a monumental solo home run to Ryan Ludwick in the ninth inning. I'd much rather see our pen going after guys though with such a huge lead rather then trying to be too good and walking the bases full before giving up the home run.

Tonight, Odalis Perez (3-6, 5.68) goes against Adam Wainwright (4-5, 5.19). Perez is 2-3 in his career against the Cardinals with a 8.57 ERA. Wainwright is 0-0 against the Royals with a 3.86 ERA (in 4.2 innings of work).

Monday, June 11, 2007

Royals Pummel the Phillies

Game Date: June 10, 2007
Royals 17, Phillies 5 / Box Score
WP: Greinke (3-4), LP: Moyer (5-5)
Royal Home Runs: Pena (1), Grudzielanek (4)
Royals Record: 24-40

Yesterdays game is an example of what happens in a fight when the big guy trips and falls. The little guy jumps on him and starts to pummel him. The accumulated frustration that's been building after being picked on over an extended period of time is all the fuel the little guy needs to continue punching long after he needs to.

Neither starting pitcher could seem to get anybody out. De La Rosa gave up three earned runs in just 3.2 innings and was removed at that point. Jamie Moyer gave up six earned runs in 3.2 innings and he too was removed. Both teams used five pitchers. Not one of the Phillies pitchers escaped without giving up at least one run. Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria, and Octavio Dotel pitched the final four innings of the game for the Royals without giving up any runs.

Mark Grudzielanek came up big at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a home run and 5 RBI. He said that he still feels better facing National League teams since he played in that league for 11 seasons. Four Royals hitters had two hits. And the Royals even walked six times.

So, the Royals won the series, and over the last ten games they are 5-5. That's nothing to get too excited about, but it's a start. The Royals play their next six games at home where they are 11-22 this season. Hopefully, by starting 2-1 on this homestand, they'll find a way to keep the momentum going.

Tomorrow night, the Royals begin a new series against the Cardinals. Brian Bannister (2-3, 3.33) will go up against Brad Thompson (4-1, 4.56). Bannister has never faced the Cardinals. Thompson is 0-0 in his career against the Royals with a 1.50 ERA (in 6.0 innings of work).

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Royals Manage Just Three Hits

Game Date: June 9, 2007
Phillies 4, Royals 0, Phillies 4 / Box Score
WP: Lieber (3-4), LP: Meche (3-6)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 23-40

Back to our regularly scheduled lethargy.

It seems like every time Gil Meche takes the mound, our offense just assumes he's going to toss a great game, so they can take the day off. Meche is getting just 3.46 runs per start in support, which ranks him as the second-lowest starter in the American League. He's certainly looked better than he did last night. He gave up four earned runs on eight hits in seven innings, but he did what you hope your number one guy will do. He found a way to keep his team in the game, even when he wasn't at the top of his game.

Unfortunately the Royals managed just three hits on the night.

My first question regarding the line up is, what in the world was Shane Costa doing in the clean up spot? And why was he DH'ing for Sweeney? Finally, why does Buddy Bell continue to put Alex Gordon in the fifth spot? He's showing signs of life at the plate, but he's hardly the type of protection a clean up hitter needs.

Joel Peralta looked tough in relief, going two innings without giving up any hits. But in the end, the Royals couldn't jumpstart their offense.

This afternoon, Jorge De La Rosa (4-6, 4.60) goes against a familiar Royals foe in Jamie Moyer. De La Rosa is 0-0 in his career against the Phillies with a 0.00 ERA (in 2.2 innings of work). Moyer is 14-8 against the Royals with a 3.32 ERA.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Royals Pound Garcia

Game Date: June 8, 2007
Royals 8, Phillies 4 / Box Score
WP: Elarton (2-2), LP: Garcia (1-5), SV: Dotel (3)
Royal Home Runs: Grudzielanek (3), Sweeney (7)
Royals Record: 23-39

Freddy Garcia isn't throwing as hard as he used to. Add a sore shoulder to the mix and you have the makings of a break out game for the Royals lethargic offense. It was hard to tell the difference between Garcia's fastball and change up last night. There's about a four mph difference and his change up really doesn't move much. He still has a big loopy curve ball, but to the naked eye, he appears to have two that goes 87 and one that goes 69. From there, you can pretty much figure out what he's going to throw based on the count.

The Royals had no problem doing just that. They pounded him for six earned runs on seven hits and Garcia was gone before the second inning was over. Not before Mark Grudzielanek turned on a pitch and hit it half way up the foul pole in left field. And not before Mike Sweeney smoked a line drive over the left field wall. Even though the Phillies struck first, they couldn't score often enough to keep up with the Royals.

But Scott Elarton is still a concern. He's throwing too many pitches (94 in just five innings last night) and he's struggling with his command. His control wasn't bad enough that he missed often, but it was bad enough that he left a lot of curve balls and a few fastballs up in the zone and he gave up three home runs as a result. I was impressed with his change up. He kept it down and had Phillie hitters off balance when he threw it--especially Chase Utley (who struck out three times against Elarton). Let's hope that Elarton can shake the rust off and improve.

The bullpen did a great job. The combination of Joel Peralta, David Riske, Jimmy Gobble, Joakim Soria, and Octavio Dotel kept the Phillies in check, not allowing any runs over the final four innings. Gobble had a huge strike out in the seventh inning with runners at second and third with two outs and Chase Utley up at the plate. I loved the intensity of Gobble's stare as he walked off the mound.

Tonight, Gil Meche (3-5, 3.00) goes up against Jon Lieber (2-4, 4.30). Meche is 2-0 in his career against the Phillies with a 1.93 ERA. Lieber is 2-2 against the Royals with a 4.32 ERA.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Messy Loss for the Royals

Game Date: June 7, 2007
Indians 8, Royals 3 / Box Score
WP: Carmona (7-1), LP: Perez (3-6)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 22-39

Odalis Perez pitched out of trouble for the first three innings, but it finally caught up with him in the fourth when he walked the lead off guy, who eventually came around to score the Indians first run. Then he gave up a solo home run to the latest Royal-killer Franklin Gutierrez, the Indians .235, number nine hitter who has three home runs in his career--all against us.

The Royals had a hard time getting anything going against Fausto Carmona. Here's a guy who wasn't even supposed to be in the Indians rotation, but two injuries later, he's not only in their rotation, but he's probably their best starting pitcher. We were able to stay close through seven innings against him though. We were trailing 3-1 at that point, but then the wheels came off.

Brandon Duckworth walked Jhonny Peralta to lead off the eighth. Then Tony Pena, in Angel Berroa-like fashion, had a slow roller go right through his legs. A sacrifice bunt later, Zack Greinke gave up a hit to Josh Barfield to make it 4-1 Cleveland. Greinke uncorked a wild pitch which sent Ryan Garko (who reached on the error) to third. Royal-killer walked. Grady Sizemore doubled to make it 6-1 Cleveland. And just for good measure Casey Blaze hit a two-run home run to make it 8-1.

The Royals got a little something going in the top of the ninth--capped off by a two-run single by Joey Gathright, but you have to wonder what might have happened if Pena had fielded the ball in the eighth, and maybe even turned two. It was hit pretty slowly, so it's hard to say what would have happened, but it would be nice if we wouldn't have kicked our own door down for the opposition.

Believe it or not, we did have a couple of things to be cheer about. Alex Gordon had hit first four-hit game of this career and he looked completely dialed in all day. I was most impressed with his first at bat when he drove a high four-seamer from Carmona into the right-center field gap.

The other thing that was nice to see was Joey Gathright's contributions. Splittorff said that the Royals have revamped Gathright's swing. He's hitting more balls on the ground, but they haven't necessarily made him into a slap hitter. That appeared to be true yesterday. He drove a ball back up the middle in the seventh inning for a single. He also stole a base, which is something the Royals haven't done much of this year.

The Royals open a new series tonight at home against the Phillies. Scott Elarton (1-2, 7.36) will go against Freddy Garcia (1-4, 5.11). Elarton is 1-1 against the Phillies in his career with a 7.13 ERA. Garcia is 8-9 against the Royals with a 5.66 ERA.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Royals Select Matt Moustakas

The Royals took shortstop/third baseman Matt Moustakas with their first pick in the 2007 draft. He's put up some rather freakish offensive numbers in high school, including:

  • hitting .577 this spring with 24 HR and 52 RBI
  • hitting .427 his junior year with 14 HR and 47 RBI
  • hitting .482 his sophomore year with 12 HR and 51 RBI

Read more about him:


UPDATE (June 14): Thanks to guys over at In Dayton We Trust for pointing out that I mistakenly identified the Royals first round draft choice as Matt Moustakas when his name is Mike Moustakas. I initially took his name from Bob Dutton's column, in which Dutton listed his name as Matt.

2007 Draft Day

Bob Dutton is reporting that the Royals are turning their first round interests in the draft today toward these four players:

  • Josh Vitters, who I discussed here.
  • Jerrod Parker, who I discussed here.
  • Matt Moustakas, a 6-0, 185 pound high school shortstop who would probably switch to a corner infield position. The report on him is that he has "quick hands that generate impressive power."
  • Devin Mesoraco, a 6-1, 195 pound high school catcher who is a pull hitter with power. He's reported to have a "plus" arm that is also considered to be accurate. He's said to have "plus" hands behind the plate, as well as being "outstanding" at blocking balls in the dirt. He had Tommy John surgery and missed most of the 2006 season, but is said to be completely healthy at this point.

If Tampa Bay passes on David Price (Vanderbilt) with the first overall pick though, expect the Royals to nab him instead. 

The Royals were originally considering Rick Porcello, who is considered to be the best high school pitcher available in the draft and the second best pitcher behind Price, but they've decided to steer clear of him since he's represented by Scott Boras and Boras is believed to be looking for a deal in the $8 million range. The Luke Hochevar situation last summer apparently ended the Royals interest in dealing with Boras any more. 

Bannister Sharp in Royals Win

Game Date: June 6, 2007
Royals 4, Indians 3 / Box Score
WP: Bannister (2-3), LP: Byrd (6-2), SV: Dotel (2)
Royal Home Runs: Shealy (3)
Royals Record: 22-38

The Royals jumped out to an early lead in this one when David DeJesus doubled in Joey Gathright in the third inning. Mark Teahen singled in DeJesus and the Royals were up 2-0. Ryan Shealy hit a solo home run in the fourth and in the fifth he hit into a fielder's choice to drive in Mark Grudzielanek to give the Royals a 4-0 lead.

That was all Brian Bannister needed. He was outstanding over the course of seven innings. He gave up no earned runs on five hits. He also didn't give up any walks, which was nice to see. The Indians clawed their way back into the game though after Bannister left. Zack Greinke gave up an earned run and so did Dotel in the ninth, but thankfully the Royals held on to prevail.

I was so happy to see Angel Berroa sent back down to Omaha. I'm not sure that Joey Gathright is the long term answer to any question, but he is fast and plays good defense. And he had two hits last night. Sounds like the plan is to play him in left field once in a while to give Emil Brown a break.

This afternoon, Odalis Perez (3-5) goes against Fausto Carmona (6-1, 3.29). Perez is 1-0 against the Indians in his career with a 3.60 ERA. Carmona is 0-0 against the Royals with a 6.23 ERA.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

2007 Baseball Draft, Part 2

Here are a few more players that the Royals are looking at for the 2007 draft on Thursday:

Matt Harvey / RHP / High School (Groton, CT)

  • 6-4 190 pounds
  • Throws 92-94 early in the game but loses velocity as the game goes on
  • Fastball has good life when he keeps it down
  • Throws an overhand curve with tight rotation
  • Still developing his change up, tips the pitch off with slowed arm speed
  • Slow delivery which sometimes leads to flawed mechanics
  • Listed by Keith Law (from Scouts Inc.) as the number two best available player in this year's draft
  • Read more about him here

Jarrod Parker / RHP / High School (Norwell, IN)

  • 6-2 195 pounds
  • Sometimes compared to Tim Lincecum
  • Fastball ranges from 94-97
  • Fastball has the most life when he throws it inside
  • Curve clocks in at 78-79, but he hasn't used it a lot
  • Change is 81-82, but he hasn't used it a lot
  • Great command of his fastball
  • Competitive, great athlete
  • Considered to be a little undersized (his weight is listed anywhere between 175-195
  • Read more about him here

Andrew Brackman / RHP / North Carolina State

  • 6-10 240
  • Fastball ranges from 92-97, throws both a two-seamer and four-seamer
  • Throws a knuckle curve in the 78-81 range
  • His change up clocks in between 82-84 and it's considered to be average
  • Goes right after hitters
  • Some concern about his durability since he was shut down late in the season with a tired arm
  • Read more about him here

Royals Beaten by Blast from the Nine Hole

Game Date: June 5, 2007
Indians 1, Royals 0 / Box Score
WP: Sabathia (9-1), LP: De La Rosa (4-6)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 21-38

One mistake cost Jorge De La Rosa dearly. He left a pitch out over the plate against Franklin Gutierrez in the third inning and Gutierrez hit a solo home run to left field for the only run of the game for either team. The guy has just two home runs in his entire career (both against us), not to mention the fact that he's a .231 hitter who hits in the nine hole.

The Royals couldn't get anything going against C.C. Sabathia. He's throwing more change ups and curve balls than he used to, and he still has the ability to hit 96 mph on the radar gun when he needs to. He came in on Mark Teahen and tied him up a number of times. Sabathia struck out eight, gave up just five hits, and didn't walk anybody.

De La Rosa gave up just five hits on two walks in 7.1 innings. After Gobble gave up a walk in relief, David Riske came in, and for his 16th straight appearance, he didn't allow a run. But no matter how good our pitching is, we've still got to score runs to win and right now this team looks clueless at the plate.

Tomorrow night, Brian Bannister (1-3, 3.89) will go up against former Royal Paul Byrd (6-1, 3.57). Bannister has never faced the Indians. Byrd is 1-3 against the Royals in his career with a 5.10 ERA.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Offense Struggles Again

Game Date: June 4, 2007
Devil Rays 4, Royals 2 / Box Score
WP: Shields (5-0), LP: Meche (3-5), SV: Reyes (14)
Royal Home Runs: Buck 2 (10)
Royals Record: 21-37

Gil Meche pitched his 10th quality start of the season this afternoon, but he lost his fifth game. Other than John Buck, who had two solo home runs, the Royals managed just four hits.

If you look up and down our line up today, not one player has a batting average over .288. Some have averages that are just downright pathetic for this stage of the season, namely:

  • Alex Gordon (.172)
  • Emil Brown (.221)
  • Ryan Shealy (.219)

Throw in the fact that David DeJesus is hitting .256 and Mike Sweeney is at a paltry .243 and it's no wonder we are struggling to score runs.

Check out where the Royals rank in comparison to the other 29 teams so far this season in these hitting categories:

Category Totals Rank
Runs 213 27th
Hits 483 22nd
HR 40 26th (tied)
RBI 212 27th
AVG .248 27th
OBP .317 25th
SLG .380 25th
OPS .698 26th
BB 170 25th (tied)
K 402 6th worse

You might think our offense couldn't be worse than last season, but it is. Here's were we finished the 2006 season in the same offensive categories listed above:

Category Totals Rank
Runs 757 20th
Hits 1515 13th
HR 124 30th
RBI 718 19th (tied)
AVG .271 12th
OBP .332 19th
SLG .411 28th
OPS .743 26th
BB 474 24th (tied)
K 1040 19th worse

So, we finally got our pitching headed in the right direction and our offense declined greatly. Maybe it's because guys are pressing. Maybe a couple of them shouldn't even be in the major leagues (Alex Gordon, Ryan Shealy). I don't think bringing Billy Butler up to play DH is the answer, but we do have a couple of options we might consider in Omaha.

  • Mike Aviles, Omaha's 26 year-old third baseman, is hitting .326. The Royals are committed to Gordon for the long term, and I understand that, but at some point you have to send the guy down and let him find his swing again--much like we did with Mark Teahen last year. Aviles isn't the swiftest fielder (he has nine errors), but he drives in runs (29 RBI) and hits for average. He should be able to fill the gap until Gordon makes his way back to the big leagues. For the record, I don't expect this to happen.
  • Craig Brazell, Omaha's 27 year-old first baseman, is hitting .315 with 13 HR and 25 RBI. Why not give him a shot until Shealy gets going? Or why not give Justin Huber a chance for a month or so? He's only hitting .265 in Omaha, but he has 23 RBI. And surely with Billy Butler taking over the DH spot in the years to come, we need to find out whether Huber can hold his own in the major leagues at first base.

Tomorrow night, the Royals begin a new series in Cleveland. Jorge De La Rosa (4-5, 4.97) goes against C.C. Sabathia (8-1, 3.78). De La Rosa is 1-1 in his career against the Indians with a 10.13 ERA. Sabathia is 11-6 against the Royals with a 3.34 ERA.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Howell's Revenge

Game Date: June 3, 2007
Devil Rays 5, Royals 1 / Box Score
WP: Howell (1-0), LP: Elarton (1-2)
Royal Home Runs: LaRue (4)
Royals Record: 21-36

Well, J.P. Howell got his revenge. He threw a career-high eight innings against us and gave up just five hits, while striking out seven.

The Royals only really had one chance to break through against him. In the fourth inning, we had the bases loaded with one out, but Ryan Shealy struck out and Tony Pena flew out.

Scott Elarton continues to struggle. He allowed four runs in 5.2 innings. The funny this is, he lowered his ERA from 7.65 to 7.36. This was Elarton's fifth start since coming back and his numbers aren't pretty. He's given up 7 home runs, 31 hits, 22 runs, and 14 walks in just 25.2 innings of work. His WHIP is 1.75 and opponents are hitting .295 against him. Obviously, he isn't fooling anybody.

Tomorrow afternoon in Tampa, Gil Meche (3-4, 3.00) goes against James Shields (4-0, 3.13). Meche is 1-3 against the Devil Rays in his career with a 5.52 ERA. Shields is 1-0 against the Royals with a 0.00 ERA (in six innings of work).

Two Straight in Tampa

Game Date: June 2, 2007
Royals 9, Devil Rays 4 / Box Score
WP: Perez (3-5), LP: Jackson (0-7)
Royal Home Runs: Brown (2)
Royals Record: 21-35

Maybe we ought to play more games on the road, huh? We're 8-2 in our last ten road games. And nobody needs to be reminded of how awful we were during our last homestand.

The last two nights, the Royals have jumped on Devil Ray starting pitchers early and they coasted to wins after that. Last night, Odalis Perez did what Odalis Perez typically does. He pitched five innings and allowed four runs. His numbers are rarely impressive, but he somehow finds a way to adapt to game situations and as a result, he keeps us in games.

The combination of Joel Peralta, Jimmy Gobble, David Riske, and Zack Greinke (who is looking more like closer material every day) shut the door on the Devil Rays. They allowed just one hit and one walk over the final four innings.

David DeJesus looked good at the plate after a day off, going 2-for-4 with 2 RBI. Emil Brown was 3-for-5 with 3 RBI and a home run. John Buck had two hits. And Tony Pena extended his hitting streak to 11 games, raising his average to .270 in the process.

The pitching match up this afternoon is quite interesting. Scott Elarton (1-1, 7.65) will go up against former Royal J.P. Howell who was just called up from Triple-A. Elarton has never pitched well against the Rays. He's 0-5 in his career against them with a 9.13 ERA.

On paper, the game looks more like a college "baseball" game. We could wind up with a 21-17 score. But whenever you expect something like that to happen, the opposite often occurs.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bannister Stops Losing Streak

Game Date: June 1, 2007
Royals 4, Devil Rays 1 / Box Score
WP: Bannister (1-3), LP: Kazmir (3-3) SV: Dotel (1)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 20-35

If you looked at this pitching match up ahead of time, you probably weren't all that confident that things would go our way, but Brian Bannister out-pitched Scott Kazmir and he put the Royals in a position to win. Relying mostly on a fastball that had good movement, he gave up just one earned runs in eight innings. Octavio Dotel came in and finally picked up his first save of the season.

The Royals jumped out to an early lead by scoring three runs in the second inning. Mike Sweeney tripled and scored on a wild pitch by Kazmir. Tony Pena drove in Emil Brown with an infield single. And Esteban German singled to left to drive in Tony Pena. Emil Brown added an insurance run in the eighth inning when he drove in Mark Teahen with a double to center.

Finally, the losing streak is over. Let's hope that the Royals can pick up where they left off on the last road trip.

Tomorrow night Odalis Perez (2-5, 5.61) goes against Edwin Jackson (0-6, 7.12). Perez is 1-1 against the Devil Rays in his career with a 7.84 ERA. Jackson has never faced the Royals.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The 2007 Draft

With the draft coming up next week on June 7, talk is turning from the Royals dismal 2007 season to the possibilities of adding new talent to the farm system. This particular draft doesn't seem to be rich in talent at the college level, but many teams have their sights set on high school players. That of course, makes this draft even more challenging than it normally is.

David Price, a left-handed starter from Vanderbilt, seems to be one of the few college starters worth taking early in the first round. Tampa Bay has the first pick and they'll probably take Price. The Royals are up second and the Kansas City Star has listed several players that the Royals may be interested in. Over the next week or so leading up to the draft, I'll find out as much as I can about these guys and fill you in on my research.

According to Bob Dutton, here are two of the players (both in high school) that the Royals are considering:

Rick Porcello / RHP / High School (West Orange, NJ)

  • 6' 5" 195 pounds
  • Fastball tops out at 96 mph--both his two-seamer and four-seamer have good movement
  • Throws a curve in the low 70's
  • Throws a slider approximately 80 mph
  • He's developing his change up (80 mph)
  • Control has been an issue
  • Has a smooth, easy delivery
  • Read more about him here and here

Josh Vitters / 3B / High School (Cypress, CA)

  • 6' 3" 195 pounds
  • Considered one of the "most polished high school hitters in the draft class"
  • A simple approach at the plate with outstanding bat speed
  • Hit for power and average at the high school level
  • A below average runner
  • Below average defensively with limited range but has a great arm
  • Read more about him here and here
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