Sunday had to have been the least impressive 7 shut-out innings I have ever witnessed. Not to take anything away from Vin Mazzaro who compiled a line of 7 IP, 5BB, 0K. He threw 102 pitches and only 53 of those were for strikes. Thanks to some timely double plays, 5 of them, he made it work. The Royals bats exploded for 9 runs in a very balanced attack on offense and behind some excellent defense the Royals ended the season series with the Angels on a high note, taking 7 of 10.
On a weekend that was showcasing our latest talented young addition to the club, Mike Moustakas, the other young talent decided to take it off. Eric Hosmer was O-for the weekend, which makes the fact that we took 2 out of 3 even more impressive. Moose finished 3-10 with 3 BB and his first major league home run. Which by the way, whatever ignorant Angels fan threw the ball back on the field instead of putting that thing on Ebay is probably regretting that decision. Granted it’s a nice gesture to be polite and let the kid have his first home run ball, but you could always sell it back to him or some collector who is willing to gamble on that ball being worth a lot later. Moose compiled a line of .300/.462/.600 while scoring 3 runs and making every play at third base over the weekend.
That however wasn’t the reason the Royals bats were working, the surprising jolt that the Royals got this weekend on offense was a combined 10-23 out of Getz and Escobar. Escobar going 6-11 with 3 2B’s, which helped him fight off the Mendoza line and get up to .227. If I had to put my finger on one thing that gave the Royals the edge in this series, it was the production out of the bottom of the line-up.
Also helping out, was that Royal Killer, Tori Hunter turned in a 1-10 .100 weekend. Usually a guy who rains on a lot of KC parades, Hunter was quiet and continued his disappointing season.
So after reaching the first day off in 21 days, the Royals find themselves only 6.5 games out of first with a tie at the top between Cleveland and Detroit. Cleveland is 1-9 their last ten games played. The whole division got closer with Minnesota being the hottest team in baseball with their make shift line-up going 8-2 over their last 10. The Indians and Tigers open a three game series this week that should shake things up a bit.
The Royals will go to Oakland and face a struggling A’s team that is coming off a recent Managerial change. Also in KC’s favor is they won’t face Gio Gonzalez. The Athletics are 28-39 and do not rank higher than 26th in all important offensive categories. There is no doubt the Royals need to take advantage of these next three games, as afterwards they travel to interleague rival St. Louis.
I feel like if I didn’t talk a little more about Moose, I would be doing readers a disservice. He displayed excellent discipline at the plate and again is one of those guys who is ready for the bright lights. He has a winner’s attitude, and why shouldn’t he? Moose has won his entire life. The guy batted .577 with 24 HR’s his senior year. He was tied for the lead in minor league home runs last year. Moose is just one of those guys who loves playing baseball and is extraordinarily good at it. His confidence and will to win has to be exciting for these veterans to see.
It feels like this team knows it can be good, there are just a few missing pieces. Confidence is not something the Royals lack, when you hear them interviewed you can interpret that these guys really believe they can win and compete right now. It is up to them to keep playing inspired baseball and get the fan base to start exuding the same confidence. This is the first Royals line-up since Beltran and Dye that there has been that solid 1-2 punch. Hoz and Moose are going to be a deadly combo for years to come and it has been a long time coming. It seems like every good team has those two guys who can alter the game with one swing. The Royals now have that dangerous punch that pitchers will start to fear.
In order to get the fans on the same page though, the Royals need to display some better starting pitching. With Bruce Chen completing a rehab assignment this week, there will be moves to come and there are so many holes in the rotation I won’t even begin to speculate on how that plays out. I do know this; the Royals need to add another quality arm or three to their rotation. I say that jokingly because we need so much improvement to what in my mind is the worst starting 5 in recent memory. The Royals are leading the central in runs scored, but have allowed 21 more runs than anyone in the division.
Once this team starts getting some better starting pitching they will start to compete for division titles. The line-up has more than enough pop now to overcome some bad outings, but if you can put yourself in position to only need 3-4 runs a game instead of 6-7 this team can be very dangerous. 7 shut-out innings out of Vin Mazzaro will not happen often, if ever again, but we got 2 quality starts and two wins.
Hopefully the Royals starting guys can take advantage of a weak Oakland line-up and start to turn in some more quality starts. If they don’t, look for trades to start happening and you have to think that the Royals will be targeting major league caliber starting pitching and not some prospect in A ball.
Yes, this upcoming series does not have much national appeal, but the next three games against Oakland are more important than some think. These are the series we have to take advantage of to stay in the central race. Beat teams you should. Hopefully by the end of this week I will be writing about something to do with a broom and no, I don’t intend on writing any good housekeeping material.