...to when God and her were born.
(From "Shelter From The Storm," Blood On The Tracks)
The cooler weather of September is upon us, and the season is drawing to a merciful conclusion. A season that began with modest hope has become yet another Royal disappointment. Rather than hash out details of the latest griping player, the latest reminder that future glory is far away, or the latest rumbling on Trey Hillman's struggles to command respect, I thought I would start looking back at the season, month-by-month. So, here's the cruelest month, April...
Recap: The Royals started the season strong, in contrast to their normal ineptitude in April (26-67 over the last four Aprils). For the first two weeks, the Royals actually led the division, dropping into second with an April 15th loss in Seattle. KC then went on a seven-game losing streak, dropping into last. They closed out the month with a 3-2 stretch, ending up 12-15 and in last place, but only two games out of first as the rest of the division started slowly.
Highlight: The season-opening sweep of Detroit, back when everyone thought they would run away with the Central Division, was pretty sweet. A comeback win on Opening Day, a Brian Bannister shutout in game two, and an outstanding Zack Greinke outing in game three made us think we had a real actual major league team in Kansas City. Of course, no one knew then the Tigers would stink for much of the season. Honorable mention goes to the home opener, with our first look at the new scoreboard and some of the other improvements to Kauffman Stadium, with the added bonus of a win over the Yankees.
Lowlight: The losing streak was a painful reminder that yes, these were still the Royals. The first four games of the streak were all on the West Coast, so there was some hope that returning home would help halt the streak. Instead, the Royals put forth one of their worst efforts of the year, a 15-1 loss to the Indians. The previously struggling C.C. Sabathia (13.50 ERA before this game) struck out 11 in six shutout innings, while Gil Meche gave up eight runs in four innings, bringing his ERA to an even 8.00, his high-water (or low-water, depending on your point of view) mark of the year. Throw in some outstanding bullpen work by the usual suspects (Joel Peralta, Yasuhiko Yabuta and Jimmy Gobble combined to give up the other seven runs in 4 1/3 innings), and you have a brutal beating. The Royals would lose two more games before ending the losing streak.
MVP: Alex Gordon, who hit .306 and had a .799 OPS. Alex scored 15 runs, although he only drove in nine. He also had two homers and two steals. David DeJesus had an excellent month (.341 average, with a .412 OBP and .477 SLG%), but was injured on Opening Day and only played in 12 games.
Cy Young: Zack Greinke, who was 3-0 with a 1.25 ERA. Zack struck out 19 in five starts and 36 innings.
LVP: Esteban German was barely used, so Tony Pena Jr. wins this one. Playing nearly every day, TPJ put up a solid .153 average, with an almost-unbelievable .173 OBP and an equally mind-boggling .208 slugging pct. He also struck out 15 times in 72 at-bats, great numbers if you're a power hitter, which TPJ certainly is not.
Cy Yuk: Hideo Nomo was terrible, but he only pitched in three games. So this "award" goes to Yasuhiko Yabuta, who celebrated his two-year, $6 million contract by posting an 8.31 ERA in nine games and 13 innings. He also posted a sterling 8/9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He gave up at least one hit in every one of those nine appearances. Oh, and he allowed three homers. Other than that, and the fact Trey Hillman was still using him in important situations, he was great.
Reasons we should see an awesome summer ahead: Solid months from Greinke, Gordon, Joakim Soria and Billy Butler. That and not being completely buried in the standings by May 1.
Reasons we should have seen last place coming: Good teams do not normally lose seven games in a row. The middle relief is a wasteland, and the back end of the rotation is not good. And 100 runs in 27 games is good for last place among AL offenses.