...to when God and her were born.
(From "Shelter From The Storm," Blood On The Tracks)
Finally continuing on with our 2008 month-by-month recap. The season is half-over, and it's now time for July.
Recap: The Royals struggled at the start of July, losing five of six in Baltimore and Tampa. The Rays certainly looked like the team that would win the AL East, outscoring KC 23-4 in the first three games of the series. The Royals got some payback in game four, scoring four runs in the 1oth after a rare blown save from Joakim Soria. The Royals split the next six games to reach the All-Star Break at 43-53. After the break, they won a series in Chicago, then were swept at home by Detroit, including a 19-4 loss in which Jimmy Gobble pitched one inning and allowed 10 runs. A split with Tampa and a road sweep of Oakland allowed KC to close out the month with a 12-14 record, and 50-59 overall, in fourth place in the division and 11 games back of first place.
Highlight: The Royals had some nice moments in July, with the sweep in Oakland, a series win in Chicago and even Tony Pena's scoreless inning pitched in that Detroit blowout. But the game I mentioned above in Tampa might have been the best. This was one of those weird "wraparound" series, where the teams play Friday-Monday rather than the normal Friday-Sunday. So this Monday game was also a day game. Gil Meche started for the Royals against Matt Garza. Meche allowed two runs in the first, but the Royals immediately tied it in the second on a David DeJesus triple, then took the lead in the third on a Ross Gload single. Meche kept getting in trouble, allowing seven hits and four walks before being pulled in the sixth inning. Ron Mahay came in to strike out two hitters to close that inning. Ramon Ramirez finished off the eighth inning after Mahay allowed a double. When Soria came in for the ninth, the game looked to be over. After all, the Mexicutioner was 23 for 24 in save chances coming in. But Tampa's Carlos Pena slammed a one-out homer to tie the game. Soria worked around a single to preserve the tie. In the 10th, the Royals got two on against Tampa's Dan Wheeler. John Buck stepped to the plate and promptly launched a drive down the left field line that was good for three runs. Mike Aviles followed with another homer, and the Royals were able to survive a solo home run in the bottom of the inning for a hard-fought win against a team that frankly had made the Royals look like a minor-league team for three games.
Lowlight: Well, those first three games in Tampa were pretty bad. But when you lose by 15 runs at home, that's downright awful. On the 21st, KC returned home from a series win in Chicago, and were pounded by the Tigers, 19-4. Luke Hochevar was pretty good for the first two innings, then gave up five runs with two outs in the third. The Tigers tacked on two more in the fifth and one in the seventh before Gobble was called in with the bases loaded. Gobble walked Pudge Rodriguez to force in a run, then got the last out. But, oh, how horrible that eighth inning was for Jimmy Gobble! Single, single, double, wild pitch, single, single and a three-run bomb by Gary Sheffield to make it 15-0. Gobble seemed to settle down, getting the next two hitters out. But then Hell started back up, as Gobble's control vanished. Walk, single, walk, walk, and Gobble was mercifully pulled. Leo Nunez came in and allowed a double and single before getting the final out, making Gobble's line 1 IP, 10 R, 10 ER, 4 BB, o K. This outing also caused Gobble's ERA to jump from a lousy 7.99 to an unbelievablly bad 11.31. After this outing, Gobble went on the disabled list with a bad back, although you'd be forgiven for thinking extreme suckitude was the actual problem. As a side note, Tony Pena pitched the ninth inning, retiring all three hitters he faced, including a called strikeout on Pudge Rodriguez.
MVP: John Buck had a good month of July, but Mike Aviles was far and away the best hitter the Royals had in July. In 25 games, he hit .330 and slugged .524. He had three homers, 13 RBI, nine doubles, a triple and scored 14 runs. The only downside was that he only got three walks.
Cy Young: Ron Mahay was almost unhittable in July, but since I gave this to him and two other relievers over Gil Meche for June, let's give it to Meche this time. In six starts, Meche was 3-1 with a 3.05 ERA. In 38 1/3 innings, Meche struck out 24 and walked 11.
LVP: Well, as hot as Jose Guillen was in June, that's about how bad he was in July. In 21 games, he only hit .162, with one homer and 10 RBI. Of his 12 hits, nine were singles. And of course, Jose wouldn't walk--that's what wimps do. Guillen walked twice in the whole month. His .446 OPS was lower than Mitch Maier's, Ross Gload's, and Joey Gathright's. Of course, it was still better than Tony Pena's, but by this point in the season nobody expected Pena to ever get on base again.
Cy Yuk: An ERA of 27.00 for the month is hard to ignore, but we've picked on Jimmy Gobble enough. Let's go with Luke Hochevar, who went 1-3 in his five starts with a 7.67 ERA. In 27 innings, Hochevar gave up 32 hits and only struck out 12.
Reason we should see an awesome summer ahead: The continued hot hitting of Mike Aviles, the continued excellence of the back end of the bullpen, and the continued solid pitching of Gil Meche.
Reason we should see last place coming: Seriously, those first three games in Tampa were awful displays of baseball. Outscored 23-4. Outhit 35-15. Three errors in the first game. Those three games made it seem like there was a vast difference in the talent level between the East-leading Rays and the Royals.