(From "Shelter From The Storm," Blood On The Tracks)
I think I put off writing this one for a while. August was a brutal month to be a Royals fan. It looked like they would never win again, would certainly finish last again, and might even manage to lose 100 games, despite starting the month with a 50-59 record. It got so bad that we noticed heading into a game late in the month that the statue of Mr. and Mrs. Kauffman which sttod outside the stadium had packed up and left:
Recap: The Royals actually started the month well. They took two of three at home against the White Sox, including the 14-3 bombing that featured Miguel Olivo charging the mound against D.J. Carrasco and smacking A.J. Pierzynski in the back of the head. The Royals then took the first game of a series against the Red Sox before the bottom fell out. Lose four, win one, lose three, win one, lose seven, win one, lose four, win one, lose one. Yes, the boys in blue went from Aug. 5 into September without winning consecutive baseball games. A grim month, indeed. For August, the Royals were 7-20, ending the month in last place at 57-79, 20 games out of first and 8.5 out of fourth.
Highlight: Outscoring the White Sox 23-10 in two games was pretty sweet. Having one of those games on Fox's Saturday afternoon coverage (even if it was regional) and having a brawl in the other was even sweeter.
Lowlight: Well, those two wins were 29% of the Royals' total for the month, so there are plenty of lowlights to choose from. I think the lowest point was Sunday, August 17 at Yankee Stadium. The Royals, who of course have a rather tangled history with the Yanks, were playing their final game at the Stadium, which closed at the end of the season. Could the Royals summon up one final memorable game with the hated Yankees, a game worthy of those playoff meetings so long ago? No. This was the day when Brian Bannister hit rock bottom, allowing 10 runs (all earned) in only 1 inning pitched. Banny gave up six runs in the first, including the Yankees hitting for the cycle in that inning, before allowing four more in the second without recording an out. In all, he faced 16 hitters and only got three of them out. Yikes. The Royals ended up with a 15-6 loss.
MVP: Despite all the losing, there are some good candidates for this coveted award. Mike Aviles continued his solid season, hitting .339 in August with a .789 OPS. Before he was injured in mid-August, Alex Gordon compiled a .377 OBP, despite a .268 average, showing an increased grasp of the strike zone. Even the much-maligned Ross Gload put up a solid month, hitting .303 and driving in 10. Gload even became the answer to a trivia question: Who was the last Royal to homer at Yankee Stadium? But this honor should go to Billy Butler, who hit .330/.340/.466 for the month in 26 games. Billy also had three homers and 13 RBI, both second on the team. Not bad for a guy who was sent to Omaha in May.
Cy Young: Once again, this is pretty much a decision between Gil Meche and Zack Greinke. Joakim Soria actually looked human this month, so he's not really a factor here. Zack had a better ERA (2.48 vs. 3.49), but Gil pitched more innings (38.2 vs. 29). Gil did have one more start, though. Zack had fewer strikeouts, but a better strikeout-to-walk ratio. Let's call it a tie.
LVP: As you might expect, there are plenty of candidates here, too. Mark Teahen only hit .231 for the month, yet managed to lead the team in RBIs with 14. John Buck was brutal, hitting .116 and slugging .203 and striking out 24 times in 69 at-bats. But I think this has to go to Jose Guillen, because his bat was so important to the lineup, and when he struggled, the Royals did too. In 26 games, Jose hit .212/.275/.374. His .649 OPS was lower than Teahen's, Gload's, and even Mitch Maier's. Except the Royals weren't depending on any of those guys to bat cleanup every day.
Cy Yuk: Sorry, Banny. But 0-5 with a 7.76 ERA is not good. Giving up nine homers in 26.2 innings is terrible. Thankfully, this month was the last straw, and Banny seemed to realize his new style of trying to strike out everyone wasn't working.
Reason we should see an awesome summer ahead: Well, beating up on the White Sox (literally and figuratively) was nice.
Reason we should see last place coming: Everything that happened after Aug. 4: the injuries, the terrible offense, the terrible pitching, the questions about clubhouse chemistry and Trey Hillman's lack of respect in the clubhouse. By the end of the month, the Royals seemed about as far from being a contender as they did when they were losing 106 games in 2005.