This is a new feature here at Tangled HQ: a few notes on each game from the previous week. I wish I had the time to blog about each game as it happened, but I suppose that's not feasible, since I do have a wife and a job. And I have to help maintain my mom's basement. Because that's where I live. Because I have a blog, see.
And now that joke is officially dead.
Anyways, after Week 1, the Royals are 3-3, tied for second in the AL Central, and a 1/2 game behind Detroit.
Game 1: Tuesday, April 7
Chicago 4, KC 2
The season opener was delayed one day by snow in Chicago. This gave Trey Hillman an extra day to figure out how to best use Kyle Farnsworth. Unfortunately, Trey needed a few more days, since he originally concluded that the Farns would be an ideal candidate to pitch the 8th inning with a 2-1 lead. Two singles and one Jim Thome blast later, the Royals had wasted a tremendous effort from Gil Meche, a long home run from Alex Gordon and were 0-1.
There isn't much more to say about Farnsworth and Hillman's decision to use him. It was obviously a poor decision for a couple of reasons (Farnsworth is homer-prone, Thome murders righties but is not as effective against lefties). And it is true that if the Royals had not left 11 runners on base, they probably would have won. But it was still a disappointing game, not least because it left the impression that Hillman was making the same dumb mistakes he made last year (not using Joakim Soria in the eighth inning, letting homer-prone relievers pitch in key spots).
Game 2: Wednesday, April 8
KC 2, Chicago 0
Thankfully, Hillman appeared to learn his lesson quickly this time. On this night, he made Juan Cruz is 7th and 8th inning guy, and Soria breezed through the 9th to preserve Zack Greinke's brilliant outing (6 IP, 7 Ks, 3 H). Once again, the offense did just enough for a win. This time, KC left 6 men on base, but Mike Aviles scored both runs on hits by Coco Crisp and Mark Teahen.
Game 3: Thursday, April 9
KC 2, Chicago 1
For the third straight game, the Royals only put up two runs. For the second straight game, a great game by a starting pitcher, a solid effort by a key short reliever and Soria made it stand up. The starting pitcher in question was Kyle Davies, who looked like he did last September. The reliever was Ron Mahay, who looked like as effective as he was before he was injured late last year. Crisp's two-run homer broke a scoreless tie in the 9th, and Soria struggled a little before closing the game out and giving KC a series win. With 11 men left on base, the Royals pushed their series total to a rather frustrating 28. As an added bonus, Jose Guillen injured himself running out a grounder in his last at-bat and was put on the disabled list on Friday. But the Royals headed home with the division lead.
Game 4: Friday, April 10
New York 4, KC 1
The Royals opened the new Kauffman Stadium with another disappointing offensive showing, managing only 4 hits and 1 walk against longtime nemesis Andy Pettitte. There were plenty of complaints beforehand about the Royals having Sidney Ponson in the rotation, but he actually wasn't awful in this game. He was hurt by some poor defense in the first inning, but got through 6 innings with the 4-1 deficit. As poorly as the Royals were hitting, though, this one was already over.
Game 5: Saturday, April 11
New York 6, KC 1
I'm not a big fan of Ponson, but the real starting rotation head-scratcher to me was the Royals' insistence on starting the season with Horacio Ramirez in there over Luke Hochevar, apparently just so they could say they had a left-handed starter instead of five righties. HoRam did little to dispel my doubts, getting torched for 8 hits and 6 runs in 4 1/3 innings. Once again, the defense did little to help the pitching. Willie Bloomquist made his first start in right field this year and got a poor jump on a two-run double in the first and then dove for and missed a soft fly ball near the right field line in the third. That resulted in a run-scoring triple. Also once again, the Royals offense took a night off, this time being completely shut down by CC Sabathia.
Game 6: Sunday, April 12
KC 6, New York 4
The Royals offense finally broke out of the doldrums in this come-from-behind, come-from-ahead, come-from-behind-again affair. Oddly enough, the offense was sparked by two guys who have had limited playing time, John Buck and Brayan Pena. Buck had a single, double and home run to drive in 3 runs; Pena doubled in the tying run in the 8th and then scored the go-ahead run on Alberto Callaspo's single. This came after Gil Meche tired in the 7th inning and gave up a 3-1 lead.
I don't know if this game will be a turning point for the offense or not. Yes, they scored 6 runs, but they only had 7 hits and 2 walks. On the bright side, the hits and walks were bunched together enough to be effective (in innings 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7, KC was 1-15 with 1 HBP and 0 walks; all the damage was done in innings 3, 4 and 8). Also on the bright side, there is no way the Royals will continue to hit .200 (the team batting average so far) all year. There will be more hits and runs. On the other hand, this team is still in last place in the AL in walks with 12. Until that improves, the Royals will struggle to score runs.
The Week Ahead
The Royals offense should get a shot at some lesser pitchers this week, including Carl Pavano and Scott Lewis of Cleveland on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Matt Harrison, Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla of Texas next weekend. While some of those are solid major league starters, none of them are quite as accomplished as Sabathia or Pettitte. This week could be a big help to the Royals, as I would say they are about evenly matched with Cleveland and Texas, especially with the Indians coming to town. As always, solid pitching is going to determine the Royals' chances of a winning week.