After Week 5, the Royals are 18-14. That’s technically good for second place, as they are percentage points behind Detroit. Both teams are three games ahead of Minnesota and Chicago.
Game 26: Monday, May 4
KC 3, Chicago 0
Simple formula. Zack Greinke + 3 runs = win. Once again, it requires a better writer than me to properly describe Greinke’s work. A complete game shutout, 10 strikeouts, no walks, only four hits. And two of those hits could have been errors. A David DeJesus homer was the Royals’ offensive highlight; they left 10 men on base.
Game 27: Tuesday, May 5
KC 8, Chicago 7 (11 innings)
A wild comeback win, capped by John Buck’s game-winning single in the 11th inning, gave the Royals a sweep of the White Sox. Kyle Davies struggled again, and the Sox got leads of 4-0 and 5-1 before the Royals came back, tied it, dodged a couple of bullets, blew a couple of chances to win the game, and finally emerged with the win.
Game 28: Wednesday, May 6
KC 9 , Seattle 1
The Royals jumped on Mariners starter Carlos Silva early and often, with three runs in the first and two more in the third. Sidney Ponson was solid for 7 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits but only one walk. Billy Butler, Mike Jacobs and Mark Teahen all had three hits. Just a great game all around for the Royals. A sign of a good team is the ability to win the blowout games; this game put KC at 6-3 this season in games decided by five runs or more. One-run games can often be decided by luck or using Kyle Farnsworth in key situations, but the good teams win big more often than they lose big.
Game 29: Thursday, May 7
KC 3, Seattle 1
Another strong pitching performance by a Royals starter; in this case it was Brian Bannister. Actually, Bannister struggled through the first inning, but didn’t allow any runs. The Royals offense scraped some runs together against longtime nemesis Jarrod Washburn, and were able to weather an unusually shaky ninth inning from Joakim Soria for the win. Afterwards, Soria said he was just rusty; the Royals had better hope it’s that and not an injury.
Game 30: Friday, May 8
Los Angeles 4, KC 1
Somewhere over the Rocky Mountains, the Royals offense apparently forgot how to work counts, lay off bad pitches, and hit. This was a frustrating showing from the offense, against journeyman starter Matt Palmer. To make matters worse, when KC did score a run in the sixth inning to make the score 2-1, they gave up two in the bottom of the inning when Jose Guillen failed to catch a fly ball near the right field line. Howie Kendrick took advantage, circling the bases for a two-run inside-the-park home run that put the game away. Royals starter Gil Meche deserved better, even though he wasn’t at his best (5 2/3 innings, eight hits, four earned runs—although if Guillen’s misplay had been scored an error, it would have been two earned runs).
Game 31: Saturday, May 9
Los Angeles 1, KC 0
Another frustrating outing for the Royals’ offense, resulting in Greinke’s first loss of the season. Not that he deserved it. Sure, he wasn’t quite at the 1968-Bob Gibson level he was at before, but still. Eight innings, four hits, no walks, five strikeouts, and one earned run ought to be good enough for a win. Royal hitters could only manage five hits and one walk against the Angels’ Joe Saunders.
Game 32: Sunday, May 10
Los Angeles 4, KC 3
The Royals completed their lost weekend with a bumbling, Bad-News-Royals inning worthy of their 2005 predecessors. Ahead 3-1 in the seventh, after Davies’ best outing in a while and an offensive explosion (compared to the first two games of the series, anyway), the Royals imploded defensively. Throwing error by Jamey Wright, a missed tag by Alberto Callaspo on a stolen base, and then somehow Miguel Olivo failed to catch a perfect throw from Guillen which would have nailed the tying run at home. Seriously, “catcher” is Olivo’s position, yet he sometimes seems unable to, you know, catch. Of course, the runner who advanced to second on this misplay ended up scoring the winning run.
The Week Ahead
The Royals get their first off day since April 20 on Monday, then complete their West Coast trip with two games in Oakland. After that, it’s four games at home against Baltimore. Although the Orioles are in last place, they have had the Royals’ number in the past few seasons. The last time KC took the season series between the two was 2003; the Orioles are 27-9 against the Royals since, including a perfect 7-0 in 2007. Even better, the Royals put Soria on the DL after Sunday’s game; Luke Hochevar was called up and will make his 2009 major league debut Tuesday night in Oakland while Ponson will move to the bullpen.
This is a scary time for Royals fans, especially if they’re worriers by nature like I am. We’ve all seen this script before from the Royals; usually it results in a double-digit losing streak. If this team is really different, they will figure out a way to stop this before it gets out of hand.
I’m trying to talk myself—and, by extension, any other Royals fans who need it--off the ledge. Here are a couple of things to consider:
First, the Royals’ offense, even after a pathetic four-game stretch, still has an OPS+ of 101. That means they have a slightly-above-league-average offense. It may not sound like much, but the last time the Royals finished the season with an OPS+ of 100 or better was…well, I’ll let you guess. 2003? Nope. 1999 or 2000, when Damon/Sweeney/Beltran/Dye were here? Nope. 1993 or 1994, the last really good Royals teams? Keep trying. Actually, it was 1991. Yes, there’s a lot of season left, but this may be the Royals’ best offense in nearly 20 years. Assuming the pitching stays close to where it has been, the Royals should still be OK if they can keep the offense at or near the level it’s been so far.
Second, the Royals still have the second-best run differential in the AL at +27—their Pythagorean record is actually 19-13, so you could say they’ve been slightly unlucky. And KC’s actual winning percentage of .563 translates to 91 wins over a full season.
Third, if you’re into signs, as I finished that last paragraph, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” came on my satellite radio. Just take that for what it’s worth.