Well, hello offense. It’s good to see you again.
That strange, solid, thumping sound you hear is that of forged lumber smacking the crap out of leather baseballs. By the Royals. No, seriously.
On Friday night, the Royals put together their most complete game of the 2011 season. Before we get back to the thumping, it was Jeff Francis who held his own, throwing a gem the likes of which the team envisioned when they signed him. He threw eight scoreless innings, giving up only four hits while striking out six – two of those in the 8th. For a pitcher who came into the game with a 3-11 record and a 4.65 ERA, he had to have left the ballpark feeling like a king.
The defense was solid, backing Francis’ effort with an error and mistake-free night.
The offense though – that’s where the fun was on Friday. After giving up double-digit runs in back to back games in Boston earlier in the week, it was the Royals bats who did the talking in Cleveland.
12 runs. A shutout. Great start to the series.
The most interesting piece to me is the sudden power surge that the Royals have found. Most notably Billy Butler, who hit two home runs on Friday night. That to go along with one on Thursday, one on Wednesday, and one on Tuesday. That’s five in four games for a guy who has only hit a total of 12 on the year. Before this week, he had only hit one is his last 37 games.
I am not someone who is clamoring for Billy to become a home run hitter. I think that the way he hits the ball, he’s plenty capable, but I think that if he started trying to hit home runs, we’d see his average dip and probably not see his home run totals go up. He’s a hitter. A singles and doubles hitter, and you have got to appreciate the fact that the guy has hit right around .300 since the day he arrived.
What I see as a potential game-changer for Billy is if he were able to make some kind of tweak in his swing the way that Jose Bautista has done over the past couple of years, he just might be able to figure out how to lift the ball and start turning doubles into home runs. He’s proved that he has the potential this week.
But it wasn’t just Billy on Friday. Alex Gordon hit another bomb out of the leadoff spot to tie Jeff Francoeur for the team lead. But the biggest blast of all came off the bat of Melky Cabrera. In the 4th inning, he slugged the Royals’ first grand slam of the season. That’s one in 106 games.
The Royals’ four home run night on Friday was just the second time this season that they’ve hit that many in a game – the first time coming back on May 27th in Texas. The Royals have hit a total of nine homers in their last four games. They hadn’t had multiple home runs in a game since the 4th of July, and had only hit six in their last 15 games. An absolute power surge.
Of course, a cynic might say that a few of these guys are playing their tail off in the hopes of being picked up by a contender for the rest of the season. Well, there are guys who are certainly auditioning for the front runners, but it’s unlikely that a big hit this week would make the difference between roaming the outfield in KC during the dog days of August or playing in front of a packed house every night in preparation for October.
At this moment, I’m happy for these guys. At 45-61, it’s been a long season so far. Lots and lots of growing pains, but also a lot of isolated memorable moments. On Friday, we saw what this team is capable of doing when the chips all fall into place. A win like this spreads confidence all around, and is crucial for a young team that’s trying to find its way.