A steamy June brought the Royals their 2nd winning month in a row. Unfortunately, it ended in Minneapolis with the same disappointment as a dud firecracker. The team showed an ability to keep things right in the middle of the road, matching winning streaks to losing streaks, and not getting too high with either. The end result is a winning record for the month and allowable optimism of reaching .500. Even the possibility of contending for the AL Central still exists. Here’s a look at what happened in the Month of June…
a. June Overall Record: 14-13 (.519)
Season Record: 35-41 (.461)
AL Central: 4th (of 5)
American League: 12th (of 14)
Major League: 22nd (of 30)
b. June Home Record
Season Home Record: 14-23 (.378)
c. June Road Record
Season Road Record: 21-18 (.538)
d. June Streaks
Winning: 4 (twice) (6/12-6/16: Brewers, Cardinals)(6/25-6/29: Rays, Twins)
Losing: 4 (6/6-6/10: Twins, Pirates)
Current: Lost 2
e. June Opponents
II. Ned Yost Quote of the Month
6/17-after Billy Butler‘s 9th inning pinch hit home run ties the game 2-2. Royals win in 15 innings
“We didn’t want to leave Billy’s bat out of the game. I wanted to take a shot with Billy and dadgum if he didn’t hit a homer.”
III. High Point Beating the Cardinals in St. Louis on 6/15
This high point came after what was almost the worst play the Royals had executed all year. After numerous throwing errors, Mike Moustakas grabbed the ball by the 3rd base dugout and fired a strike to Humberto Quintero. Tyler Greene‘s scamper around the bases in an attempt to be the tying run was thwarted and the Royals had their 4th straight win – all of them by one run, and all of them in dramatic fashion. The first game of the streak found the Royals topping former Ace Zack Greinke. Win #2 was their first walk-off victory of the year (on a walk). The very next night, another walk-off win followed. It was the return of “That’s what speed do” as Jarrod Dyson used his most valuable asset and took advantage of a tiny Milwaukee miscue to race home. Later in the month, another 4-game winning streak would come, but not in such dramatic fashion.
IV. Low Point Losing on 6/24 to the Cardinals
When the Cardinals flew into town on June 22nd, the Royals had won 7 of 9 games, including 2 of 3 in St. Louis just 5 days earlier. Morale was high, and everyone was ready to take care of the hated Redbirds at the K. In the end, 104,205 fans watched the Royals fall flat on their face for 3 straight games. The K was evenly balanced between Red and Blue fans, with the Red ones making their presence felt. Anyone who went to one of those games felt the disappointment and frustration of having St. Louis fans invade our ballpark and act like they owned the place. Thankfully, there was no hangover, and the Royals bounced back to sweep the Rays and win their next four games.
V. Surprises and Disappointments
1) Luke Hochevar‘s Mid-Month performance. (Surprise) Luke has been one of the worst pitchers in the American League this year. However, in consecutive starts (his 4th & 5th of June), Mr. Hyde finally showed his face. He beat Houston, tossing 7 2/3 scoreless innings, scattering 5 hits, walking 4, and hitting one. Not great, but by far his best outing of the year. That was topped in his very next start, as Luke threw KC’s first complete game shutout of the year. Luke was dominant, striking out 8 while walking only 1. He was awful again in his last start of the month, which makes me think we shouldn’t be surprised when he puts together good outings like this. That’s how he remains a part of this team – just when you’re ready to throw him out the back, he shows flashes of brilliance.
2) Ulnar Collateral Ligaments. (Disappointment) On June 22nd, the Royals lost their fourth pitcher of the year to this seemingly fragile but necessary part of a pitcher’s elbow. This one really stung, as Felipe Paulino had to pack up his 3-1 record and 1.67 ERA for the season. Paulino was a bright spot in a struggling rotation, and it really hurts to lose him. He joins Joakim Soria, Danny Duffy, and Blake Wood in the scrap heap of Royals pitchers to fall victim to this ligament.
3) The Best SS in Major League Baseball. (Surprise) Who seems to be our very own Alcides Escobar. In addition to countless amazing plays and solid play in-between, Escobar leads all shortstops with a .315 average. He’s carrying a .352 OBP, and came up with some clutch hits in the month of June. The biggest of which may have been a two-out, two-run triple in the bottom of the 9th against his former team on 6/13. The sky is the limit for Escobar, and it will be interesting to see if he is rewarded by a spot on the AL All-Stars in a couple of weeks.
4) Betancourt’s Production. (Surprise) Despite his sub-par defense and low batting average, Yuniesky Betancourt has shown a knack for driving in runs. In fact, his 24 RBI in June were 10 more than Mike Moustakas’ 2nd most during the month. The total was the 6th most for June in MLB & Betancourt did this in just 21 games. He’s turned out to be a valuable addition to the lineup, and has been important, especially after Johnny Giavotella‘s inability to crack the lineup, and Chris Getz‘s injuries. Like it or not, but the Royals are not as good as they are right now without Betancourt.
1) 6/1: Activated 2B Yuniesky Betancourt from 15-day DL. Optioned 2B Irving Falu to AAA Omaha.
2) 6/5: Recalled LHP Ryan Verdugo from AAA Omaha. Optioned LHP Will Smith to AAA Omaha.
3) 6/8: Recalled DH Clint Robinson from AAA Omaha. Optioned LHP Ryan Verdugo to AAA Omaha.
4) 6/9: Placed RHP Felipe Paulino on 15-day DL. Recalled RHP Nathan Adcock from AAA Omaha.
5) 6/12: Activated 2B Chris Getz from 15-day DL. Optioned LHP Everett Teaford & 2B Johnny Giavotella to AAA Omaha.
6) 6/13: Activated LHP Jonathan Sanchez from 15-day DL. Optioned RHP Louis Coleman to AAA Omaha.
7) 6/14: Transferred LHP Danny Duffy from 15-day DL to 60-day DL. Recalled RHP Roman Colon from AAA Omaha. Optioned DH Clint Robinson to AAA Omaha.
8 ) 6/18: Placed 2B Chris Getz on 15-day DL. Optioned RHP Nathan Adcock to AAA Omaha. Recalled Placed LHP Tommy Hottovy & RHP Louis Coleman to AAA Omaha.
9) 6/20: Recalled 2B Irving Falu from AAA Omaha. Optioned RHP Louis Coleman to AAA Omaha.
10) 6/21: Traded RHP Sean O’Sullivan to the Toronto Blue Jays.
11) 6/22: Transferred CF Lorenzo Cain from 15-day DL to 60-day DL. Activated C Salvador Perez from 60-day DL. Optioned LHP Tommy Hottovy to AAA Omaha.
12) 6/23: Recalled LHP Francisley Bueno from AAA Omaha. Designated RHP Roman Colon for assignment.
13) 6/25: Outrighted RHP Roman Colon to AAA Omaha.
14) 6/27: Recalled CF Jason Bourgeois & LHP Everett Teaford from AAA Omaha. Optioned LHP Francisley Bueno to AAA Omaha. Designated C Humberto Quintero for assignment.
15) 6/30: Recalled LHP Tommy Hottovy from AAA Omaha.
VII. Player of the Month
Late May found Gordon back in the leadoff position. He batted there all 27 games in June, and the consistency paid dividends for the Gold Glove Leftfielder. He hit .340 for the month and got on base at a .426 clip. He hit 11 doubles, and even walked 16 times. He seemed much more comfortable back in the spot that produced such a great year for him in 2011. I’d been hoping that he ended up back in the leadoff spot, but his dismal start made it hard for Ned Yost to justify keeping him there. Over the past month, Gordon raised his average from .237 to .273. I give credit to Yost for putting Gordon where he belongs, even when he wasn’t deserving of hitting leadoff.
Honorable Mention: Vin Mazzaro. In a month that found pitchers in the batting cages, Mazzaro held his own during interleague play. Over two games, he batted 4 times and collected 2 hits and 1 RBI. Sure, he struck out his other two Abs, but he gets to wear the crown of the best hitting pitcher for 2012.
VIII. Pitcher of the Month
It’s tough to give this honor to anyone but Chen – he’s just so consistent. Other guys have good outings or innings, but Chen just somehow finds a way to get the job done more often than anyone. He went 4-2 in May, then continued his run in June by going 3-1 in 5 starts. After going 0-5 to start the season, he’s managed to improve his record to 7-6. His ERA is still a bit bloated, but I guess it’s all relative. In June, he held hitters to a .245 average but gave up 4 HR. Despite not being known for being a strikeout pitcher, he managed 21 K’s vs just 4 walks. The only knock on Bruce is his inability to go deep into a game. Over 5 starts, he threw just 26.1 innings – an average of just over 5 IP per start. Chen’s leadership continues to set the pace, but unfortunately, the rest of the staff hasn’t been able to keep up.
Honorable Mention: Greg Holland. It’s time to give some props to one of the biggest workhorses in the Royals bullpen. Holland doesn’t do anything with very much flair, and his is a thankless job. However, during the hot month of June, Holland pitched better & led the team in appearances (14). In 13 1/3 innings, he struck out 21 batters, allowed just 3 runs, and picked up a win against the Brewers on 6/12.
IX. Compare to June 2011
June was the worst month of the year for last year’s club. The team went just 9-18 as they were still getting all of their young puzzle pieces in place. They experienced losing streaks of 6, 5, and 4 games at different points during that month. The Royals took on the National League in June and went 3-9 in interleague play against the Cardinals, D-Backs, Cubs, and Padres.
Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Alcides Escobar all hit above .300 for the month as they continued to work their way through fine seasons. Mike Moustakas made his debut in LA on 6/10, getting off to a good start before his average spiraled below .200 in July. Pitching was terrible, and the Royals’ bats weren’t able to offset their mistakes often enough to have anything to show for it. They would get better as the season went on, but this was definitely rock bottom for the Royals.
X. July Outlook
The Royals look to bounce back from their disappointing end of the month and stay focused on their goal of reaching .500 before the All-Star break. After their current road trip to Minneapolis, Toronto, and Detroit, all eyes of the baseball world will turn to Kauffman Stadium for the 83rd MLB All-Star Game. It will be a truly special time for the city, and we’ll all be watching closely. When the dust settles & everyone else departs out of KCI, the Royals get to stay home & settle in for the second half of the season with a 10-game homestand. They’ll open up with the AL Central leading White Sox, then welcome the Mariners & Twins. It’s a west-coast trip that follows, as the team will head out to LA for three, then up to Seattle for four games. As the month comes to a close, the team will be back at the K to take on the Indians. A lot will happen this month, so buckle your seatbelts. This could be the make-or-break month for this young team. Will they rise above expectations or fall below them? Will they be affected in any way by the mid-summer classic taking place at their ballpark?
There are also some good promotions in June at the K:
6/14 vs. White Sox-“Viva Los Royals” Chip & Dip Platter Night
6/21 vs. Twins-Buck O’Neil bobblehead statue/Salute to the Negro Leagues
6/31 vs. Indians-T-Shirt Tuesday
XI. Summary The Royals put up a winning record in June for the first time since they went 16-11 in 2008. It’s the first time they’ve had consecutive winning months during the same season since June & July of 2007. Hopefully it’s a sign of consistency – and consistent winning. If the team can keep this up and keep winning – only if it’s one or two games above .500 – they’ll finish the year with a winning record. It’s great that they’ve been able to put the month of April in their rear-view. Now hopefully they can continue to get healthy and build experience that could take them above and beyond their capabilities.