Going into the last full month of the season, the Royals had some nice momentum and the phrase “.500″ was even starting to creep back into some people’s vocabulary. They had just swept the Detroit Tigers and put together their best month of the season. Any momentum was quickly halted with a disappointing doubleheader defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Twins on September 1st. They continued with their poor start to the month, losing 5 of their first 7 games. They also ended the month with a thud, losing 7 out of their last 8. However, sandwiched nicely in-between disappointing streaks was a pretty good stretch. They beat up on the first place White Sox and won 9 out of 14 through the middle of the month. They looked like a different team during that stretch, one that could beat anyone. However, towards the end of the month, the Royals seemed to be falling apart at the seams. An influx of injuries, mental mistakes, multiple errors, and mindless mishaps were all signs that pointed to a team that looked to be completely exhausted. Here’s a look at what happened in the Month of September…
a. September Overall Record: 12-17 (.414)
Season Record: 71-88 (.447)
AL Central: 3rd (of 5)
American League: 10th (of 14)
Major League: 22nd (of 30)
b. September Home Record
Season Home Record: 36-42 (.462)
c. September Road Record
Season Road Record: 35-46 (.432)
d. September Streaks
Winning: 4 (9/19-9/22: White Sox, Indians)
Losing: 6 (9/23-9/28: Indians, Tigers, Indians)
Current: Lost 1
e. September Opponents
White Sox: 4-2
II. Ned Yost Quote of the Month
9/12-after being “determined” to get Luke Hochevar his first win since July 31st. Hochevar gave up 5 ER in 5 IP, but the offense gave him a lead and the Royals ended up winning 10-5.
“He hasn’t won a game in his last seven starts and I wanted to get him over that hump,” Yost said. “He was working hard out there, maybe a little too hard, but he was trying with everything he had to get over that hump, too. I was bound and determined to give him every opportunity to do it. Part of my job is to get guys in a frame of mind so they can go out and compete and be successful. Sometimes you’ve got to let ‘em work through some things.”
III. High Point
Beating the Angels with Late Inning Power on 9/15
Zack Greinke took the mound to face his old team in his old stadium and kept the Royals in check for 8 1/3 innings. Jeremy Guthrie nearly matched him, pitching 8 full innings but giving up a single run in two separate innings. The Royals had scattered just 5 hits throughout the game, and things looked bleak. However, after a leadoff strikeout by Alcides Escobar in the 9th, Alex Gordon stroked a single and chased the former Cy Young Winner. Ernesto Frieri replaced Greinke and on the first pitch he threw, Billy Butler hit a long home run to the deepest part of the park. Just like that, it was a tie game. Salvador Perez came up next, and three pitches later, hit a walk-off home run to end the game. Like a skilled ninja, the Royals lured the Angels deep into their lair, then swiftly dispatched their opponent in dramatic fashion.
IV. Low Point
Getting swept in a four game series by the Tigers on 9/27
After playing tough against the first place White Sox, the Royals went to Detroit to take on another contender. I saw it as a chance to see how the Royals could stack up against the Tigers. Well, it turns out that they really didn’t. The Tigers won the first 3 games, then in the 4th, the Royals looked completely worthless. In the game, the Royals made 5 errors, including 3 by the usually slick-fielding Mike Moustakas. Doug Fister tied an American League record by striking out 9 Royals in a row. It was just embarrassing. The loss meant a rare 4-game sweep, and a 5-game losing streak for the Royals.
V. Surprises and Disappointments
1) Hosmer’s Forgettable Season.(Disappointment) Things just never really got going for our talented first baseman in 2012. His early struggles that everyone thought he’d be able to shake have refused to go away. Hosmer hit .179 during the month of September and ended the month, and maybe his season, by diving for a ball and partially tearing his rotator cuff. Here’s hoping that the disappointment of 2012 serves as motivation for him to work harder than he ever has during this offseason so he can try to redeem himself next year.
2) Going Streaking. (Surprise) During September, the Royals went streaking in both directions. While this might be fun to watch on a college campus, it can be frustrating as a baseball fan. The disappointment in this is that the losing streaks outweighed the winning. They had a losing streak of 6 in a row that came immediately on the heels of a 4-game winning streak. While the losing streak seemed long, it was still only half as long as their losing streak in April. They’ve got to find ways to not lose so many games in a row.
3) Picking Favorites. (Disappointment) I know it’s not over yet, but the Royals can be credited with giving the Detroit Tigers the AL Central crown. They played with a vengeance against the then-first place White Sox, and then rolled over against Detroit. It’s got to infuriate the White Sox, who have imploded over the past month or so. Losing to the Royals is never a good thing, but it’s something they’ll be thinking about all winter. Did the Royals decide that they wanted the Tigers to win the division? Maybe – I mean, wouldn’t you rather see the Tigers win than the White Sox?
4) No Walking. (Disappointment) The Royals drew just 59 walks for the month of September. That’s almost half the number of walks that the Yankees drew and the least in the Major Leagues. This contributed to the Royals having the 2nd worst OBP in the AL, better only than the Boston Red Sox. Going into Saturday’s win at Cleveland, the 5-game road trip had produced just 1 walk and 45 strikeouts. That must have been brought to their attention, because they drew 5 walks in that Saturday game.
1) 9/1: Recalled OF David Lough from AAA Omaha and C Manny Pina from AA Northwest Arkansas.
2) 9/4: Recalled RHP Jeremy Jeffress from AA Northwest Arkansas.
3) 9/14: Recalled OF Jason Bourgeois from AAA Omaha.
4) 9/16: Called Up RHP Jake Odorizzi from AAA Omaha. Recalled RHP Nathan Adcock, INF Irving Falu, C Adam Moore, and LHP Tommy Hottovy from AAA Omaha.
VII. Player of the Month
Billy just continues to have a great season. He played in every game during the month of September, and hit .336 with 11 doubles and 24 RBI. Billy had 8 multi-hit games in September, including 5 games where he had 3 hits. His consistent bat hammered out streaks of 6, 10, and just ended another 10 game hitting streak. All in all, he hit in every one but three games during the month. He’s putting up numbers comparable to those that he put up in 2010, but with 30 more RBI and almost double the amount of Home Runs. He heads into the final homestand of the year hitting .312, slugging .511, and with 107 RBI. He has filled the team’s need for a full-time designated hitter, and is definitely one position that won’t be in question going into 2013. It will be nice to stand up and applaud Billy for his finest season this coming week.
Honorable Mention: Alex Gordon. Despite being moved out of his leadoff spot, Gordon has continued to hit – and field. While Alex’s average was down in September, he continued to hit doubles. He’s now got 51 on the season, which ties him with Butler in 2010 & is just 3 behind Hal McRae’s club record of 54. Gordon also gets kudos for drawing 11 walks in a month where it seemed like the Royals forgot how to do so.
VIII. Pitcher of the Month
Herrera was the most opportunistic pitcher out of the Royals bullpen in September. He appeared in 14 games throughout the month, and the Royals won 8 of those games. Herrera walked away with a 3-1 record and a 1.84 ERA. He collected Saves in both opportunities on September 22nd & September 29th. In the latter, he got to come in and pitch the bottom of the 14th inning after the Royals were able to break the tie in the top of the inning. Herrera has been a solid Right-Handed arm for the Royals in 2012. His 2.38 ERA over 83 1/3 innings is impressive. Also impressive is his Walk to Strikeout ration of 21/75. In a month where the starting pitching wasn’t all that great, the bullpen has had to carry the weight. That’s something that isn’t solely a September issue, and we’ve got to give credit to the guys in the bullpen for helping out the starters all year. For Herrera, he earned his spot on 2013′s roster in September.
Honorable Mention: Jeremy Guthrie. Despite only having a 1-0 record in 5 outings, the Royals won 4 of those games. He pitched at least 7 innings in four of those outings, and never gave up more than 4 earned runs. His ERA for the month was an impressive 2.25. He’s gotten better as the season has progressed & he’ll get one more start on Tuesday night.
IX. Compare to September 2011
The 2011 Royals came together to form their “team of the future” by the time September hit. As a result, they wowed Kansas City fans by playing well and having their best month of the entire season. At 15-10, they outscored their opponents by 29 runs. The month also included their longest winning streak of the season (7 games). The Royals lost their final home game of 2011 on September 21st before going on the road for the final 6 games of the year. They won 3 of those games before dropping the final 2 games of the season in Minnesota. The games in September were heavily weighted to AL Central opponents, and the Royals were 2-1 against division-winning Detroit. They were good against Chicago again, going 5-2 against the White Sox. They also went to the West Coast to play the Mariners and A’s, going 4-3.
Royals starters had a good month, with several guys compiling good records, good ERAs, good walk-to-strikeout ratios, yada, yada, yada. Joakim Soria (remember him?) had 4 saves, Greg Holland had 2. Offensively, Salvador Perez had arrived in full, and hit .375 with a .513 Slugging %. Mike Moustakas had figured things out, and hit .352 with 4 HR. Eric Hosmer hit .349 with 19 RBI. Even Jeff Francoeur was on fire, hitting .329 for the month and pounding 5 HR.
September 2011 saw just one call-up by the Royals, probably because everyone else was already in Kansas City. Kelvin Herrera took to the mound in the top of the 8th against the Tigers on September 21st. He promptly hit Ryan Raburn with the first pitch. He’d proceed to give up a double and a home run, allowing 3 runs in his 1 inning of work. He pitched just one other time 5 days later and would fare much better, not allowing a hit.
X. October Outlook
The Royals have just three games left, a final series at the K against the First Place Detroit Tigers. The Tigers dominated the Royals last week, sweeping a four game series. The two teams have swept each other in each of their last four series. We’ll see what everyone has left in the tank, and if they can top their win total from 2011. They currently sit at 71 wins on the season, which is exactly how many they won a year ago. With just one win against the Tigers, the organization can claim that “progress” is being made. If the Tigers can beat the Royals just once, they’ll win the AL Central, so they’ll definitely have something to play for.
During this final homestand, there’s really only one promotion left in October at the K: They’ll be handing out Early Bird Schedules and Team Photos at all three games.
There are three games left in a season that began with such hope, such promise. A lot has happened in 2012, including having the nation’s eyes focused on our stadium for the All-Star Game. There have been many ups and downs as we’ve gone. There were signs of success and signs of strife, but we mostly saw signs of a young and inconsistent team. Hopefully, with another year of experience under their belt, they will come back stronger and more seasoned in 2013. For now though, they should focust on these remaining three games. We’ll see how Ned Yost is able to motivate them for this final homestand. I know that they don’t really have anything to play for, but I hope that pride still exists, and the guys will come out and give the home fans something to cheer for this week.