We’re going streaking! I know…you don’t have to be the one to tell me to calm down. It’s only spring training, but normally, when it comes to the Royals, streaks are generally a bad thing. I am fully aware it doesn’t count, but still…it feels good, right?
On Wednesday, the Royals beat up on the Arizona Diamondbacks and decided, “This streak goes to 11.” Alex Gordon, James Shields, and Will Smith all shined, with Shields and Smith combining for 5 scoreless innings. Gordon gunned a runner down at third base (what else is new?) and went 3-for-4 with a grand slam. Not too shabby!
It was nice to see Shields go multiple innings after throwing only one in his debut. He breezed through mostly trouble free. In the first inning, Diamondbacks rookie speedster Adam Eaton caused a little trouble, laying down a bunt that was fielded by Shields, who then made a throwing error to first base. Eaton, though, was eventually thrown out on the bases. Shields went on to toss three innings, gave up three hits, zero walks, and struck out two.
Shields gave way in the fourth to the very hot Will Smith. The lefty continued pitching well, going two innings of no hit baseball. He walked a batter and struck out two. He finished the day with an ERA of just 1.29 thus far in Arizona.
While, again, its only spring training, Smith’s performance gives reason for optimism. Baseball Reference is tracking spring stats this year, and thanks to their handy “quality of opposition” tool, each player’s performance can be put into context based on the type of players they face. The scale goes from 1-10, with anything more than 9 considered big league talent. Before today’s game, Smith boasted a 9.6 on the scale, meaning he’s had some great success against some pretty solid hitters. I don’t think he’s got a chance, but if he keeps this up, maybe he should be in the mix for that fifth rotation spot.
Today was fun. Two of the players KC will count on most this year, Gordon and Shields, had great games, and I’m feeling good after this win. I will admit I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to the Royals, but I have to say this year’s optimism comes with a feeling of legitimacy. Every year, I come into spring training optimistic. Not necessarily thinking the team will be good (although I always try figuring out what has to go right for them to win the division, which usually ends with my head exploding), but that I’ll witness a break through season from the young players. An optimism that says, “We probably won’t win THIS year…but if a couple of these guys succeed and we have another good draft…”
This year though? It kind of feels like we’re on to something here. The success in Arizona feels real, like it will carry over. These guys are loose. They’re having fun. The pitching looks good. The defense looks good. The bats look good. What’s not to like? I know some of us think the Royals are waiting for the regular season to unload the type of losing streak that won’t just ruin your week…but suck the life out of an entire season. I say we just enjoy this ride and stick with the optimism. At least for now.