For the third straight year the Royals failed to score a single run off their opponent’s Opening Day starting pitcher. There’s nothing to over-analyze here, all it means is they have faced a couple really good pitchers. Jered Weaver shut them down in 2011 and 2012, and then on Monday, it was Chris Sale’s turn. The Royals are now 3-21 when they score 3 runs or fewer on Opening Day. That’s an amazing stat, though less amazing when you consider that they are getting the opposing team’s best pitcher. Of course runs are going to be hard to come by. Good pitching may merely beat good hitting but it obliterates bad hitting. For a good chunk of their history, the Royals have swung first and and asked questions later.
If you based your expectations on their Spring Training performance you might be a little disappointed with Monday’s result. Don’t be. Spring Training games are like movie trailers, they’ll show you a little of what to expect, but not near enough to make a definite judgement. They didn’t show me anything during the opener that’s caused me to back off my belief that they’ll be a .500-ish team this year. Now onto some thoughts about the game itself.
- James Shields was pretty good. I forgot how much fun it is to watch a starting pitcher that can get out of jams with a strikeout. He wasn’t dominant but he did strike out 6 in in 6 innings. If he hadn’t gave up a home run to Tyler Flowers the game likely would have went into extra innings where Luke Hochevar would have served up a walkoff bomb to Adam Dunn. Shields continued a recent trend where the Royals’ opening day starter matched his opponent – in four of the last five openers they’ve given up 2 runs or less. Shields’ Game Score of 58 rates as the 16th best performance in Kansas City’s 45 year Opening Day history.
- Billy Butler‘s at bat in the third inning turned out to be their most important plate appearance of the game. With the bases loaded and 1 out, Sale didn’t panic. Butler, trying to hit the ball into the next century, struck out swinging. Butler later had his first Opening Day hit since 2010 and he also added a walk. That bumped his career Opening Day numbers up to .136/.240/.136 in 6 games and 25 plate appearances.
- Getz didn’t bunt. I point this out not to be snarky but because he came up twice in situations where he normally lays one down. In the 3rd and 5th innings he was at the plate with Jeff Francoeur on first base and nobody out and swung away both times. The results were not idyllic. He grounded weakly to the second baseman in the third and hit into a double play in the 5th. Getz is the lone player on the roster that I never minded seeing bunt but I’m not going to bash Ned Yost here. If this is a sign that there will be fewer bunts this year I’ll take it.
- Adam Dunn didn’t hit a home run. I don’t know about you, but every time Dunn’s at the plate, I feel like the end result will be a home run. The only other player I’ve felt that way about was Jim Thome. Dunn hit 5 home runs in 15 games versus the Royals last year. A couple of those haven’t landed yet.
- Frenchy was Frenchy. He did have a couple hits but also saw only 8 pitches in his 4 at bats. With Eric Hosmer on second base in the 9th inning, he swung at the first pitch and grounded out weakly to end the game. There was a lot of talk during the spring about Francoeur finding his swing, but his swing has never been the problem, it’s his approach that needs changed. As long as he’s willing to swing early, and often, pitchers have no reason to give him anything remotely hittable.