It’s still early in the 2013 season, but one thing is for certain: a quick start by the Royals isn’t going to hurt. There were plenty of varying opinions before the season started regarding how many wins the Royals would finish with. Some felt that the improvements made during the offseason would get the Royals close to the playoffs or even the division title. Some felt that the improvements weren’t significant at all.
And again, it’s still early, so the Royals could rattle off an eight game losing streak at any moment.
But right now they’re winning.
A year after losing their first ten games at home, the Royals have opened up their home schedule by sweeping the division rival Minnesota Twins. No, this isn’t the same Twins team that won the division so often in the 2000′s, but to an extent, if the Royals are going to make noise this year, they’ll have to beat the teams they’re supposed to beat.
They used a combination of late-inning hits, early-game rallies, and solid pitching when it mattered most to win each game. In the opener, Ervin Santana cruised, setting the stage for an electric go-ahead rally and finish. On Tuesday, they scored five runs in the first inning and chased Mike Pelfrey after two innings, building up a lead early like they had all spring and holding off the Twins bats just enough, even when Jeremy Guthrie didn’t have his best stuff.
And on Wednesday night, Wade Davis got the swings and misses when he needed them, striking out six in five innings, despite building up a high pitch count after two innings. Bruce Chen relieved him and pitched as well as he’s ever done in recent years, even throwing a few past Chris Parmelee and Brian Dozier and working around some Royals errors and misplays. The Twins stranded 12 runners and were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position tonight, a big reason why they left Kauffman Stadium reeling from a shutout in the series finale. Kelvin Herrera closed things out with pitches fast and slow at the knees to slam the door shut.
The Royals held the Twins to just five runs scored in the three games, and starting pitchers gave up just five runs in 19.2 innings. The bullpen threw 7.1 scoreless. The Twins stranded 26 runners.
It’s a far cry from the 0-2 start that sent fans into a premature panic. They’ll have an off day on Thursday, then Luis Mendoza finishes up the Royals second turn through the revamped rotation. Of the nine starts so far, Wade Davis was the only starter to pitch less than six innings in a start, and he still got through five tonight. Last season through the first nine games, the Royals had a starter get through six innings or more just three times. That’s a good way to kick off the year.
I’m not one for cliches (or I try not to be), but good pitching, timely hitting. That’ll work a lot of the time (though it also helps to play a team marked for last place).