There was a lot of concern about how the Royals would handle a tough road trip. So they went out and won four out of seven games. Take away one misplaced Kelvin Herrera pitch to Daniel Nava and a 5-2 trip could have been the result. They ended a 10 game winning streak when they beat Atlanta in the second game of the series and ended Boston’s seven game winning streak by sweeping the Sunday double header.
They’re playing well and a homestand with a four game series against Cleveland is a good chance to pad their lead in the AL Central.
The big win before leaving Detroit on Thursday washed the bad taste out of their mouths after a miserable first game of the series and there’s a chance at building some momentum.
-Billy Butler is starting to heat up. I don’t think there was much concern about him, but with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas already scuffling, Butler starting out cold wasn’t helping the offense at all. He’s currently working on a four game hitting streak and reached base all four times on Thursday. He’s walking a ton, so despite a .256 average right now, he’s still second on the team in on base percentage and third in OPS. He’ll be fine.
-Moustakas had a key walk in the tenth inning on Thursday after doubling down the line earlier in the game. He’s still having a tough start to the year and has just 4 hits in his last 37 at bats. His infield popups are out of control – he’s hit eight infield popups already this year and hasn’t seen many line drives. His Wednesday performance was awful, as his error in the fourth inning led to four runs scoring while he left six runners on base.
Generally, I think the “Send him down!” camp can be reactionary when it comes to early struggles, but in this case, he’s having problems with his swing and it’s getting to him in the field. Frustration is understandable, but when it starts to interfere in the field, the problems just compound. There’s a point where he needs the mental break as well as a chance to rebuild his swing and he’s very close to it.
The Royals aren’t likely to send him to Omaha yet, but if he struggles on the homestand, he could end up being optioned so he can focus on getting things right as well as rebuilding some confidence. The team says they’ve found the problem, but also hinted that they’re giving him more games before they start making harder decisions. Miguel Tejada and Elliot Johnson would probably fill in for him if he was sent down, and while neither are attractive as full time options, Moustakas isn’t hitting, so it’s not like they’d be any worse over a month.
-I hesitate to say it, because I don’t want to jinx it, but I think that Eric Hosmer may be finding his way out of the woods. Hosmer, like Butler, is working on a four game hitting streak in which he’s gotten seven hits in 15 at bats while also working two walks. Even better? He drilled a double on Wednesday night and then had another in his first at bat against Justin Verlander on Thursday. He’s seeing a lot of pitches and he’s chasing a lot less than over the last two years, so if he starts to get some power going, there may be a collective sigh of relief in the Kansas City area.
I was surprised, given the early struggles, that Hosmer was third on the team in on base percentage with a solid .377 mark (nine points better than Alex Gordon, even). Last April he had 16 hits in 85 at bats. This April, he has 15 in 52. Oh, and he’s also in line to be eligible for Super Two status this offseason, which earns him a fourth year of salary arbitration.