Jun 14, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Elliot Johnson (23) is congratulated by first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) after he scored a run during the fifth inning against the Tampa Bay Ray at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Royals Get Another Big Inning, Keep Hot Streak Going

I have to say, I don’t recall a recent season like this as a Royals fan. Usually by this point, the Royals would be fading fast. After an awful May, it seemed like they’d follow the same script, but now, after a 7-2 win over Tampa Bay, the Royals are a game below .500 and winners of nine of their last ten games.

You can break the season into three segments right now (Dave Lesky at Pine Tar Press dubbed it the “RoyalCoaster”):

  • April 1 to May 5: The Royals were 17-10 after an extra innings win against Chicago.
  • May 6 to May 29: Kansas City lost the James Shields game after blowing a 1-0 lead (the last time Greg Holland gave up a run) and proceeded to go 4-19.
  • May 30 to now: The Royals went to St. Louis, replaced Jack Maloof with George Brett, and braved the elements to pull off a win and break an eight game losing streak. They’re 11-4 during this stretch.

Over the last two nights, though, they’ve only started to get some combination of excellent pitching (the Royals lead the American League in ERA and rank near the top in many other categories) and timely hitting to put up runs while keeping them off  the board. The Royals have held opponents to three runs or less in thirteen – THIRTEEN – straight games.

How unprecedented is that? Since 1985, it’s pretty rare:


Tonight, it looked like things would turn out differently, though. Luis Mendoza opened the game by allowing a homer on the second pitch of the game to Matt Joyce, then walked Ben Zobrist. He scored on a one out double by Evan Longoria. James Loney hit it hard after Longoria, but it was off the end of the bat and hung up for Jeff Francoeur and a strike out by Desmond Jennings allowed Mendoza to escape.

He didn’t give up another run, though. Mendoza went to more breaking pitches, a nice adjustment, and didn’t run into any more trouble until the seventh, when he gave way to Aaron Crow with two on. Mendoza got timely ground balls to work a double play, then later picked off Joyce on second after he’d doubled. He got by on guile and his ERA is now 4.08. I’ve been tough on Mendoza but he’s looking more and more trustworthy with every start.

He had a cushion to work with after a Royals four run fifth inning which opened up with a single by Francoeur, a triple by Rays-killer Elliot Johnson, and a hard hit shot to second that was ruled a hit by Alcides Escobar. After Alex Gordon flew out, Eric Hosmer drove a ball to right and into the corner for a double.

It’s no secret that Hosmer has struggled to turn on the inside pitch over the last two years. Most of his hits have come on grounders to right or flares to left. He hit just his second homer of the year on Thursday night. But against lefty Matt Moore, Hosmer turned on a fastball in on his hands, whipped the bat around and shot it down the line. It looked like what we’ve been expected from him all along and is an encouraging sign. Salvador Perez hit a soft liner into left with a smooth, controlled swing on an 0-2 pitch (which made up for a bad decision in the first inning where he chased a pitch and popped it to center with two on) and scored Escobar. Then, Billy Butler shot a ball deep into center to score Hosmer from third.

They tacked on two more in the ninth, but they didn’t need them.

I’d still like to see more power, and obviously the pitching will stop being dominant every night out, but the Royals are riding some momentum and they’re executing in key spots. They have to make up some ground after their tumble in May, but most Royals fans should be pleasantly surprised to see this response from the team. What’s the source? Many will credit George Brett’s presence and perhaps that’s part of it. They started to wake up after arriving in St. Louis, a trip they had to make as a team on a bus rather than a plane. Then there’s the Rally Sauce, one of those silly things that the team can use to get behind and stay loose. I don’t know what it is or how long it will last, but it’s a lot more fun to watch than it was for most of last month.

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Tags: Kansas City Royals

  • jimfetterolf

    You mentioned adjustments and I think that is key; pitchers adjusting through the game as they find what works, hitters having better anticipation and seeing the ball better, then just trying to hit what’s there instead of spin out of their socks and hit a five run homer.

    Brett has something to do with the hitters, Hosmer starting to pull or drive the ball to center showing his swing has sped up with cleaner foot work an obvious example. Brett’s assistant, name escapes me, has a lot to do with this as he’s watching the videos and PitchF/x for patterns which allows Brett to make suggestions on adjustments. Team seems to be relaxing and that makes a lot of things easier.

    • Michael Engel

      That Hosmer swing…oh boy…they showed a replay a few times. I went back to look at it. His head didn’t move at all on it. Hands ripped through. He either misses that ball or chunks it off the handle a month ago. I’ve gotten myself encouraged before, though, so…I have to hold the excitement back. For now.

      • jimfetterolf

        You’re a real baseball guy, you had to have seen the awkwardness of the Hosmer feet. That started after ’11 when he went to Miami to work with A-Rod, adopted his leg lift and his timing has been off ever since with his head bobbing and his hands firing too late on the ball. My theory, learned back when Mickey Mantle could still run, is to keep the eyes on a level plane through the stride, eliminates a variable. Another is a soft landing on the lead foot, everything smooth and flowing. If Hoz is picking that up, that’s Brett.

        Consistent with my looking at Royals hitters’ numbers when they were in Wilmington, I think Hosmer will be a star when he internalizes the adjustments and gets smoooooth again. Wilmington suggests Moose won’t be, which may be why Cuthbert was promoted and Dozier drafted. Royals may need to consider a Frawley sized park for AAA and even AA.

        • Michael Engel

          What I’d noticed this spring and in the WBC and even early in the year, when he was hitting it hard – regardless of left, right, center – his front foot was hardly leaving the ground. If it did at all it was by the smallest of margins.

          Though he also had a bigger leg kick and was more open in 2011, or at least he does in some of the highlight clips from then. No matter what he was doing though, it was never consistent. I’m hoping to have more on some of this tomorrow.