Royals Rewind: 6/7-6/13


So first off, the structure and pattern of the Rewind is going to be changing.  To be honest, it’s a little bit of a grind deciphering my notes from games and plugging them into a large post.  So moving forward (god I hate that phrase — too much time in the corporate retail world makes it grate on me), I’ll be posting the typical game recaps you’re accustomed to after each game with a sprinkling of stat-geek-ness.  The actual “Rewind” will still come on Sunday/Monday to hit the trends and follow up on prior observations and also take a look at the week’s numbers.  More or less, it’s going to be the same stuff, but in different serving sizes.

Now, on with the show: the Royals returned to Minnesota’s Target Field this week, then traveled to the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati to restart interleague play.

6/8Zack Greinke vs. Kevin Slowey

Greinke was shaky early, throwing 31 pitches in the first inning while giving up three runs.  He surrendered four hits and gave up a walk in a very un-Zack-like inning, but did settle down for the middle innings of his outing.  His fastball sat around 92-93mph but pitch counts and ineffectiveness (by Greinke’s standards) chased him from the game after only 5 innings.

Slowey had no such difficulties, retiring the first 13 Royals to come up before Jose Guillen with one out in the fifth inning.  The Royals didn’t score until the eighth inning, plating one run on a pair of singles and a sac fly.  They chipped in two more in the top of the ninth, but it was too little too late.  Also, for the fourth straight time, the Royals failed to score a run during the innings when Greinke was pitching.

6/9: Kyle Davies vs. Carl Pavano

On April 18, the Royals roughed up Pavano to the tune of 7 runs and 11 hits over 3.1 innings.  Though in his next start five days later, he held the Royals to 2 runs over 7 innings.  So, harnessing the power of the ‘stache, he also dominated the Royals this time out, giving up only 2 runs over 8 innings.

The Royals helped him out early, seeing only 11 pitches for the first five outs.

Kyle Davies wasn’t as bad as he could have been – that’s about as positive as one could be about his outing.  He gave up five walks and only struck out one while giving up five runs (four earned) over 6.2 innings.  The Royals, though, botched a couple of double plays that kept innings alive.  The Twins scoring pattern was odd, as they scored one run only in six separate innings.  It was a very Twins-esque game, as they took advantage of the opportunities in front of them.

6/10: Bruce Chen vs. Scott Baker

Wilson Betemit got the start over Billy Butler, who’d been mired in a bit of a slump and came through with two solo homers, including what turned out to be the final margin of victory. Mitch Maier hit his second homer of the year and also turned in a nice double play from the outfield, chasing down a Joe Mauer drive at the track and catching Denard Span at second after he’d already gone to third without tagging up.

Bruce Chen wasn’t rock solid but was effective, striking out 7 over 6.1 innings.  He left the game with the score 8-3 but had two runners on with one out in the seventh when Robinson Tejeda replaced him.  Tejeda, who’d been electric lately, allowed both inherited runners to score, as well as one of his own.  Blake Wood held down the eighth inning preserving the 8-6 lead, but Joakim Soria ran into some trouble, giving up two runs.  Were it not for the second of Wilson Betemit‘s two solo homers, the Twins aggression would have tied it up.

Soria seems to be playing a little bit of a cat and mouse game against advance scouting.  The Twins noted his frequency of first-pitch strikes and attacked, with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau jumping on the first pitch to produce two runs.  Michael Cuddyer also offered at the first pitch, but lined out to David DeJesus to end the game.  Based on mere observation, but no numbers, I think that Soria has gotten less swings on his curveball too, as teams may be trying to “spit on it” like they were doing early in the year on Zack Greinke‘s slider.  Gonna have to check into that one.

6/11: Luke Hochevar vs. Bronson Arroyo

The Royals made their first trip to a National League park, taking on Cincinnati to open up the second round of interleague play.  With no DH, Jose Guillen was in right field and David DeJesus got the start in center field.

After some small ball produced a run for the Reds, DeJesus was tested in his return to center when Jay Bruce drove a ball deep to left center.  It looked like DeJesus may have had a play on the ball, but it went from the shadows into sunlight, and perhaps DeJesus’s time on the corners made him rusty on taking angles at his old spot.

Facing a 4-0 deficit, the Royals started a comeback in the top of the fifth, turning Jose Guillen and Alberto Callaspo singles and a Yuniesky Betancourt double into a run.  Chris Getz followed with a chopper that got Callaspo out at home, but he caught himself in a rundown long enough to get Getz to second.  After that, Ned Yost made an interesting decision, pulling Luke Hochevar to get Wilson Betemit to the plate, who walked.  With the bases loaded Scott Podsednik singled in Betancourt and Jason Kendall beat out the throw to first on a double play attempt which allowed Getz to score.  It seemed that Yost’s decision worked out, as the Royals got back into the game.

When Betancourt hit a two run homer in the sixth, the decision looked even better.

The Royals ran into some trouble in the bottom of the eighth, when Blake Wood gave up a single, a walk and another single before recording an out.  With the bases loaded and nobody out, he induced a foul popout on a nice play by Kendall, but gave up the tying run on a sacrifice fly.  He limited the damage to just the one run, though.  Neither team scored in the ninth and it went into extras.

It got interesting in the bottom of the tenth when two scratch hits off Victor Marte put the winning run on second in the person of Scott Rolen.  Both hits came on normally untouchable locations, but that’s baseball.  Marte danced around the baserunners though, getting Jay Bruce to foul out to Betancourt before freezing Drew Stubbs with a fastball on the corner for strike three.  A groundout later and the Royals were still alive.

After a pair of walks with one out by Billy Butler and Brayan Pena, Betancourt again came through, dropping a single into center field that was hit just soft enough for Butler to score (while Pena got hung up between second and third base).  It was pretty decent baserunning by Pena to force Owings to cut off the throw to the plate.  At that point, the Reds were trying to get easy outs, and Butler was likely to score anyway, but Owings cutting off the throw home and going to third for the final out of the inning ensured the Royals would get the lead.

Joakim Soria came in and gave up a single, got a free out on a sac bunt, then gave up another single.  With the tying run on third and the winning run on first, he worked out of it, saving the game with a foulout and lineout.

It’s a good thing too, since Soria was the last pitcher in the bullpen.  While the decision to pull Hochevar after only 68 pitches looked okay after Betancourt’s go-ahead homer, it looked shaky at the end.  Mike Aviles was the only player left on the bench, so if Soria wasn’t going to be able to go any further, Aviles would have been put in the field and a position player would have had to pitch.

All told, it was an entertaining game, and one that exhibited the full National League game.  Switches, pinch-hitters, double switches, bunts, strategy, decision-making — all on display in this one.  While I can’t be fully converted away from the DH, I do admit it’s a more pure version of the game.  Our own Tom Barkwell would, of course, disagree and I do see his view.  I don’t think any change is going to come, so it turns into a matter of preference, and I was raised on the Royals and the DH.  There’s nothing like a good pitchers duel with these types of maneuvers, though.  It’s baseball.

6/12: Brian Bannister vs. Johnny Cueto
This one got a little silly. I admit I didn’t see the game and am glad I didn’t. After giving up four runs in the bottom of the first, the Royals stormed back with five runs of their own in the top of the second, but that was all they scored.

Bannister, however, kept getting battered, eventually giving up 11 runs over just three innings. Ouch. Johnny Gomes was the biggest culprit, returning to his inexplicable role of Royals killer, hitting two three-run homers. Kanekoa Texeira and Dusty Hughes went the remaining five innings, giving up a mere two hits the rest of the way.

Bannister did at least help his own cause, driving in a run on a double to center.

6/13: Zack Greinke vs. Sam LeCure
For a second, this looked like more struggles from Greinke, as Orlando Cabrera led off with a single, stole second, and advanced to third on Jason Kendall‘s throwing error. After he scored on a groundout, Joey Votto hit a solo homer, putting the Royals behind 2-1 right away after one inning.

After that, though, Greinke took over.

While his start on May 2nd vs. Tampa was masterful, his start on Sunday was thoroughly dominant, as he struck out 12 over nine innings and gave up no walks. He gave up another homer to Joey Votto, sure, but in an afternoon game in Cincinnati, that’s not uncommon for anybody. Ned Yost credited the renewed sharpness to Bob McClure working with Greinke on his delivery, making a tweak that got his arm more in rhythm with his body. His slider was wicked and looked like the ’09 version.

Also a nice nugget from this one, Billy Butler hit his sixth homer while going 4-5. After a 3-5 the day before, it seems he’s managed to work out of his slump of the past two weeks. David DeJesus reached base five times, going 3-3 with two walks and scoring four times, adding his fifth homer. I guess we can take that “DeJesus is only comfortable in the leadoff spot” meme off the board. He’s raking to the tune of .385/.463/.510/.973 in 120 plate appearances in the #3 slot in the order.

The Numbers
The Royals hit 6 homers while scoring 32 runs over six games. Not too bad, though they could walk more (can’t we always say that?)

Team ERA: 6.28
Starters ERA: 8.20 – to quote E.T. “Owwwwchhhh”
Bullpen ERA: 2.84 – after the April of this year, that’s still bizarre to look at as the bullpen settles in
The Royals gave up 9 homers. That stings.

Jose Guillen: 10-25, 5 RBI
David DeJesus: 8-21, 5 RBI
Billy Butler: 8-21, 5 RBI
Wilson Betemit: 4-8, 2 HR, 2 doubles
Mitch Maier: 5-15

Jason Kendall: 1-25, yuck
Chris Getz: 1-12
Alberto Callaspo: 3-21
Scott Podsednik: 5-26

The Verdict
Well, taking a series against the NL Central leaders in their ballpark is alright. The trip to Target Field wasn’t all that great, but the Royals salvaged a win at least. A 3-3 record against that competition isn’t anything to sneeze at.

The offense keeps hitting, and dare I say it, but Yuniesky Betancourt has yet to drop off like I’ve expected him to. Meanwhile Jason Kendall is starting to show his age, and really shouldn’t be hitting in the second spot in the order. That would have been true before the 1-25 stretch he’s on. Consider it a correction from his early hot streak.

Bannister got shelled, but considering his type of stuff, that’ll happen to him. If his control’s off at all or he misses his spots, he can get hit hard. Bruce Chen has been at least solid, and even a bit more effective than Gil Meche. He’s filling in nicely while Meche gets his shoulder back in shape (if it’s possible at this juncture).

With David DeJesus‘s trek towards a career year, he may be coming up in trade rumors in the next couple weeks as contenders look for a solid defender who makes good contact and does have a knack for hitting with runners in scoring position. I do think there’s a certain point where Kyle Farnsworth and/or Jose Guillen get shipped off for spare parts or darn near anything. I’d be for it, as I’m starting to get antsy to see what the minor leaguers can do.

Until then, hey, Greinke’s back!

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