Apr 30, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) is congratulated by center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) after Moustakas hit a two run home run in the sixth inning of the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
The month of May will be the ultimate test for the new and improved Kansas City Royals. Beginning with the current series versus the Tampa Rays (which started on April 30), the Royals schedule is stacked with what appears to be one challenge after the next with the exception of a brief respite (knock on wood) when the team visits the Houston Astros for a three game set.
After Tampa leaves town the Royals will face: the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland A’s, Houston Astros, the Angels (again), St. Louis Cardinals, and then wind up the month (and carry into June) against the Texas Rangers.
After game two versus Tampa (which is underway as I type this up), the Royals with either be 3 or 5 games above .500 for the season…the question on my mind is this: will they be above .500 on June 1?
The good news is that a couple of these teams are struggling. We already mentioned the lowly Astros. As of this writing, the Angels are just 10-17. The Royals play a combined 10 games against these two opponents, which should help. But…the Angels will have to get hot at some point, won’t they? And the White Sox (this weekend’s opponent) have a losing record – but they are always a thorn in this team’s side.
The Yankees seem beatable with a loaded disabled list. They still sit at 16-10, but the Yankee mystique seems to be lacking this year, and the Royals get them at Kansas City this time around.
The Orioles, Cardinals, and A’s seem like they could be trouble, though. And of course the Rangers are always tough to beat.
It won’t be easy (obviously). The Royals offense has been lacking. For all the talk of a need for pitching last winter, we all just assumed the offense (which was also bad) would get better. That Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer would figure it out and round out the lineup with some power. So far…not so much. Although Moose FINALLY had a big game, which included his first 2013 home run, in game 1 versus Tampa.
Apr 30, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields (33) delivers a pitch in the first inning of the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
With the upcoming schedule, the Royals are going to have to show more balance than we’ve seen thus far. The starting pitching can’t be leaned on as a crutch every night. The offense has to get more consistent. We are seeing signs that it could happen, but it’s got to happen pretty much every time out there in May. The starting pitching (at least those front three) has to keep it up. We haven’t seen much of Mendoza (though he hasn’t been overly impressive) and Wade Davis is a mixed bag. The rotation is much improved, though, no doubt. With James Shields, Ervin Santana, and Jeremy Guthrie in the rotation, the Royals should avoid any prolonged losing streak.
The fire this team has (which took center stage in Tuesday’s rally against the Rays) is the wild card in all of this, in my opinion. We don’t need every guy to go out and play or pitch a perfect game. We just need a team that refuses to quit. That’s what James Shields brings to the table. Well…that and phenomenal pitching. Shields has instilled a fiery, never say die attitude in this clubhouse. And it might be just enough to carry this team through when slumps strike or (god forbid) injuries hit.
So…where will this team be on June 1? It’s hard to say, but I know this much…it’s going to be a hell of a fun ride. And for the record (you didn’t think I’d cop out on a prediction, did you?), I think when May comes to an end the Kansas City Royals will have a 28-25 record and be very much in the thick of things. Who knows…maybe when they make a trade this year, the team will be helping itself for a change, rather than sending key pieces to playoff contenders. Wouldn’t that be a nice change of pace?