Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blue Review: Week Two

Overall Record: 7-5 (2nd in A.L. Central)
Record This Week: 3-3 (2-1 vs. NYY, 1-2 vs. MIN)
Home: 3-3
Away: 0-0
Current Streak: Win 1
Upcoming Games: at SEA (2), at LAA (2), at OAK (3)

Twins Trouble: I doubt there are many Royals fans who would have scoffed at a 7-5 record two weeks into the 2008 season. But there are probably very few, if any, who would have foreseen seven wins in 12 games, but only a mark of 2-4 against the Minnesota Twins. Most people would have looked at the schedule and predicted a tough time against the Tigers and the Yankees, but the Royals are a combined 5-1 against those teams.

Westward Bound: The Royals packed up after their 5-1 win against the Twins on Sunday, and flew to Seattle for the first of a tough seven-game road trip this week. Kansas City opens with two games against the Mariners, then heads to Los Angeles for a pair of games with the Angels, before wrapping up the trip with three games in Oakland. After Sunday's games, the surprising A's lead the A.L. West with a mark of 8-5, followed by the Angels at 7-6, and the Mariners at 6-7.

Home Sweet Home: Alex Gordon must like the new Crown Vision board at Kauffman Stadium, as the second-year third baseman had a productive week at the plate. In six games against the Yankees and Twins, Gordon batted .409/.458/.682 with six runs scored, three doubles, and a home run. For the season, Gordon's totals are .333/.360/.604 with 10 runs scored, seven runs batted in, four doubles, and three home runs.

The Bee Gees: Kansas City has several players whose last names begin with the letter B, and a bunch more whose surname starts with the letter G, who are making important contributions to the 2008 team. The B's include Billy Butler, Brian Bannister, John Buck, and John Bale, while the G's are Alex Gordon, Joey Gathright, Ross Gload, Mark Grudzielanek, Jose Guillen, Zack Greinke, and Jimmy Gobble. Throw in Gil Meche, and that's a lot of B's and G's.

Lights Out: Starting right-handed pitchers Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke have been lights out to begin the season. Bannister is 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA and just 10 hits allowed in 21.0 innings pitched. He has struck out a team-high 13 batters, while walking just five, and recorded the Royals' first complete game of the season in Sunday's 5-1 win against the Twins. Greinke, who will make his third start of the year Monday night in Seattle, is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA, having allowed just 12 hits and one earned run in 15.0 innings.

Butler's Streak: Billy Butler enters this week with a 12-game hitting streak, which is tied for the longest streak in Major League Baseball. Butler is batting .368/.500/.421 with one double, one run scored, and one RBI in Kansas City's six home games, but is even better on the road, with a line of .400/.400/.520, three doubles, three RBI, and one run scored.

Time to Hit, Jose: I'm sure this was not the type of first impression Jose Guillen was hoping to make in his initial games as a member of the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, but Guillen collected just two hits in 25 at bats this week. Just as the Royals were patient with Alex Gordon during his slumping first half last year, the team is continuing to leave Guillen in the lineup despite his horrendous line of .122/.157/.163. Maybe a return to Seattle, Los Angeles, and Oakland this week will wake him from this offensive slumber. Royals fans can only hope.

Three Amigos Still Untouchable: The bullpen trio of Joakim Soria, Leo Nunez, and Ramon Ramirez -- which I have started to refer to as the Three Amigos -- still has a combined 0.00 ERA in 14.1 innings pitched. Soria has four saves, allowing two hits in 5.0 innings, while striking out seven, walking none, and holding opponents to a .125 batting average. Nunez has two holds, allowing just two hits in 5.2 innings for a .111 batting average against, has struck out seven, and walked just two. Ramirez has given up four hits in 3.2 innings, striking out five, and issuing no walks.

Powder Blues Look Good: I'm in agreement with most fans who really love the fact that the Royals brought back the powder blue jerseys, as I think they look great, and they are reminiscent of some of the best times in Kansas City baseball history. I just wish they would have been daring enough to go all the way, and wear powder blue pants, as well. There's something about the white pants with the powder blue top that just doesn't seem quite right. Maybe it's that it sort of looks like a softball jersey to me, but I'm sure I'll get used to it over time. One thing is for certain, though, and that's that I definitely prefer the powder blues to the black mantra that was given a try for a few years. And I love the return of the blue cleats, too. Nice.

Join the Fun, Gil: Royals ace Gil Meche has been struggling to start the 2008 season. Meche enters this week with a record of 0-2 in three starts, with a 7.13 ERA. He's allowed 19 hits and 14 earned runs in 17.2 innings, and leads the team with 16 strikeouts, but has given up 10 walks. Both of Meche's losses came against the Minnesota Twins, in matchups against Twins starter Livan Hernandez. Meche is scheduled to make his fourth start of the season on Wednesday against the Angels.

Tomko Looking Sharp: One of the biggest questions heading into the 2008 season was about who would fill the final two spots in the rotation, and how well they would fare. One of those spots was filled by right-hander Brett Tomko, who has pitched very well in his first appearances in a Royals uniform. Tomko has made two starts, pitching a combined 11 innings and allowing 12 hits and just two earned runs. He took the loss in Saturday's 2-0 setback versus the Twins, despite pitching well enough to win most nights. For the year, the 35-year old righty is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA, six strikeouts, and three walks.

Hillman Among the Best: Trey Hillman's 7-5 record through 12 games ranks third among all-time Royals managers in their first full season on the job. In other words, that's not factoring in the first 12 games of managers who took over mid-season. Only Tony Pena's magical 11-1 start in 2003, and Jack McKeon's 9-3 record to start the 1973 season are better than Hillman's start. Following Hillman, there are a total of eight managers -- Bob Boone (1995), John Wathan (1988), Billy Gardner (1987), Dick Howser (1982), Jim Frey (1980), Bob Lemon (1971), Charlie Metro (1970), and Joe Gordon (1969) -- who were 6-6, while Tony Muser (1988) and Whitey Herzog (1976) were 5-12. Buddy Bell began his first full season (2006) with a record of 2-10, while Hal McRae was 1-11 to start the 1992 season.

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