Thursday, April 3, 2008

One Hurdle Cleared, and On to the Next

Okay, the Royals have cleared the first hurdle of the 2008 season, opening eyes all over the country by going to Detroit and completely dousing what most probably figured would be the first of many fireworks displays by the Tigers' new star-studded $138 million lineup.

In three games in Detroit, Kansas City's pitching sizzled, while the Tigers' offense fizzled. And now, the Royals head off to Minnesota to face the Twins this weekend as the lone undefeated team in Major League Baseball. Am I dreaming? Please, someone pinch me.

Yes, I realize that it's just three games into a grueling 162-game regular season. And, yes, I realize that Detroit played its first three games without speedy center fielder Curtis Granderson. Even today, the Tigers' newest megastar, third baseman Miguel Cabrera, was a late scratch from the lineup due to a sore quadriceps.

But whatever. As my old high school buddies would say, "Excuses are like asses. Everyone has one, and they all stink."

The Royals were without starting center fielder and leadoff man David DeJesus for the vast majority of this series, too, as well as having to play all three games with just 24 players due to the four-game suspension of catcher Miguel Olivo to begin the season.

So, I'm finding that it's really difficult to curb my enthusiasm, when I feel like bragging about my Boys in Blue to every person I see. The only thing that's kept me from going overboard and calling my brothers to rub it in about KC's great start is that I'm awfully superstitious, and I don't want to jinx the team. So, I'm enjoying it, and keeping it in perspective, as again, it's only three games.

But it's not often that I get to hear more than a very brief comment about the Royals on ESPN's Baseball Tonight. Last night, though, Peter Gammons was raving about Brian Bannister and Billy Butler and KC for several minutes! It's amazing what a few wins against one of the favorites to reach the World Series will do. I can't wait to watch ESPN again tonight.

Nevertheless, all of this excitement about a great start to the season will be diminished if the Royals arrive at the Metrodome this weekend and leave with a series loss.

I'm anxious to see how the back end of Kansas City's rotation will fare -- Royals' ace Gil Meche is slated to pitch Saturday, but lefty John Bale will be on the mound for Friday's game, and right-hander Brett Tomko will work on Sunday. I'm also curious to see whether new manager Trey Hillman seems to have the ability to keep the team focused when it's on the road, and playing well after such an emotional high in the Motor City.

The Twins (1-3) are coming off a four-game home series versus ex-teammate Torii Hunter and the Los Angeles Angels. Minnesota played well in three of the games, winning the season-opener by a score of 3-2, before losing by scores of 9-1, 1-0, and 5-4.

Minnesota is a team the Royals should be able to be very competitive with, and I'm hoping to see Kansas City win this series, especially since I'll be at Sunday's game -- Section 228, Row 1, Seats 9-10 -- with my brother, Evan, a Twins fan.

It would be amazing for the Royals to return to Kansas City for the home-opener against the Yankees with a record of 6-0 or 5-1 on the season-opening road trip. But it would be equally disappointing to lose two of three to the Twins, and lose the momentum that was gained with the impressive wins in Detroit.

My brand-new Royals shirt and hat are ready to go. I'll be wearing them during all three games this weekend -- watching the first two on television, and then screaming my lungs out at the final game of the series at the Dome. I'm hoping this successful start continues, so please, Royals, don't let me down.

Trey Hillman Photo Credit: Robin Buckson/Detroit News

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