Thursday, April 9, 2009

What a Start for Royals' Pitching

Sure, it's only three games into a 162-game schedule, but what an amazing start to the 2009 season it's been for Kansas City's top three starters -- Gil Meche, Zack Greinke, and Kyle Davies.

Only one of the three -- Greinke -- recorded a win, but the Royals took two out of three games versus the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, and it was primarily due to the work of the Royals' starters. The trio of right-handers combined to pitch 20 innings, allowing just 13 hits and one run (earned), while striking out 21 and walking only five.

Royals fans will not forget Meche's start. He went seven innings, scattering seven hits, and striking out six Chicago batters with no walks. It was a fabulous Opening Day start for Meche, but it will be remembered for the wrong reason, as manager Trey Hillman decided to pitch Kyle Farnsworth with Kansas City holding a 2-1 lead in the eighth. Farnsworth, of course, got two outs before making the mistake of leaving a fastball up in the zone to Jim Thome, who blasted a three-run homer to center to help the White Sox win, 4-2.

Then came Greinke, who allowed the Royals to avoid an 0-2 start by going six innings and holding the White Sox to three hits and no runs, while striking out seven during an eventual 2-0 win in the middle game of the series.

In the rubber game of the series, Kansas City fans saw what they hope to see on a consistent basis this season -- a very effective #3 starter in Kyle Davies. The 25-year old baffled White Sox hitters for seven innings by surrendering just three hits, striking out eight, and walking just two in a no decision. He departed with the game tied, 0-0, and newly-acquired centerfielder Coco Crisp delivered the win to reliever Ron Mahay by hitting a two-run homer to right in the top of the ninth inning. The Royals wound up winning, 2-1.

It's not too often that a team can score a total of six runs in a three-game series, yet come away with two wins. If not for Farnsworth's (or Hillman's) gaffe, the Royals would have won three games with only that much run support. That is promising, to say the least, and I haven't even mentioned the two perfect innings that Juan Cruz threw in support of Greinke, or Ron Mahay's scoreless eighth frame today, or the back-to-back saves that Joakim Soria recorded.

I wrote earlier this spring about the importance of Kyle Davies this season. Meche and Greinke are known commodities. The two of them make up what many people feel are one of the top 1-2 combinations in the American League. But, if Davies can consistently put together solid outings like he did this afternoon, Kansas City will remain right in the thick of the race for the A.L. Central crown.

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