Saturday, April 11, 2009

Latest KC Giveaway: 1st Two Home Games

Patience. I keep trying to remind myself that it's crazy to get bent out of shape for losing the first two home games of the season. After all, the old cliche -- that this is a marathon, and not a sprint -- is so true in baseball. It's a long season, and there are still 157 regular season games left.

So it seems a little ridiculous for me to get mad about a pair of losses to the New York Yankees, but I'm simmering.

Like many Royals fans, I'm mad because Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez started the first two games at the beautifully-renovated Kauffman Stadium. In my mind, that was like handing New York the first two games on a platter. Would Luke Hochevar and Brian Bannister have done better? We can only guess at what might have happened, but it probably wouldn't have been any worse.

Hochevar seemed primed for his second season with the team, and he pitched well in Spring Training, with a 1-0 record and a 3.86 ERA in 16.1 innings. The former first overall pick of the Royals should be in the rotation this season.

Bannister did not pitch well in Spring Training, and was coming off a rough 2008 season. It's understandable that he's starting the season in Omaha, but it makes Kansas City fans roll their eyes when they see Horacio Ramirez get rocked for six runs in less than five innings, and then think back to the Bannister we all grew to appreciate in 2007.

I understand the reason Ponson started the home opener. He had a clause in the Minor League contract he signed that gave him an out with the Royals if he didn't make Kansas City's roster by May 1. That clause is no longer a factor, so I say give him one more start at the Major League level, and if he doesn't pitch well enough for the Royals to win, he should be sent to Omaha. By doing that, Ponson could get some regular starts, work out his kinks, and prove whether or not he deserves another chance.

And I didn't think the team's offense would be something that I'd be mad about at this point, but it's been non-existent. Sure, the team has faced some of the better starters in the American League in the five games to date, but I didn't envision the possibility of scoring just eight runs through five games. That's dismal, and I hope Kevin Seitzer can get some of these guys turned around in a hurry.

Kansas City has three solid starters at the top of its rotation, and hopefully Gil Meche can put a stop to this short two-game tailspin tomorrow afternoon. I'm tired of simmering inside.

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.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Meche Pitches Gem...Farnsworth Blows It

Opening Day, Take Two, after Monday's snowy postponement. Gil Meche is on the hill for the Kansas City Royals, and he has his "A" game with him today. He looks like he's in midseason form, going seven strong innings, scattering seven hits (six of which were singles), striking out six, and walking none. You honestly cannot ask for much better of a season-opening performance from a starting pitcher than what Meche gave the Royals on Tuesday against the White Sox. Meche departed after the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead, ready to hand it off to what many consider one of the best bullpens in the American League Central.

In comes Kyle Farnsworth, who signed as a free agent for $9 million during the offseason. Nasty fastball. Biting slider, but he has the tendency to leave it hanging sometimes. A tough pitcher to bunt against, but Chicago's Josh Fields manages to surprise everyone by squaring up and dropping a perfect bunt down the third baseline to open the White Sox's eighth frame. Dewayne Wise attempts to move Fields up with a bunt, but can't get it done before flying out to center. But Chris Getz comes up with a bloop single to right to move Fields to third.

Farnsworth looks solid in striking out Carlos Quentin, but manager Trey Hillman makes the mistake of leaving him in the game to face Jim Thome, who blasts a three-run home run to center field, and the Sox hold the Royals scoreless in the ninth to win the game, 4-2.

I'm pissed that Meche didn't get a win for such an outstanding 2009 debut on the mound, and I'm mystified why Trey Hillman didn't bring in Ron Mahay to set up a lefty-lefty matchup against Thome. But there were lots of positives in the game, too. Like Alex Gordon's 418-foot blast to straightaway center to put the Royals on the board early. And the fact that the team seemed to be better at working the counts. But the Royals are 0-1, when they should be 1-0, and Trey Hillman and Kyle Farnsworth have already used their one mulligan, in my book.
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