The Royals’ 5-15 start to the baseball season has been as cold as the weather they have played in.
But there may be sunnier days ahead.
First off, they finally showed some signs of life over the weekend by splitting a four-game road series with Detroit.
Secondly, they’re starting to show some pop at the plate. Kansas City, playing a rare game in sunny conditions, drove three balls out of Detroit’s spacious Comerica Park on Sunday, including the three-run game-winner by Mike Moustakas.
Finally, the Royals are expected to welcome back All-Star catcher Salvador Perez sometime this week, maybe as early as Tuesday as one report suggests.
Losing Perez a day before the start of the season due to a freak injury was a blow to the Royals’ solar plexus. With Eric Hosmer having taken the money and run, the affable Perez is now the face of the franchise.
Not only is he a skilled catcher who could have settled down the emotionally brittle pitching staff, he would be providing a complement and protection for Moustakas.
You have to give it to Moustakas and you see why he’s a pro’s pro. He could have skulked about the fact his first base bookend Hosmer is no longer around and that the market turned cold as he tested the free-agent waters. Here he was coming off a 38-homer season and it was like he had the plague. He returned to Kansas City on a one-year deal determined to show the baseball world it made a grave mistake.
Moustakas has played in all 20 games and has 17 RBIs, a sizzling pace. After a slow start in the homer department, he is now up to six and also has five doubles.
The rest of the offense, though, is struggling. Jorge Soler, who can hit the ball a gazillion miles, has a weak two RBIs in 16 games and has only five-extra base hits as he’s making the Wade Davis deal look terribly lopsided. Whit Merrifield is starting to hit, but it’s astounding that his .266 average is third-best on the team. The Royals are hitting .239 and have scored 68 runs, far below four a game, which has been their benchmark to win in recent years.
Maybe Perez’s return will be the elixir. His enthusiasm is contagious and this is a Royals team that seems to be rather passive.
There were some encouraging signs with the pitching over the weekend. The doubleheader on Friday produced fabulous efforts by Jason Hammel and Jakob Junis as Hammel went nine innings before the bullpen blew it in the 10th and Junis continued his All-Star start with eight solid innings. Junis is 3-1 while the rest of the Royals are 2-14.
The Royals are doing a good job of keeping teams in the park as they have allowed only 24 homers in 20 games, but the weather has had something to do with it. The big concern is alleged ace Danny Duffy, who is scuffling as he’s without a win in five starts and has a 5.25 ERA. But he has 25 strikeouts in 25 innings, so it shows his stuff is pretty good at times. Duffy has always been an enigma, though, as he just seems to lose it all at once.
Royals fans should take note that Cleveland is the only team over .500 in the AL Central and it’s actually just 11-8 as it also is struggling at the plate. This may be baseball’s weakest division, so Royals fans need to hang in and hope the team starts to string some wins together.