Loyal Royals fans are going to find out a lot about their Kansas City baseball heroes this week.
Into town for three-game sets are AL Central Division rival Detroit and Baltimore, possessors of the best record in the American League.
This is the Royals’ second homestand of the season, the first resulting in a 4-1 record against the New York Mets and the then-hapless Minnesota Twins, who have followed up their wretched 0-9 start with four straight wins.
The Royals are 8-4, a half-game up on Detroit and Cleveland, but it doesn’t FEEL like they’re playing .667 baseball. They have scored three runs or less in nearly half of their games.
The pitchers generally are ahead of the hitters at this time of the year and that’s certainly the case for the Royals. Paulo Orlando is the third-leading hitter on the team and he’s only at .261. There were concerns about the team’s power, but they have hit 10 homers in 12 games, four of them by Mike Moustakas, which accounts for 40 percent of his hits.
The Royals also seem to be striking out more than they have in the past. Alex Gordon is on a pace for about 180 and he has only two extra-base hits as he’s in his usual April swoon. Most of the Royals are under .250 but with their track records, a lot of these guys probably will pick it up soon.
Royals pitching, on the other hand, has been very good. Only Joakim Soria and Chris Young have ERAs over 4.00, which has become the median line for a staff. Ian Kennedy, Edinson Volquez and Kris Medlen have all been solid and Yordano Ventura has no decisions in his two starts despite a 2.45 ERA. Even the always-maddening Danny Duffy has an ERA of 2.84, with a 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walk ratio.
Detroit, which I picked to win the AL Central, has been bludgeoning the ball, led by J.D. Martinez at .372. Four starters are hitting better than .300 and none of them are named Royals killer Miguel Cabrera. Just think what the Tigers’ offense will look like when he gets going. The Detroit pitching has paled compared to the Royals, but if you’re putting up five and six runs every night you don’t need that much of a shutdown game.
Baltimore then comes to town. After starting 7-0, the Orioles have lost three of four. Former Baltimore manager Earl Weaver would love this team as it waits for the three-run homer. They have more than doubled the Royals in homers (23-10) and they have nearly as many homers as doubles (24).
Baltimore also doesn’t have the pitching of the Royals. So this week it’s going to come down to this — does good pitching stop good hitting?