Just as the offensive freakout has somewhat subsided and they’re no longer on pace to be the most anemic team in baseball history, just as the Royals have won six of their last seven to shed themselves of being baseball’s laughingstock, just as it appears they’re back to doing things “the Royals way,” along comes the mighty New York Yankees.
The Royals, brimming with confidence after a 6-1 week that has improved them to a still-paltry 16-21, never, ever play well against the Yankees. It goes back to those playoff years when all that stood between Kansas City and the World Series was its jelly-legged playoff performances against the Bronx Bombers. Not to mention the day George Brett went all-ballistic in baseball’s greatest rant after his home run was denied for slopping his bat with pine tar, with Billy Martin waiting for just the right moment to spring that surprise.
The Royals certainly have looked like a different team over the last week. Eric Hosmer finally decided to hit the ball where it’s pitched and the result has him over the .300 mark after being in the .180s about 3 weeks ago. He also knows being in a walk year, there’s not many teams that will play $20 million a year for a singles-hitting first baseman.
Lorenzo Cain isn’t hitting for power, but he’s spraying line drives to every part of the park. Salvy Perez still gets himself out more often than not, but has been delivering big hits as teams pitch around Hosmer. And Mike Moustakas has run into a few pitches that he’s hit out of sight as he leads the team in homers.
Even Jorge Soler, whose bat seems to be full of holes, hit a 2-iron of a homer on Sunday that nearly tore through the wall 464 feet away.
Of course, Alex Gordon still looks like the $72 million mistake as he can’t unlock the mystery of why all of a sudden he looks washed up. Brandon Moss hit a couple of bombs last week, but could strike out 200 times. Joakim Soria still has fans holding their collective breaths every time he enters the game in the eighth inning.
So the Royals are back, but not all the way back. They need for Ian Kennedy to return from the DL as Chris Young is throwing little more than batting practice in his stead. Surely somebody down on the farm can go more than the 3 innings that Young has provided in each of his two starts.
This Yankees team that is coming in for three starting tonight has reinvented itself. Gone are Jeter, Posada, The Great Rivera and Pettitte, the core four of some great teams. Here comes The Judge (Aaron Judge, he of the monster homers), Gary Sanchez and Cardinal castoff Matt Holliday, who has been reborn. The Royals, fortunately, won’t have to face closer Aroldis Chapman as he went on the disabled list with a bad shoulder. You had to figure at some point a guy who can throw 105 as consistently and as long as he has had to flame out at some point.
Given the Royals’ still-fragile state, winning one of three would have to be considered a success, two of three monumental and a sweep unfathomable. If they would achieve the latter, then you would have to say the Royals are all the way back.