Royals finally becoming relevant

By Steve Sell
June 17, 2014

Tuesday’s tidbits...

• ROYALS ON FIRE — I never thought I’d see the day this season that the Kansas City Royals would have an eight-game winning streak.

I knew all along the pitching was there. But the hitting for two months was so weak and so inept, I didn’t see any way they could reel off eight wins in a row. Three or four yes, but eight — no way.

After Monday’s deceiving 11-8 mauling of division rival and leader Detroit — it was only close because reliever Donnie Joseph melted down in the ninth by giving up six runs — the Royals are now just a half-game behind the Tigers. A victory tonight against reigning Cy Young holder Max Scherzer would put KC in, gulp, first place.

It’s ironic that the Royals have taken off since canning Pedro Grifol as hitting coach and turning to former third base coach Dale Sveum. Is Sveum really the savior or is it a matter of the Royals just hitting their stride?

Probably a little bit of both. You knew that Billy Butler couldn’t continue to swing with the bat speed of a 38-year-old. You knew that Eric Hosmer wouldn’t sit on one h0me run all season, that he’d start to go yard. You knew that Mike Moustakas would start to get more than one hit a week.

That’s what track records mean. Hitters of this ilk simply don’t forget how to play the game. In Butler’s case, the long ball is still missing, but at least he’s driving the ball and it’s driving up his average. 

The Royals are starting to homer with a little more frequency, but they’re never going to be fence-busters. But the importance of the three-run homer was made evident last night when Omar Infante took former Detroit ace and the now-struggling Justin Verlander out of the park to mushroom a 4-2 lead into a 7-2 cushion, which eventually became 11-2.

The Royals have three more games with the Tigers and I still believe if they can just get out of Motown with a split they will be fine. Once they’re done with the Tigers, it’s home for nine and the Royals have been playing much better at home recently. It’s three with the Mariners, three with the Dodgers and three with the Angels, all teams with similar records as the Royals — though the Angels and Dodgers are definitely underachieving.

• CARDINALS ALSO LIGHTING IT UP — My favorite team, St. Louis, is nearly as hot as the Royals.

St. Louis has won seven of its last eight and is finally playing like the team that has been a staple in the National League playoffs in recent years.

The Cardinals have moved to 38-32 after meandering around the .500 mark for the first two months.

St. Louis has perhaps the deepest pitching of any team in baseball. They have so many quality starters that potential superstar Carlos Martinez is having to work out of the bullpen. That pitching depth could be tested soon with the uncertainty of ace Adam Wainwright’s elbow, but if any team can overcome its No. 1 not being available for a while it’s the Cardinals.

St. Louis’ struggles mirrored the Royals’. Its hitters with great track records simply were not delivering, but now they’re starting to get hot. The Cardinals are in a stretch of their schedule where they can really fatten up as they continue to chase down the overachieving Brewers, who are showing no signs at this point of going away.

• WORLD CUP SOCCER — I have to admit it. I just can’t get revved up about World Cup soccer like other people.

Around the office this morning, I heard a few people talking about it. From what I gather, I guess the United States’ 2-1 victory over Ghana on Monday was a big deal. I guess we’re supposed to be dancing in the streets like it’s Mardi Gras.

I apologize for my soccer ineptitude. I’m the first to admit I’m a rank amateur, a novice about this. I don’t know any of the players, nor do I really care to.

Yet, I was intrigued when the women won the World Cup in 1999. I knew Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and the like. Those games actually caught my interest.

But for the men there are all these different groups and I know nothing about how all of this works. If I had to take a test on the World Cup, I’d flunk with flying colors.

Maybe it’s the fact that in soccer there’s generally not a lot of scoring, though from reports I have gathered, this year’s World Cup so far is experiencing a goal-fest. As I looked through the results today, there’s even been a team score five goals in a game. And why isn’t it zero-zero, but nil-nil? 

Guess if I’m a true sports editor, I had better start brushing up.