Call it whatever you want. A clunker, a stinker, putting lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.
By any name, it was a desultory start for the Kansas City Royals in their quest to gain ground on the Detroit Tigers in this all-important four-game series that could greatly shape the rest of the season for the Boys in Blue.
Apparently Royals fans had an inkling of what was going to transpire Thursday night when their team rolled over in an embarrassing 16-4 loss in what was supposed to be a showcase of AL Central contenders. Only 21,000 barely half-filled Kauffman Stadium as Kansas City fans obviously haven’t come down with a case of pennant fever.
Detroit jumped on Jeremy Guthrie’s batting-practice offerings for three runs in the first inning and after battering him into submission, pounded overworked newcomer Scott Downs and meat-throwing Louis Coleman for eight runs in the fifth inning to send the fans streaming to the turnstiles.
This is what the Royals do better than any team in baseball. They ignite the fans’ loyalty with a brief signature moment — Salvador Perez’s homer in the ninth inning thrilled them on Wednesday — then respond with an abysmal effort that has those doubting Thomases standing in line to say, “I told you so.”
The Tigers showed the difference in the professionalism between the teams. They waited out the struggling Guthrie, taxing him to the point of exhaustion after just four innings.
The Royals, on the other hand, go to the plate with absolutely no plan, much like our country’s government. Guys like Perez and Eric Hosmer go up swinging at every pitch, some of which they need a 20-foot pole. Just think what kind of hitters they could be if they could develop some plate discipline. We’d probably be working on their busts for the Hall of Fame. They have that kind of talent, but are like unbroken colts. The Royals are dead last in the American League in walks and their free swinging is one reason they are so wildly erratic. They have scored three runs or less in a staggering 45 games, which is about half the time.
The red flags are starting to become omnipresent. Number two starting pitcher Jason Vargas has been declared out for a minimum of three weeks and his innings-eating and competitiveness will be hard to replace. Gold Glove left fielder Alex Gordon is out until after the All-Star break, but this could be an injury that is being disguised in order to reduce the fans’ panic. The recently signed Raul Ibanez is showing all the signs that led to his dismissal by the California Angels as after an early burst in his first two games, he can’t get the ball out of the infield.
To make matters worse, the Tigers currently are a powder keg. They have scalded the Dodgers and Royals for 30 runs in the last two games. They have owned the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, taking their faces and rubbing them into the dirt. Kansas City hasn’t shown anything against the Tigers at The K that it deserves to even be mentioned in the same breath as a contender. This has been so decidedly lopsided that you’re waiting for the umpires to step in and rule it a no-contest.
The Royals are sending uber-hyper Danny Duffy to the mound tonight and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more of the same. The Tigers have the top-hitting team in the American League and are on a roll. It probably wouldn’t matter if the Royals sent out Clayton Kershaw. They are squaring everything up and even an expansive yard like The K won’t hold them.
Unless “Big Game” James Shields can overcome his home woes on Saturday, the fear here is that Detroit will send the Royals into the All-Star break on a four-game slide and hoping they can somehow squeak into the playoffs as one of the two wild-card teams.