Now that the Kansas City Royals are in the midst of their first losing streak of the year — four games after they were the last team in baseball to lose three in a row – those “we told you they were a flash in the pan” naysayers have been coming out.
Nobody expected the Royals to continue to play at a 2-out-of-3 clip as they did for the first quarter of the season — 28-14 through 42 games — but at the same time given the injuries they’ve endured and a June schedule that has them on the road for 16 of their final 21 games of the month, the Royals have to be careful of a serious backslide.
What’s happened is those glut of .300 hitters through the first six weeks of the season are now cucumber-cool at the same time. Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar are now fighting it, while Kendrys Morales, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez are trying to keep the Royals afloat. Hopefully when Alex Rios returns next week, he’ll pick up where he left off in April before breaking a hand as that would be another potent bat in place of Paulo Orlando.
The Royals have pecked out just five runs in their last four games heading into a weekend series at Wrigley Field. The power has dried up and that “frenzied hitting” that Rex Hudler always alludes to has gone on the fritz.
The Royals don’t have enough quality starting pitching to overcome a starving offense. Newcomers Edinson Volquez and Chris Young have been the constants and while Volquez probably will hold up, Young’s track record suggests his lights-out pitching phase will dim. He’s normally about a .500 pitcher that the Royals are squeezing out every little bit they can.
The biggest problem is the uneasy feeling Royals fans get about Jeremy Guthrie and Danny Duffy. Guthrie pitched one of the worst games in MLB history against the Yankees as his meat ended up in the Yankee Stadium stands four times, 11 runs in one inning of work. You worry that this could become a pattern as he leaves way too many pitches over the plate.
Duffy, who will come off the DL soon, is an enigma. He has the big arm, but mentally something just doesn’t click for him. I’m sure Royals fielders cringe when he’s on the mound since he has very few quick innings and labors just to get through five.
From all indications, the Royals don’t have much margin for error. Minnesota is now tied with the Royals for first and while the Twins are a cute story for now, look for them to fall back. Detroit is still the team to beat, while Cleveland is starting to get white-hot and I look for it to be a serious contender. And don’t forget Chicago, which is still in the picture despite not playing anywhere near its considerable potential.
There was a lot of talk about Kansas City being the best team in baseball until they were run over by the Yankees in embarrassing fashion. For the talk to subside, it needs to win two games this weekend to restore its confidence. After this weekend, Cleveland and Texas come to The K and they’re the hottest teams going in the American League in the last 10 days.
Warning. Danger zone for the Royals.