Royals Momentum Swings Back Up Before All Star Break

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Anybody who believes that there is no such thing as momentum in sports obviously has not seen these Kansas City Royals.

Whether it’s turning the momentum created by entering October baseball, for the first time in 29 years, into a remarkable post-season run straight to the Fall Classic. Whether it is riding the momentum from a World Series into an incredible 7-0 start to the season after most critics picked them to finish at the bottom of their division. Whether by turning the momentum of killing off years and years of disappointment, into a feisty “chip on our shoulders” attitude intent on letting everybody know they are no mere fluke while backing it up with results on the field.

You could easily find more examples with this team, but the point is a large part of the Royals recent success is due to their rare ability to turn this short lived momentum into long lasting confidence, in each other, and individually. This previous week was no different. The first four games of the week pitted the reeling Tampa Bay Rays against the Kansas City Royals who owned the best record in the American League was no different.

Despite holding the best record in the American League the Royals entered this week in somewhat of a slump after being swept by the Astros in 3 games and scratching and clawing their way to only split a series with the Twins. The question going into this series was how would this team respond; would they turn a corner, or would they just continue to stumble into the All-Star break? Thankfully it was the latter, after Mondays game was moved to Tuesday due to tornado warnings and downright ridiculous amounts of rain the Royals hit the ground running.

The first game of the double header answered all questions as to how would they respond after their disappointing stretch, the Royals came out firing on all cylinders. The Royals would clearly capture all the momentum of the series after a great start sweeping the double header with Alex Gordon getting 7 hits with a HR and 6 RBIs on the day, Cheslor Cuthbert getting his first Major League hit, and a Paulo Orlando walk off grand slam!- -yes you read that right.  

After the thrill of Paulo’s walk off grand slam in game one you would expect the energy from that fantastic finish to linger into the night cap, but for the majority of the game it didn’t. The second game was a pitching duel, with a lot of frustrating at bats and failing to capitalize by leaving numerous runners on base. Fortunately, this all changed going into the sixth inning of the 1-1 ballgame, the Royals offense finally broke loose fueled by Escobar’s 11 pitch at bat turning into a bases clearing 3 run double down the left field line. Which was followed by the man of the night Alex Gordon batting home Escobar from second.

Gordon would even double home 2 MORE runs in the eighth capping off his incredible 7 hit night! The Royals in game two were able to overcome the slow start and find a way to win as they are so keen to doing winning with 7-1 the final score.  After steamrolling their way through the double header the Royals prepared for their first meeting against rookie ace and potential All-Star Game starter Chris Archer in game three.

The game started simple enough with Jeremy Guthrie giving up 1 run, which was answered by none other than All-Star centerfielder Lorenzo Cain with a 412 ft 2 run blast to deep center, in his first game back from nursing a hamstring injury in games one and two. Then just when it seemed all was going right for the Royals and nothing could stop them the unthinkable happened.

The heart and soul of this team, one of the toughest hardest working men to ever wear that powder blue jersey, came crashing down after hitting the wall trying make a play ,that he makes night in and night out, this time laying on the turf holding his leg instead of a baseball. We have received word since then that unfortunately this injury, more specifically a groin strain, is as bad as all of Royals nation had feared after watching that play, and he will likely miss up to 8 weeks. Meanwhile the batter Forsyth did not hold at third and finished his base running at the plate scoring the easiest home run he’ll ever score; rightly the Tampa Bay bench did not celebrate, so kudos to them.

The moment Gordon fell onto the turf and eventually was carted off the field all momentum the Royals had vanished into the tension filled air, the life of the crowd at the K was tangibly sucked out of the stadium in that instant, as announcer Steve Physioc said on the call ‘”You could hear a pin drop on cotton.” Just when it seemed like nothing could stop the Royals, in one inning they lost the lead, and their Gold Glove left fielder.

Guthrie struggled on the mound after that failing to find any sort of command quickly loading the bases, with no outs giving up one 1 run. Guthrie still pitching, with the bases juiced, pitched to the red hot hitter John Jaso who popped a routine fly ball to Gordon’s replacement Jarrod Dyson who completed the catch, and fired a bullet down the line to catcher Salvador Perez who tagged the runner out completing a remarkable much needed double play. It was at this point where you can mark the shift in momentum, this time in the Royals direction, after managing to sneak out of that likely disaster inning only giving up 2 runs.

Just an inning after the chaos unfolded the Royals settled in and unloaded a classic Royal’s hitting frenzy on the Ray’s ace scoring 5 runs in the bottom of the fifth. Then tacking on 2 more runs in the sixth inning gave the young Archer the most earned runs he has given up in one game in his career. Even after some suspect pitching from the bullpen giving up 3 runs in the ninth creating a save situation for Holland the Royals finished the costly victory with a final score of 9-7. With news coming around 11:00 in the morning that Gordon will be gone up to 8 weeks Royals fans were not left with much time to stomach the news before the afternoon series finale. Royal’s fans tuned in anxiously to see what the team would be like without Gordon who has been the staple in this ever-changing lineup.

The fans were greeted with an early ever so sweet surprise in the first inning as Jarrod Dyson, in left field, made a “Willy Mays” style catch.  Dyson used his great speed off the ball to put him in position to make the over-the-shoulder basket catch at the wall while executing a perfect throw to the cutoff man, who threw to first to complete another spectacular double play. The inning was finished with a classic Yordano Ventura high velocity punch out in his first start after coming back from the DL; all were great sights for sore eyes.

The next half of the inning the hot Royals bats surged for 3 runs, from a Hosmer RBI double, and another Cain home run, scoring 3 runs in just 5 pitches. The Royals kept the scoring coming knocking in 1 more in the second inning, and all was relatively quiet until the fifth when Ventura gave up 3 runs before exiting the game. The Royals canceled out the Rays 3 run inning courtesy of a Perez 2-run homer to left field and a Kendrys Morales sac fly in the next half of the inning.  The scoring wasn’t done yet though, as recent call up and Major League rookie Cheslor Cuthbert decided he wanted in on the fun and scored his first ever Major league RBI completing a fantastic debut series in the big leagues.

After the victorious series against the Rays the Royals welcomed the Toronto Blue Jays. A roster change took place in between series as All-Star Game Final Vote winner Mike Moustakas was taking off the Bereavement list sending rookie Cuthbert back down to Triple A. Mother Nature struck in the first game of this series again creating a very late start to the opening game of the series. It was Danny Duffy who returned to pitch on Friday giving up no runs in 6 quality innings, returning back to his usual winning ways.

The offense backed up Duffy with three runs from, a RBI double from the struggling right fielder Alex Rios in the first, a single produced by shortstop Escobar scoring Alex Rios in the fourth, and a final assurance run in the eighth from a Salvador Perez solo homerun. The first game went about as smoothly as you could ask for with a final score of 3-0 unfortunately the same could not be said of the second game. Mark Buerhle bullied the Royals hitters making quick work in each inning.

The Royals only managed to score 2 runs off of Buerhle which was no match for the 6 runs giving up by the Royals. Royal’s pitcher Chris Young gave up 3 runs in 6 innings which was not a terrible performance considering he was coming off of just 3 days rest. However with Brandon Finnegan giving three more runs off of former Royal Danny Valencia’s 3 run homerun the Blue jays, along with the struggling Royals bats created too deep of a hole to climb out of losing 6-2.The final game of the series was a bizarre up and down thriller.

It was a defensive struggle on both ends with both teams combining for 7 errors total leading to several unearned runs. It started out as an absolute route featuring a 6 run 1st inning from a RBI singles from Hosmer and Orlando, a RBI double from Omar Infante, and a Monster Morales 3 run bomb into the left field fountains. Volquez pitched well in this game going 5 innings with only 1 earned run exiting a 7-2 ballgame. After the exit of Volquez,  the wheels fell off, the bullpen lost the lead giving up 8 runs all in the sixth inning. Due to highly uncharacteristic errors from the Royals defens, only 1 of those runs was earned.

The Royals struck back in the sixth with Rios and Infante scoring 2 runs off of an error from Toronto’s shortstop Jose Reyes, and Cain put one more on the board hitting Escobar home from second. With the score 10-8 royals, the resilient Blue Jays weren’t done yet, scoring 2 runs in two innings off of All-Star pitchers Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis to tie the game.

Heading into the bottom of the eighth tied at 10-10 it was none other than first game of the week’s hero Paulo Orlando who belted the go ahead homerun to left field making it an 11-10 ballgame! Paulo’s home run setup closer Greg Holland to enter the game, and Holland completed the save on a strike them out throw them out to end the series and the first half of the season in wild fashion. The Royals obviously did not play their best baseball by any stretch of the imagine, but they continued to fight and found a way to win an ugly one to take the series from Toronto.

Royals had a week full of victory sweeping a four game series for the first time since 2008, and taking two out of three in Toronto reaching a 6-1 record on the week. After heading into this week with what could easily be described as our biggest “slump” of the year if you could call that a slump, the Royals seemingly have come out of it on the other end. However pleasing and needed a week like this was on the score sheet we may have lost more than we gained this series, not saying that losing Gordon creates an insurmountable hole but it obviously makes our path of an ALCS title defense much more difficult.

The Royals have a tough situation coming up in the second half of the season; they will definitely be up a stream without a paddle. It will be interesting to see the actions and responses performed by our front office before the trade deadline, in light of these recent circumstances, but first things first the players jobs are to continue in this winning form and ride the momentum out of the All-Star break and into the second half of the season.

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Author: Caleb Wuthnow

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