The All-Star break is an excellent time to rest, rejuvenate, and realign! That is exactly what the Royals were hoping to do after getting a few much needed days of rest. But things don't always happen the way fans want. Instead we faced the team that had already beat us 10 times in a row. This was the second longest streak of it's kind in franchise history, and it got longer. The Royals sort of stumbled out of the blocks as they say, and did so in a fashion a playoff team can't afford to do. We took a perfect game into the 6th inning, with a 3 run lead, and two swings of the bat later, we lost 5-3. It was almost prophesize on the local broadcast, when the announcers mentioned how Jason Hammel typically sailed through the first two times in the order, but struggled mightily with the third time through. But you cannot pull a guy with a perfect game. You can't even pull him when he gives up a weak infield hit to break it up. When you can start to think about it though, is when he puts on two runners, and a future Hall-of-Famer in Adrian Beltre comes up. The bullpen was rested, and Peter Moylan, the righty specialist was available. But even with all our knowledge of Hammel's and his struggles, up to this point he was dealing, so it is almost forgivable that Ned Yost would leave him in. The problem was, the statistical move was the right one, and the feel, or heart one, wasn't. And the Royals lost because of it. A game that could of helped us gain ground on the Indians, whom lost that night.
Fast forward to Saturday. A matchup of ACES, and it lived up to the hype. Cole Hammels vs Danny Duffy. Both guys went deep into the game, 1 run was scored, and it was on two bloop singles with a sac bunt squeezed in-between. The only problem is, the Royals had a lot of chances, the best of which in the 9th when Lorenzo Cain lead off with a walk, and Eric Hosmer had a 3-0 count. The game was pretty much guaranteed to be tied, or even better a walk off in the works, right. Not so fast. Hosmer would end up striking out on three straight pitches, two of which were very hitable strikes. And the Royals would go down very quietly. This is not what we have come to expect over the past few years. The Royals always find a way to win this exact game. But this year, they actually found a way to lose this exact game.
And then finally, Sunday we broke the streak. Maybe it was the power of Game Of Thrones returning, maybe it was just the law of averages, and we finally got through, or maybe it was a gift. A gift from the Sun God. After battling the sun all day, Lorenzo Cain hit a very routine ball to right field. But Shin Shoo Choo couldn't angle himself well enough to get the ball to fall in his glove. An interesting occurrence if you recall, Choo won a game a few years back in walk off fashion for the Cleveland Indians, when he hit a ball into a flock of seagulls. It's weird how the baseball universe equalizes itself. This game was less about the win however, and more about the Royals pitching inability to hold a lead, actually the past two series, the Royals have had problems holding leads. Kennedy and Soria blew three leads yesterday. Friday, Hammel blew a three run lead. This is not what we are used to.
So what is the Royal realization I had this weekend? It is that pitching, not offense, will be our path to the Playoffs in 2017. You will get outdueled on the occasion by good pitching. But you can't give up 3 run leads, or 3 leads in one game. So if Dayton really wants to push this thing, he is going to have to get a legit bullpen piece. One that can come in and lock it down, and the bullpen should still be somewhat fluid when that person gets here. And lastly, the starting rotation is going to have to be managed better. It was my fear going into this year, that we would see the return of #yosted, due to Ned's use of a fallible bullpen. The past 4 years things pretty much ran themselves as far as the 7th inning on. This year with Herrera being the only 100% guarantee going into the year, Yost was going to have to make a lot of choices in the later innings. The bullpen was awful the first two months. But I don't really think that was his fault. That was just guys underachieving. But now that we have almost 100 games under our belt, Yost and Dave Eiland need to have a better plan in place, and maybe a few new pieces to work with. So from now on Jason Hammel should not have an opportunity to face a Hall-of-Famer in the 7th inning with a chance to tie the game.
So if we really think this team is going to the playoffs, we better shore up this pitching staff, because everyone knows, pitching wins championships!
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