WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Sure, it’s way too early to start talking about “big” series, but taking two of three from the Angels – on the heels of losing six of seven – was important to the Royals because it keeps everyone relaxed. The Royals desperately want to play significant games in August and September, and to do that they will have to break out of losing spells much more quickly than they have in the past. Previous Royals teams have gotten stuck on tough losses, and the next thing they knew, they had lost 10 of 12. Granted, the Royals’ top three starters in the rotation certainly provide protection against killer losing spells, but what was great about Wednesday’s win is that the Royals essentially escaped a Wade Davis start with a win. Now the Royals swing back to ace James Shields on Friday at Oakland and have a chance to regain momentum.
Winning a series from the Angels hasn’t exactly been a challenge for the rest of the league this season – the Angels are truly a mess right now – but there’s too much talent on that Angels team to expect it to stay down all season. And the Royals DID NOT want to be the team that got the Angels rolling.
Mission accomplished in Anaheim.
THE WADE DAVIS ISSUE: Plenty of Royals fans are losing patience with Davis, who now sports a 3-3 record with a cover-your-eyes 5.98 ERA. Davis has been good in three starts and awful in four. In those four bad starts, Davis has pitched 18 2/3 innings and given up 22 runs. Even worse, he has allowed 36 hits and walked 12 – that’s a WHIP of nearly 3.00, which is pretty much Jonathan Sanchez-like.
But Davis is a far better pitcher than Sanchez, so the comparisons should end there. And the Royals are going to give Davis every conceivable opportunity to keep his job in the rotation. Let’s face it: There aren’t a lot of options out there for general manager Dayton Moore. Prospect Jordano Ventura, who wowed everyone at the Future’s Game last summer with his 100-mph heater, is 3-0 with a shiny 1.57 ERA at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. But Ventura has made it past the fifth inning just once in seven starts because of high pitch counts this season and will have to improve his command before there’s any discussion of promotion. Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino – the Tommy John surgery boys – are rehabbing well but are at least four to six weeks away from consideration.
In the meantime, manager Ned Yost and Moore will show patience with Davis and cross their fingers that pitching coach Dave Eiland, who has been a huge help to Jeremy Guthrie and Tim Collins with mechanical adjustments in one-plus years on the job, can tweak Davis’ delivery to maximize his production. Davis shows enough potential to merit a longer leash.
BILLY BUTLER: Is there anyone hotter than Butler right now? Billy Barbecue is scorching the ball, evidenced by his eight-for-13 performance in the Angels series. He also had nine RBIs. And even though three of Billy’s outs were bullets, a few of his hits – a broken-bat single, two seeing-eye singles through the left side — emphasize the point Billy often makes about hitting streaks: It’s not how hard you hit it, it’s where you place it.
When good hitters such as Butler get on a roll, their ground balls find holes instead of turning into double plays, and their bloopers drop in for hits instead of becoming discouraging outs.
The Royals haven’t had production out of the No. 4 hole all season (one homer, eight RBIs) until the Angels series when Butler basically doubled that output with a homer and nine RBIs.
Nice to see.
WHO WANTS LEADOFF?: Manager Ned Yost seems to have energized the offense with his batting order changes, dropping Alex Gordon from the leadoff spot to No. 3, and moving Butler to No. 4. But Yost is scratching his head trying to figure out who can handle the leadoff spot on a permanent basis.
Alcides Escobar hated it, and prefers the No. 2 hole. Lorenzo Cain hated the leadoff spot even more, and struck out three times in his one start there. Cain was back in the No. 6 hole Wednesday, hit two doubles and drove in three runs.
It seems the only logical solution is Jarrod Dyson, who has been gaining more playing time in place of slumping right fielder Jeff Francoeur. Dyson, who suffered a sprained ankle Wednesday, seems comfortable in the leadoff spot but the left-handed hitter is just a .186 career hitter against lefties.
OFFENSIVE SURGE: On the subject of Yost’s batting order changes, since he moved Gordon out of the leadoff spot into the No. 3 hole a week ago, the Royals are averaging 5.4 runs a game and 9.7 hits per game.
Despite the lack of a true leadoff hitter to choose from, I don’t think you’ll see Yost move Gordon back into the leadoff spot for a long, long time.