Flanny’s Five: Gordon’s hot bat gives Royals’ lineup a boost
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The old adage that it’s not who you play, but when you play them certainly comes to mind as the Royals open a three-game set with the Chicago White Sox.
The Royals won’t have to face left-hander Chris Sale, who is on a rehab stint, or slugger Jose Abreu, a shoe-in for Rookie of the Year at this point who also is on the disabled list.
And the White Sox have lost seven of 10.
THE RETURN OF ALEX GORDON’S BAT
Gordon’s four-hit, two-homer, six-RBI game Sunday was the biggest offensive news of the season so far for the Royals. This team can’t contend for the playoffs without the middle of its order producing, so the output was nice to see. We should add that Billy Butler, hitting cleanup and one spot ahead of Gordon, got his first three-hit game of the season, too.
But the story was Gordon, whose six RBI were a career high. And you have to go back pretty far to find a game in which he had such a dramatic impact. Remember, after May last season, Gordon went into a horrific slump the rest of the way, a slump that carried into this season.
Gordon’s last four-hit day was a year ago to this date — May 19 against Oakland.
A POWER BULLPEN
Manager Ned Yost mentioned often early in the season that he wasn’t quite sure how the back of his bullpen would settle in after the loss of Luke Hochevar. Well, consider it pretty settled. Wade Davis has been phenomenal in his eighth-inning role. Davis has given up just one run in his last 14 innings, and get this — he has struck out 30 batters in that span. Thirty.
Yost now also can trust Kelvin Herrera to work in tandem with Davis for the eighth-inning job. Herrera hasn’t given up a run in his last 12 outings. In fact, Herrera hadn’t given up a hit in his last six outings before surrendering one Sunday.
Davis and Herrera both throw fire — Davis touched 98 mph on Saturday and Herrera, as we know, can reach 100 mph. That’s a lot of power fastballs ahead of closer Greg Holland, who also can bring it in the upper 90s.
NO MAY SWOON THIS YEAR
The Royals already have won as many games in May this year as they did last May — eight. Royals fans certainly will remember how that 8-20 May last year cost the team a trip to the playoffs. The goal this season, of course, is to avoid any disastrous months. After a 0-5 start this May, the Royals have won eight of 12.
STILL A DECISION TO MAKE
Second baseman Omar Infante appears to be inching his way back closer to being activated. He resumed baseball activities over the weekend, and is eligible to come off the disabled list this week.
If he does, will we have the Mike Moustakas-to-the-minors debate again? After a big two-double game last Wednesday, and some more good plate appearances the rest of the week, Moose went hitless in four at-bats Sunday and looked overmatched again.
So, when Infante is activated, will the Royals ship out Johnny Giavotella, since they already have backup middle infielder Pedro Ciriaco on the 25-man roster? Gio, of course, had the huge three-run homer a week ago to beat Seattle, but the Royals certainly wouldn’t keep Ciriaco (who is out of options) and Gio with Infante healthy. And Gio isn’t a platoon candidate for Danny Valencia at third base if Moose were to be shipped out.
THE ROTATION THEY WERE LOOKING FOR
It’s funny how things eventually do work out for the better sometimes. Back in February, it appeared the Royals’ rotation would be something like James Shields, Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura, Jeremy Guthrie and Danny Duffy. But then when Bruce Chen was re-signed, Yost immediately gave a starting spot in the rotation to Chen — and fans groaned knowing that Duffy likely was going to be the odd man out. Then Duffy struggled in spring training and wound up starting the season at Omaha.
But after a call-up from Triple A, a stint in the bullpen and an injury to Chen, Duffy is back in the rotation — and after his overpowering performance Saturday night (a perfect game for 6 2/3 innings), he will be there to stay. The Royals now have a rotation in which the weakest link likely is Guthrie, who is still a solid pro who can keep his team in games. In other words, this is probably the best rotation the Royals have had since the 1980s.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com.