Put down the sharp objects, Royals fans — we’ve got 161 more of these to go
You’re hotter than a ghost pepper. We get that. But put down the sharp stuff, take two steps back from the medicine cabinet and consider this:
In Chiefs terms, we’re pretty much five minutes in.
As in, five minutes into Week 1 of the NFL season.
One down, 161 to go. That’s 0.6 percent of the slate. Or, if you like, roughly a third of a quarter of a football game.
So, yes, a sixth straight Opening Day loss by the Kansas City Royals — a 4-3 walk-off whiff at Detroit on Monday that saw the hosts rally from a 3-1 deficit — went down like a mug of warm, flat soda.
Yes, the boys in blue had Tigers ace Justin Verlander on the ropes more times than they actually pushed runs across.
Yes, James Shields (three earned runs over 6 1/3 innings) deserved better.
Yes, a four-hit day by Sal Perez went for naught, in part because the sure-handed, sure-chested Perez failed to get in front of an Aaron Crow breaking pitch with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, allowing Detroit’s second run to score.
Yes, the Royals were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, an old (and, unfortunately, familiar) refrain, while leaving eight on base.
Yes, Norichika Aoki got pounded inside more times than Jake LaMotta in "Raging Bull."
Yes, the Royals’ bullpen, a strength, left a door open that should have been shut.
"I’ll hand the ball to those guys any day of the week," Shields told reporters after the game.
Case of the Mondays? Maybe. Head case? Too early to tell.
Either way, it was a darned pity, given that, for the first six-plus innings, it was the Royals churning out highlight stop after highlight stop, whether it was Moustakas doing his baby Brooks Robinson bit to dive for a grounder (again) or Eric Hosmer stretching to rob an infield hit (again) or somebody making the mistake of testing Alex Gordon’s arm in left (again).
For much of the afternoon, the Tigers looked to be completely on the other end of defensive spectrum, with the stress fractures suffered by promising young shortstop Jose Iglesias (FanGraphs.com Ultimate Zone Rating in ’13: 3.4) having forced the Tigers to go with 37-year-old Alex Gonzalez (UZR at shortstop in ’13: 0.5) instead. Gonzalez’s lack of comparative range helped to open up the Royals’ three-run fourth, as a Lorenzo Cain grounder zipped past him into short left for an RBI single and his bobble on an Aoki grounder loaded the bases to set up the third run of the frame.
But Royals faithful knew it wouldn’t be that easy; against this team, in this city, it rarely is. Kansas City is 30-44 versus Detroit over the last five years and just 13-25 at Comerica Park since March 2009. Of those last 74 meetings, 30 of them — 41 percent — have been decided by one run.
The Fightin’ Neds are 14-16 in those tilts. In fact, the Royals won seven of the last 10 one-run contests before Monday.
So, ultimately, there are two ways to look at that: On one hand, the Royals are right there with the reigning division champs, more often than not. On the other, the margin for error is very, very small for games that could shape up to be very, very large.
So, yes, Gonzalez got the last laugh, twice over. The bottom line remains the same: It’s one day. One of many.
Pomp and circumstance aside — and the Royals will have another dog-and-pony show Friday when the White Sox lift the lid on the home part of the slate — it’s not even 1 percent of the big picture. Granted, interdivision games weigh heavily, especially on the road, especially against the bunch that’s won the last three Central titles. The Indians, White Sox and Twins games might not get you tingling as a ticket-buyer, but those are the ones, long-term, that tend to settle postseason fates. From 2011 through 2013, Detroit was 140-80 against the rest of the division, a winning percentage of .636; the Royals, over the same span, went 110 up, 110 down (.500).
So, yes, you’d love to have that one back.
As far as the Tigers go, the bad news is that was one down, and one down by kidney punch. The good: Eighteen more of these bad boys to go.
"We’re not going to put too much emphasis on (Monday)," Shields said after the game.
Nor should you. Consider this, too: Five minutes into Week 1 of last fall’s NFL docket, the Chiefs were actually trailing, 2-0. At Jacksonville. To paraphrase Robert Frost, the season is lovely, dark and deep. And miles to go before you need to lose sleep.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.