Some week for Your Kansas City Royals! Let’s review.
Last Sunday they acquired Johnny Cueto from Cincinnati then went out and beat Houston ace Dallas Keuchel to get a series win against a possible playoff opponent.
Monday they flew to Cleveland and pounded the Indians in game one.
Tuesday they made another trade, grabbing Ben Zobrist from the A’s. That night, behind a clutch homer by Eric Hosmer and perhaps the best defensive play you will ever see, edged the Indians and Trevor Bauer 2–1.
Wednesday was a nasty get-away day loss to Cleveland.
Thursday in game one against the dangerous Toronto Blue Jays, Danny Duffy couldn’t keep the ball in the stadium and the Royals fell 5–2.
Friday the bullpen coughed up a lead in Cueto’s first start, leading to a loss in 11 innings.
Saturday the Royals came back from an early deficit, with Zobrist hitting two home runs, to stop the losing streak.
And then Sunday. An early HBP, with Edinson Volquez plunking Josh Donaldson in the first inning, got things started. Donaldson got brushed back two more times, another Toronto hitter had to lean away from some high heat, and when Alcides Escobar got hit in retaliation there was shouting and pointing and side hugs as both benches cleared. Apparently it was too hot to fight, though, and things never got out of hand. Escobar getting hit nearly backfired on the Jays, as Zobrist went deep to make it a one-run game in the 8th. But Kelvin Herrera gave those runs right back and the R’s took their fourth loss in five games. They still have the best record in the AL and the biggest lead in baseball. This winning thing is new to many Royals fans, so we’re having to learn (or relearn) how to not panic over the inevitable cold stretches in a 162-game season.
As for Sunday’s nonsense, the in-game stuff wasn’t terrible. Most of the Blue Jays hang out over the plate, looking to take away the inside part of the plate and crush anything over it or away. Volquez had every right to try to establish that the inside of the plate was his. I think the umpire’s refusal to toss him was an indication that this was a reasonable/defensible strategy on Volquez’s part. The Blue Jays, especially noted hot head Donaldson, should quit bitching when a pitch is three inches inside and wouldn’t be close to a batter that wasn’t crowding the plate. You want to throw your body out there over the plate, you have to be prepared to shut up and take your base if you take one in the shoulder.
I wish Escobar had done exactly that – shut up and taken his base – when he got hit. It was obvious someone on the Royals was going to get hit. He took one in the knee. There was no need to stand around and stare and pour just a little bit of gas onto the fire.
Then again, it was hot, these are baseball players we’re dealing with, unwritten rules to worry about, and a lots of testosterone flowing. That last part is especially problematic.
Things got silly after the game, with stupid Twitter posts that seemed to raise the temperature level even further, followed by the inevitable apologies and walking back of rhetoric on Monday.
It was a dramatic, exciting series between the best team in the league and the most explosive team in the league. Both teams made big moves last week. As much as the Royals helped themselves, the Blue Jays likely helped themselves even more. Toronto seems to be the team outside the current AL playoff standings most likely to make a run and claim a spot before the season ends. A Blue Jays – Royals playoff series could really be something, harkening back to those KC-NY match ups in the 1970s when the teams hated each other and there were often physical encounters during games.
So it was a big week for the Royals. Between acquisitions, amazing plays, and the drama of the Toronto series, about as active of a regular season week as I can remember.