I realized last week that I hadn’t documented my thoughts on the Royals season since early April. Which isn’t much of a surprise given it took me awhile to get into this season. There was missing the first week of the season while we were on spring break. There was the coming home to four nights a week of practices and games, which meant the girls stayed up a little later than normal, which meant some nights I flat forgot to turn the game on. And then there was that dreadful stretch of baseball in late April when the Royals looked a lot like the Royals of the bad old days rather than the defending World Series champs.
I began to put some thoughts together in my head, but didn’t get around to actually entering them into a text file. Which was a good thing, because last weekend was one of the crazier regular-season weekends in Royals history: three-straight come-from-behind wins over the Chicago White Sox – who entered the series in first place – including an epic, seven-run ninth inning comeback on Saturday. Of course, I missed watching any of those games thanks to MLB’s blackout rules. I listened to Friday’s game and missed Sunday’s game while we were on the water. But I was listening Saturday. Well, I was for awhile. But the Royals couldn’t get anything going, kept giving up runs, and it seemed like a better use of my afternoon to read a book instead of listening. Fortunately I checked Twitter during the bottom of the ninth, and was able to turn the game back on just in time to hear Brett Eibner’s game-winning hit. What a day.
A couple big innings Monday and Tuesday and the TV crew is beginning to make comments they were making a year ago: “For the first time this year, the Royals are now seven games above .500,” and “The Royals have now won six-straight series.” Those comments make me happy.
One of my favorite things about the early part of this season is how packed Kaufman Stadium has been this year. There were chilly Tuesdays in April where there were well over 30,000 in the house. Now that the Royals are hot again, you can feel the magic in the stadium, even on the MLB.TV stream.
Another great thing about this year has been the blossoming of Eric Hosmer. He’s gotten a little better each year of his big league career. But we’re finally starting to see the consistent talent that we heard so much about when he was coming up trough the minors. He’s on the verge of superstardom, and it’s a joy to watch. He’s become a very good hitter who just destroys mistakes. He’s good situationally, and he’s fantastic in the clutch. His previous years have been hampered by lengthy cold stretches. He just had a mini-slump, which could be a sign that he is hitting his peak. No one escapes slumps in baseball. But the superstars find ways to limit them to a week or so. He’s turned into the guy who can carry a team whether everyone else is hitting or not.
The big bummer of the year has been the rash of injuries the Royals have suffered. As I type this on Tuesday night, two more Royals have suffered injuries tonight. It looks like one could be serious, and hopefully the other seems minor. Of course the worst injury was the disastrous foul ball in Chicago a week ago that took out Alex Gordon for at least a month and Mike Moustakas for the year. Then Salvador Perez went down in another foul-ball collision on Saturday. It felt like the Baseball Gods were saying, “OK, enough. You’ve had your two years of success. We’re stepping in to put you back in your proper place.” Only the Royals keep finding ways to overcome these loses.
The Moose injury was especially tough as it looked like he had finally figured things out. After a fantastic 2015, he appeared to be adding his natural power back into the new approach he used last year. It looked like he might be turning into the player he was hyped to be: a guy that hits .270–280, hits about 30 home runs, and grabs everything hit his way at third.
With all those injuries, all guys who have struggled at the plate this year, all the inconsistency from the rotation, it’s kind of crazy that they are in first place by two games as we flip the schedule to June. All those issues make me think this could be a roller coaster of the summer, as the team careens between hot stretches and cold stretches. But with no one else in AL Central looking all that great through the first two months, that might be enough.
But it’s too early to worry about that. I’m going to hope the hot streak keeps going, the injured guys get healthy, the slumping bats wake, and enjoy June baseball.
- Hopefully it’s not one of those “looked minor when it happened, then the pain lingered, and three days later an x-ray showed a fracture” type of injuries. ↩