The Kansas City Royals’ slow start to the 2012 MLB season continued, as they lost three straight to the Detroit Tigers in Kaufmann Stadium from Monday to Wednesday. The Royals are not only sitting at 3-9, but have lost all six home games. So much for this current 10-game homestand being used as a springboard into April. What’s going wrong?
Scoring runs was the problem against the Tigers, and while that was certainly to be expected in Monday’s 3-2 loss to Justin Verlander, the Royal hitters had opportunities to deliver in the ensuing two games, which ended in 3-1 and 4-3 losses. Of particular note is the problems in the 2-3 spots of the batting order, which combined for a 2-for-21 series and two walks. That primarily falls at the feet of first baseman Eric Hosmer, who failed to get a hit. The result is that no one is on base for scorching hot Billy Butler, who delivered seven hits in this series. But with no one in front of him, and Jeff Franceour also slumping behind him, Butler isn’t going to get the kind of meat pitches he can really drive, and opposing pitchers will leave with the Royal cleanup man hitting singles with no one in scoring position.
There are positives to take away from this series. While Alex Gordon only went 3-of-13, it’s worth noting that he had a hit in each game and sometimes that’s the kind of gradual consistency that leads to a nice hot streak. The bullpen did very good work, combining for 8.1 IP and giving up just three runs, including 2.1 IP of hitless innings by Aaron Crow. Starting pitchers Danny Duffy and Bruce Chen worked into and through the seventh innings in their starts—Duffy gave his team as good a chance as you can ask against Verlander.
The bigger problem for the Royals is going to be a crisis of confidence. If a big-market team with a history of success starts off 3-9, you say it’s early. If a young team with expectations, but no record of winning starts 3-9, you say it’s the same old team. If the Royals keep their heads up, the wins will follow their improved pitching in all due time.
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