The Kansas City Royals offense was relatively unproductive today, but that did little to stop them from claiming their 10thj straight win and a 1.5 game lead in the AL Central. What this afternoon’s 2-1 win lacked in offensive fireworks, it made up for with stellar pitching and defense. Before this series, I thought the roaring applause of the home crowd was the greatest sound baseball had to offer. Now, I’m not so sure. I may prefer hearing the enemy’s fans boo them because my team is beating theirs in such infuriating fashion.
After it took reigning Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer 31 pitches to record an out in the second yesterday, and over 50 to escape the inning, today’s starter, Drew Smyly made perhaps only one major mistake all day. Smyly did all he could to slow the Royals down, with six strikeouts and only two runs allowed through seven full innings. Thanks to another excellent start from KC’s Jeremy Guthrie, those two measly runs were all it took to keep the Royals’ streak alive.
J-Guts struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings while allowing only one run on four hits. Yet another fantastic diving catch from Gold Glover Alex Gordon helped Guthrie escape a scary jam, and the historically good Wade Davis/Greg Holland combo took care of the rest. Winning in this more traditional way, compared to the two previous games in which KC had at least an eight-run lead, serves as even stronger evidence that the Royals are legitimate.
The last two near-blowouts and a huge offensive improvement from almost everyone makes it easy to forget that KC’s strengths are their pitching and defense. Lorenzo Cain‘s ridiculously good defense of late has helped to remind us of this, but this was the first game in a while that the Royals won with their pitching. Guthrie, who many would regard as KC’s “worst” starter, has only allowed more than two runs once in his last seven starts. If he continues to be the Royals’ least effective starter, it seems downright logical to hope for a playoff berth.
KC’s staying power is obviously unproven, but the team’s longest winning streak since 1994 should help to show their potential. Not only did this streak come against strong competition, it all comes after a huge, heart-breaking sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros. Nobody knows how the Royals will handle being a first-place club, but we know do that even a loss in Game 4 tomorrow would leave the Royals half a game in front of Detroit for the AL Central lead.
This doesn’t mean the Royals, or their fans, get to take a breath yet. Tomorrow brings another scary matchup for KC, as lefty starter Danny Duffy is tasked to hold down a right-handed power-hitter-dominant Tigers lineup. Oh, and the Royals follow up this series with three home games each against the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers before they get an off-day. The tests won’t stop until the Royals are statistically locked into their postseason berth, or their lack thereof.
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