Alex Gordon’s ongoing surge includes everything but home runsBy BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The question – “Hey, are you ever going to hit another homer?” – prompts a quick and easy laugh from Royals left fielder Alex Gordon.
“I don’t know,” he said, “and I’m not trying. I’m just trying to hit line drives and make things happen. Hopefully, one will come soon.”
It was 163 at-bats and counting, entering Thursday’s series opener against the Mariners, since Gordon opened the first inning on June 12 against Milwaukee with a home run against former teammate Zack Greinke.
That blast ended a homerless drought of 150 at-bats. So, yes, the math through Wednesday showed one homer in Gordon’s last 304 at-bats after hitting a club-leading and personal-best 23 in 2011.
“It’s a surprise but, for me, not a concern,” hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said. “His balls will go out of the ballpark when he catches them just right. But if he starts trying to hit home runs, I’d be concerned about that.”
It isn’t that Gordon isn’t driving the ball. He leads the American League with 33 doubles, which puts him on pace to break Hal McRae’s club-record 54 in 1982.
“He and I had a talk over the winter,” Seitzer said, “and I told him, `70 doubles is a possibility for you.’ He’s rolling, but we had a talk a couple of days ago and told him, `You’re going to have to get after it.’
“Records aren’t a big deal, but he’s capable of hitting the ball gap to gap for doubles. Five home runs? That’s shocking to me. But from a swing standpoint, his swing is great. I don’t want him to change anything.”
Gordon is batting .359 with a .429 on-base percentage in 51 games since returning May 27 to the leadoff role. His overall average is up to .297 (from .226 prior to the switch), and he leads the club with a .380 OBP.
“That’s good from where I came early in the year,” he said. “I’m just trying to plug away and finish strong.”
Bats perking up
It isn’t just Gordon. The Royals as a team, despite their recent slide, are batting .292 in 21 July games with a .336 on-base percentage while scoring 4.9 runs a game.
That compares to a .262 average, a .317 OBP and 3.97 runs a game in 76 games through the end of June.
The biggest difference is Salvy Perez and Lorenzo Cain rejoined the lineup after extended injuries.
Cain was batting .364 through Wednesday with three homers and 13 RBIs since his July 13 return from hip, groin and leg injuries. Perez was batting .330 since his June 22 return with five homers in 24 games.
So why are the Royals just 6-15 in July?
The pitching staff has a 5.70 ERA after starting the month at 4.17.
Twenty and counting
All-Star DH Billy Butler is on pace to finish with 33 homers after getting No. 20 in Wednesday’s 11-6 loss to the Angels in Anaheim, Calif. His previous career best was 21 in 2009.
No Royals player has reached 30 homers since Jermaine Dye hit 33 in 2000. There have been only nine other 30-homer seasons in franchise history. Danny Tartabull did it twice; nine other players did it once.
The club record is 36 by Steve Balboni in 1985.
Former All-Star closer Joakim Soria is still more than two months away from testing his surgically repaired right elbow with any throwing activities.
Trainer Nick Kenney said standard rehab procedure for players undergoing a second Tommy John surgery is to wait six months before picking up a ball. Soria underwent his operation, the second of his career, on April 3.
Those undergoing the procedure for the first time – Danny Duffy, Felipe Paulino and Blake Wood – typically can begin light throwing after five months. Wood underwent his surgery on May 25, Duffy on June 13 and Paulino on July 3.
The typical overall recovery period is 10-14 months.
The Royals previously indicated they will exercise a $750,000 buyout on Soria’s contract, which includes club options for $8 million next season and $8.75 million in 2014. He made $6 million this season under a multi-year deal signed in May 2008.
Club officials said they hope to retain Soria on a new contract heavily weighted on performance bonuses, such as innings pitched, games or games finished.
Class AAA second baseman Johnny Giavotella, after taking teammates to the family restaurant earlier in the day, extended his hitting streak to 21 games with a homer in the first inning at New Orleans.
Giavotella, 25, carried a .331 average into the game with nine homers and 52 RBIs in 68 games. He batted .217 earlier this season in 21 big-league games.
The family restaurant – Gio’s Pizza and Spaghetti House in Metarie, La. – was opened in 1984 by Giavotella’s father.
It was 12 years ago Thursday – July 26, 2000 – that the Royals held on for a 7-6 victory over the White Sox in Chicago. That marked the last time the Royals would win a one-run game on the road until a 2-1 victory at Chicago (again!) on July 31, 2002.
In between, the Royals lost 21 straight one-run road games, which remains a Major League record.