ROYALS NOTEBOOK

Royals' pitchers giving up homers but limiting damage

Updated: 2013-04-18T22:25:31Z

By BOB DUTTON

The Kansas City Star

— That the Royals have allowed 18 homers in 14 games as they enter Friday’s series opener against the Red Sox isn’t an entirely bad thing — although that puts them on pace to allow 208.

Or 45 more than they permitted in each of the last two seasons.

“It’s not a concern,” manager Ned Yost said flatly. “They’re not walking two guys and then giving up homers. They’re not doing that. They’re attacking each individual hitter.”

True enough: Fifteen of the 18 homers have come with the bases empty.

“We’ve got more guys who are around the plate,” Yost said. “We’ve got guys who aren’t afraid to pitch to contact because of our defense. They are solo homers (for the most part).

“There haven’t been many of the two-, three- and four-run variety. Veteran pitchers, like we have, really buckle down in those situations.”

Of the three non-solo homers, two came with just one runner on base. The outlier in the group is the three-run homer that J.C. Gutierrez surrendered to Jimmy Rollins on April 7.

That Rollins blast was part of a four-run rally in the ninth by the Phillies before the Royals held on for a 9-8 victory.

Solo homers can sting, too, of course — especially if there are enough of them. The Braves hit five in Tuesday’s 6-3 victory, including one that tied the game against Jeremy Guthrie in the seventh inning.

Kelvin Herrera then allowed three more homers in the eighth.

Two other bunches stand out: Ervin Santana gave up four homers, including three solos, on April 3 in a 5-2 loss to the White Sox. Guthrie survived three solo homers by the Twins on April 9 in a 7-4 victory.

“If you’re around the plate,” Yost said, “it’s going to happen. I mean, we’re playing in the big leagues. You’re facing the best hitters in the world. You can generally live with homers if nobody is on base.”

On the other hand

The greater concern regarding homers is the Royals have hit just five. Prior to Thursday’s games, the only team with fewer was Miami with three. No other American League team had fewer than Minnesota’s nine.

The run-production numbers aren’t nearly that bad; the Royals are averaging exactly four runs a game, which ranked 17th among the 30 clubs through Wednesday’s games.

“We’re playing good baseball,” Yost argued. “We’re not where we’re going to be offensively, but I like our at-bats. I like our approach at the plate. It’s just a matter of time before we really get hot and get on a streak.”

It might not be this weekend. The Red Sox carried an AL-leading 2.66 ERA into their game Thursday night at Cleveland.

And Detroit, where the Royals head after Boston, had the AL’s second-best rotation ERA (behind the Red Sox) prior to its game in Seattle.

Bat Girl judge

Royals left fielder Alex Gordon is one of four big-league players who will serve as guest judging panelists for Major League Baseball’s annual Honorary Bat Girl contest.

Gordon will join Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp and Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen in the selection process of one honorary bat girl for each of the 30 teams.

Winners will be recognized by their club between May 12 (Mother’s Day) and May 31.

The program dates to 2009 and seeks to raise awareness and support for the fight against breast cancer. Gordon’s mother is a breast cancer survivor.

Looking back

It was 28 years ago Friday — April 19, 1984 — that Bret Saberhagen became the youngest pitcher to start a game for the Royals at eight days past his 20th birthday.

Saberhagen allowed one run in six innings at Detroit in a 6-1 victory. It was the Tigers’ first loss after opening the season with nine straight victories.

Etc.

• James Shields, who pitches Friday, saw a lot of the Red Sox over the previous seven years while pitching for Tampa Bay. It often didn’t go well: He is 8-13 with a 4.56 ERA in 23 career starts against Boston, including 2-9 and 5.86 in 11 starts at Fenway Park.

• The Royals won’t see Boston lefty Jon Lester, a long-time nemesis, in the weekend series because he started Thursday’s game at Cleveland. Lester is 6-2 with a 1.64 ERA in nine career starts against the Royals, including 5-0 with a 1.02 ERA in six starts against them at Fenway. That includes a no-hitter on May 19, 2008.

• Birthday wishes Thursday to Billy Butler, who turned 27.

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