There is no shortage of Royals still searching to find an offensive rhythm amid the cool April temperatures and postponement-plagued schedule, but few draw the same scrutiny as right fielder Jeff Francoeur.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
That scrutiny intensified after Jarrod Dyson, in a rare start, had two hits, a steal and two RBIs in Sunday afternoon’s 9-0 romp over Cleveland in the first game of a day-night doubleheader at Kauffman Stadium.
Francoeur entered Monday’s series finale against the Indians on a four-for-23 slide that dropped his average to .247 and his on-base percentage to .282. His other numbers are also lagging.
Still, he remains optimistic.
“With the weather and the way things have gone,” Francoeur said, “I feel comfortable. There have been times when I’ve been frustrated with certain things.
“But right now, I really feel like I’m seeing it good and swinging at good pitches. I’m getting a lot of six- and seven-pitch at-bats, which is good for me. I’m not sitting there and making the first out on the first pitch.
“If I continue to see pitches, I’m going to get into that rhythm where you to be.”
Manager Ned Yost said he sees “signs” that Francoeur, like the Royals’ attack in general, is poised for a breakout.
“Like the at-bat (Sunday afternoon) against (Justin) Masterson,” Yost said. “They threw him a 93-mph fastball up and in, and he cranks a double. He’s getting there.
“He’s been OK. Not great but not bad. OK.”
Francoeur points to the club’s on-field success, fueled by its revamped rotation, as a barricade against falling into the downward cycle that made last season so disappointing.
“I had no confidence last year (after things started to go bad),” he said. “It was just horrible. That’s why it’s so nice when you have the pitching that we have. It takes a little bit off the offense, and that enables us to relax.
“You know you can’t get it all back with one swing. You have to take each at-bat each night and just go with it.”
The scrutiny will continue.
Shields to face former team
James Shields said he won’t have any trouble sleeping Monday despite the fact that he faces his former team, Tampa Bay, in the opener of a three-game series Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium.
Shields was drafted by the Rays in 2000 and went 87-73 with a 3.89 ERA over seven seasons before he was traded to the Royals in December.
Yost, for one, expects Shields to be a touch amped up.
“Every time you go against your old team, there’s always a little more energy involved, especially facing them for the first time,” Yost said. “It’s probably going to take a year or two before that starts to go away.”
Of course, Shields won’t be the only player experiencing a touch of awkwardness.
“I’m sure I’ll smile a few times, especially if he gets me to swing and miss on a changeup 2-0 or something,” Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. “I think it’s going to be fun. I think win, lose or draw it will be an interesting experience, and a good test for all of us.”
Fox Sports Kansas City ratings bonanza
Fox Sports Kansas City pulled a record average rating of 7.9 for its telecast of the first game of Sunday’s day-night doubleheader between the Royals and Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium.
That topped the previous FSKC record for a Royals telecast, set on May 6, 2009, when it drew a 7.5 for a home game against the Seattle Mariners. That game enabled the Royals to increase their division lead to two games.
FSKC has telecast more than 900 Royals games over 11-plus seasons (1997-2002 and 2008-now). It also reports its season ratings are up 35 percent over 2012.
Jeremy Guthrie matched a franchise record Sunday by making his 16th consecutive start without a loss. He is 8-0 with eight no-decisions since a 2-1 victory over the White Sox on Aug. 8, 2012.
Paul Splittorff had 14 victories and two no-decisions in a 16-game streak in 1977-78.
Guthrie is barely halfway to the all-time record of 30 consecutive starts without a loss by Roger Clemens in 1998-99 while pitching for Toronto and the New York Yankees.
Atlanta’s Kris Medlen had a 28-game run that spanned parts of four seasons before ending in his first start this season — a 2-0 loss to the Phillies on April 4.
It was 28 years ago Monday — April 29, 1986 — that Dennis Leonard pitched the 100th complete game of his career. It came in a 2-1 loss at Detroit.
Leonard threw three more complete games that season, which marked the final year of his career. The 103 complete games remain a franchise record. Paul Splittorff ranks second with 88, followed by Bret Saberhagen with 64.
Points of comparison: James Shields top all current Royals with 20 complete games in his career, including 19 with Tampa Bay. Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay is the active leader with 67, followed by CC Sabathia of the Yankees with 35.