The Royals finished the first half of the season with a record that is slightly above .500 (48-46) and moments that have been both good and bad. Here are the highs and lows from the season so far.
April 25: Ventura announces himself against the Orioles
Yordano Ventura showed glimpses of dominance at various points in 2013 and in spring training 2014. But he emerged in full bloom on this soggy night at Camden Yards. He cleared a series of benchmarks: He pitched in the eighth inning for the first time as a Royal. He struck out eight and threw a career-high 113 pitches. In a 5-0 victory, he displayed all the evidence of his bright future.
May 14: The “Vargy” and “Moose” Show
Jason Vargas blanked the Rockies for 6 2/3 innings at Kauffman Stadium to finish off a two-game sweep. But the attention centered around third baseman Mike Moustakas. Frustrated about stories written in The Star concerning his potential demotion, Moustakas appeared annoyed at having to answer questions post-game about his critical, three-run double. His phrase “Vargy pitched a great game” soon became a useful meme.
June 2: Alex Gordon changes the conversation
The Royals limped into Busch Stadium after a dreadful May and a debilitating series in Toronto. The energy switched with a solo home run by Alex Gordon in the seventh inning of a 6-0 victory. The blast by Gordon snapped a scoreless deadlock, and cleared the space for Danny Duffy to cruise. Duffy returned from a case of dead arm to spin six scoreless frames.
June 17: A day in the first-place sun
The team’s 10-game winning streak coincided with a four-game series in Detroit. The Royals pounded Justin Verlander the day before. On this night, they clobbered reigning American League Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer, collecting an 11-4 victory in the process and ascending to the top of the Central. Their reign was brief, but still sweet for players so accustomed to losing records.
July 13: A four-game embarrassment avoided
After the winning streak ended, the Royals stumbled for weeks. They dropped six of nine in a subsequent home stand. In their next four-game series with the Tigers, they lost the first three games. It fell to Bruce Chen, the 37-year-old lefty making a spot start for Jason Vargas, to stem the tide. Chen survived into the sixth inning, and a five-run outburst in the seventh inning against Justin Verlander allowed the Royals to escape with their dignity intact.
April 13: Wade Davis gets wild
The Twins swept the Royals out of Target Field, and capitalized on an eighth-inning blunder by Wade Davis. Protecting a one-run lead, Davis threw away a grounder to home that allowed a run to score. He followed that up by failing to cover the plate, which allowed the winning run to come home. “We shouldn’t be getting swept like this,” Eric Hosmer said.
May 22: Mike Moustakas demoted
The Royals debated demoting Moustakas for weeks, unsure how to ignite his moribund bat. The team wanted to keep him in the majors, despite a .152 batting average at the time, to retain his defense. But after a disappointing home stand, the team pulled the trigger and shipped Moustakas back to Class AAA Omaha for the first time since 2011. There he remained for less than two weeks, and showed signs of improvement upon his return.
May 26: Yordano Ventura gets hurt
In a season blemished by Tommy John surgeries across the industry, including one to Royals reliever Luke Hochevar, the most frightful moment of the Royals season occurred when Ventura walked off the mound in the third inning. He felt discomfort in his prized right elbow. The fear eventually dissipated. The team diagnosed a valgus extension overload, which involves the bones on the outside of the elbow. He missed one start and returned to action.
May 28: The Astros sweep the Royals in Kauffman Stadium
A miserable stretch of baseball ended in embarrassing fashion. Houston, one of the worst teams in the American League, thumped the Royals for three consecutive days in their own ballpark. The Royals hit without power, pitched without accuracy and looked sloppy in the field. Hosmer called the effort “embarrassing” and Alex Gordon laid plain the despair. “We got our butts kicked, in every aspect of the game, by the Houston Astros.”
A day after this 9-3 defeat, hitting coach Pedro Grifol was demoted and replaced by Dale Sveum.
May 31: Aaron Brooks implodes
The Royals called upon Brooks to replace Ventura for one start. Brooks could not even complete one inning. The Blue Jays thrashed him for seven runs and chased him with two outs in the first. The outing devastated the team’s pitching staff, as Ned Yost emptied his bullpen to survive the day. The aftershocks rippled through the roster for days after the 12-2 defeat.