The Royals are closing in on their first American League Central title in franchise history. They hold a comfortable lead in the quest for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But there is still plenty to discuss. Let’s answer some questions.
1. One thing we forget, as we ponder the baseball season, is that each baseball game is a tree in sizable forest. The forest contains 162 trees, if you want to be technical about it, but there is also some shrubbery left behind from spring training, plus the luckiest teams get to plant Sequoiodeaes during the playoffs. Most of these trees mean nothing for the overall health of the forest, even three sickly trees standing in a row.
This is unbearably tortured metaphor, but, whatever, because it makes sense to me, especially in the case of Johnny Cueto. Most of the things we see during the season are meaningless, even if they occur in a row. A three-start sample doesn’t mean much.
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In his last three outings, Cueto has given up 17 runs in 17 innings, with opposing hitters slashing .380/.395/.646 against him. He recovered to throw two scoreless innings against Detroit earlier this week, but only after giving up four runs on nine hits in the first four innings.
Cueto has given up plenty of hits on his fastball and cutter, but he has, at least, maintained his velocity. There are injury concerns about him, as he missed some time in Cincinnati earlier this year with elbow stiffness. The Royals insist Cueto is healthy, and given their massive lead in the division, if the club harbored serious concerns about Cueto, they could easily skip him and give him time to rest. That has not happened.
“I don’t have any concerns about him,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said, before diagnosing the technical issues the pitcher is dealing with.
“He’s flying open,” Eiland said. “He knows it. We’ve addressed it. He works on it. He’s got to be able to take it out there. And he did his last two innings.
“It’s just a thing where he’s human, too. He’s not invincible, either. So he’s almost trying to do too much with the baseball, trying to over-manipulate it. He’s aware of it. We’ve watched film. He sees it.”
2. Because Alex Gordon severely strained his groin on July 8, the team is more than a dozen games up in the American League Central and if Gordon re-aggravates the injury he’ll be unavailable for October.
3. Kyle Zimmer is pitching for Class AA Northwest Arkansas as they begin the Texas League playoffs this week. In seven starts, Zimmer has posted a 3.41 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning and a 3.875 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If necessary, the Royals could consider calling him up in September, as they plan to add him to the 40-man roster this winter, anyway. But that’s still a long shot.
4. Because change is hard. But if Alcides Escobar keeps posting a .496 OPS, as he has since the All-Star break, he’ll lose that spot, most likely to Gordon.
Me personally? I’m concerned about going back to Canada for the American League Championship Series, because my phone never works there and I always get charged like $100 for using my GPS just so I can find the nearest restaurant selling bootleg versions of American food. Disclaimer: This mailbag does not endorse Donald Trump.
For the Royals? The biggest concern should be closer Greg Holland.
1. Alex Gordon, LF.
2. Ben Zobrist, 2B.
3. Lorenzo Cain, CF.
4. Eric Hosmer, 1B.
5. Kendrys Morales, DH.
6. Mike Moustakas, 3B.
7. Salvador Perez, C.
8. Paulo Orlando, RF.
9. Alcides Escobar, SS.
Johnny Cueto would start the game on the mound.
The competition will, almost certainly, come down to Danny Duffy and Kris Medlen. Kansas City may choose to align their rotation based on the matchups. One doubts the Royals want to send Duffy, a left-handed pitcher, into Rogers Centre to face the hellacious right-handed bats of the Blue Jays. Medlen, a right-hander, might also make more sense against the Astros, who are mostly loaded with right-handed hitters. But southpaws tend to benefit much more from the confines at Yankee Stadium.
Mostly, though, it depends on who pitches better during this last month. Medlen has been graded on a curve thus far, given his return from his second Tommy John surgery, but he’s still given up six runs in 11 2/3 innings. Duffy continues to slog through maddening stretches of inconsistency. The spot is up in the air.
Yes, the belief is Alex Gordon will meet the requirements to qualify for his fifth Gold Glove. As I understand it, the qualifications are at least 70 games played in the position, with at least 525 innings and at least 75 percent of the player’s innings in that position.
Gordon has played 80 games in left field, which gives him more than 700 innings. He has not played any other position. So he should be fine.
Jonny Gomes will play plenty this weekend, as Kansas City faces two White Sox southpaws. The Royals could not announce this at the time of the trade, but the major impetus to acquire Gomes was the chickenpox infection of Alex Rios. Gomes provides a right-handed stick, the ability to crush left-handed pitching (as he showed in some quality at-bats against Detroit) and a venerated clubhouse presence.
Where does he fit on the postseason roster? It depends. Will Rios make the roster? Will the Royals decide Paulo Orlando is their best option in right field? I don’t know. The Royals don’t know, either. The illness of Rios threw a wrench in their plans. The team hoped to make a decision on his viability this month. Now they need to wait for his chickenpox to fade, and then see how he fares facing live competition again.
It’s an odd situation. That’s for sure. But Gomes gives the team more depth. That’s never a bad thing.
Yordano Ventura never actually left Kansas City after he was optioned. He was supposed to drive to Nebraska the next morning with assistant general manager Rene Francisco. But that evening, as you recall, Jason Vargas blew out his left elbow. So perhaps the remedy for Cueto is just to plan a car trip with Francisco, only to cancel at the last minute.
But you can get all the Royals news you need in the pages of The Kansas City Star, kansascity.com and our new, True Blue app!
The more I think about it, I hope the franchise moves to Los Angeles. Philadelphia does not need this heartache.
Only in the mornings.
I did. Thank you for your concern.
I wrote this story about my father two years ago.
Otherwise, I was thrilled to be part of The Star’s coverage of the playoffs last October.
I keep a Word document on my laptop that contains a list of song titles. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it.
Nope. Pre-ordered on iTunes. In Thursday’s sixth inning, my phone buzzed. The album was ready for download. I haven’t stopped listening since.
The Wonder Years is my favorite band. I can say that now, pretty definitively, since Brand New seems to exist only to antagonize their fans. This new record is stunning. Dan Campbell pack so much charisma and pathos, sometimes within the same verse. There are too many hooks to count. The band has grown so strong behind Campbell, with atmospheric guitars that add scope to songs like “Stained Glass Ceilings.” As an aside, I would fully support a one-record union between The Wonder Years and Jason Aalon Butler, a la Bad Books.
On “The Upsides” and “Suburbia,” they were an excellent pop-punk band that hinted at the potential for something more. “The Greatest Generation” realized their promise. With this record, they’ve evolved out of the genre. They are basically just a rock band now. And that’s important. For years, The Wonder Years carried the torch for pop-punk. They were the standard-bearers. They aren’t anymore. And that’s OK. Now they’re merely one of the best bands in America.