In the month of May the Royals play seven different teams and—as of this writing—three of those teams lead their division and four of them have winning records; it ain’t gonna be an easy month.
(I wrote this for our print edition on Thursday, and because the Royals have won two of three against the Tigers, Detroit is no longer a division leader. But if the Tigers win Sunday, they could be back in first place. Check in later Sunday and I should have something new posted.)
Detroit Tigers @ home and away: Ask around—and I did—and you might hear that reporters and fans tend to focus on the wrong games; when you play a team as good as Detroit you should try not to get swept and be happy if you play .500 ball. The games you have to win are against the teams that aren’t so hot. But when you play Detroit, don’t let Miguel Cabrera beat you. If the game’s on the line, walk him and take your chances with Victor Martinez.
Cleveland Indians@ home: This is one of those not so hot—at least right now—teams. The Royals can’t let the Minnesota Twins beat them two out of three in their first series or fail to sweep the Indians when they had a chance and both those things happened. In their last game in Cleveland the Royals were up 4-3 going into the bottom of the sixth and lost. Those are the kind of games that come back to haunt you—not losing to good teams with excellent pitchers on the mound.
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(After Saturday night’s game against the Tigers and David Price, nobody in the Kansas City clubhouse seemed overly upset. Price is a very good pitcher who was on that night, so you tip your cap and get ready to come back out on Sunday afternoon and try to take three out of four.)
Texas Rangers away: This is another big series for the Royals because they have a chance to go two out of three or sweep a series against a team that’s scuffling. The Rangers are near the bottom of the team batting average rankings and they’re also not hitting a lot of home runs. As I write this the Rangers are also dead last in slugging percentage. They’re also 21st in team ERA. In a tough month of baseball, these are games you need to win.
Yankees @ home and away: The Bronx Bombers are near the top of baseball when it comes to home runs and when the Royals play in New York watch for pitches inside to lefties or away from righties; that right field porch isn’t very far away. The Yankees' left-handed hitters will get up on top of the plate and try to pull everything. Pitchers will have more success if they can keep the ball in the middle of the field or toward the left-center gap—almost 400 feet from home plate.
I can’t remember who said it, but the best answer I’ve ever heard to the "who would you like to be" question was a guy who said he’d like to be Mickey Mantle in the 1950s in New York City on a Saturday night. You might be stunned to find out big league ballplayers like to go out at night, but it’s been known to happen and there’s no better city for going out at night than New York.
The Royals play the Cardinals at home on a Sunday, and then fly to the Big Apple that night and play a 12:05 day game on Monday. And a Monday day game means Monday night is free. If some of the Boys in Blue look like they’re dragging on Monday afternoon or Tuesday night, you might know why.
(Here’s a little something extra to reward you for reading this thing on-line: it’s not uncommon for a professional ballplayer to go to sleep at 4 AM. That might sound bad, but do the math: say the game ends at 10:30 PM—that means the player is up for five and a half hours after he gets done playing. OK, now say you finish work at 5 PM; five and a half hours later is 10:30 PM and I’m pretty sure that seems like a completely reasonable time for you to go to bed.)
Cincinnati Reds @ home: The Reds are in the middle of the pack when it comes to team ERA, but still have more quality starts than Kansas City. If that trend continues the Cincinnati starters might go deeper in the game, but the KC bullpen could spell the difference. One of the reasons the Royals don’t have so many quality starts is the excellence of their bullpen; Ned Yost doesn’t hesitate to go to them in the middle innings with the game on the line. Kansas City would like the starters to go deeper so the bullpen doesn’t get worn out, but the bottom line is wins, however you can get them.
St. Louis Cardinals@ home: The Cards are one of the top teams in baseball when it comes to team batting average, but near the bottom when it comes to home runs—and those stats shouldn’t change much when St. Louis plays in Kauffman Stadium. A hard place to hit home runs, but a spacious park that allows a lot of base hits to fall. Much like Cabrera and Detroit, don’t let Matt Holliday beat you; when it matters, work around him and go after somebody else.
Chicago Cubs away: That means National League rules and pitchers hit. So the Royals are going to have to figure out what they want to do with Kendrys Morales. The Royals DH is currently hitting over .300—but so is Eric Hosmer. If you want Morales in the lineup, first base is probably where he’d play and then Hosmer might go to right field. If he’s not in the lineup, Morales would be a nice bat off the bench. And finally, check the flags: if the wind is blowing in Wrigley can be a pitcher’s park; if the wind is blowing out it might be slugfest.