Great Lakes Royals

April 8, 2010 6:10 PM

Tigers @ Royals (April 5-8) Series Recap

If I may overreact for a second: this pitching staff is about one healthy Gil Meche shoulder--preferably the right one--from being a top end MLB rotation.  That still won't make the Royals a contender.

The story of this series is bound to become a familiar line: The Royals starting pitching had an ERA in series of 0.93.  That figure could accurately be described as "Greinke-esque", but as it turned out, Zack Greinke ended up having the least effective day of the three Royals pitchers (though if we account for who the Tigers sat on Wednesday and Thursday, he faced the toughest lineup of the three.

And despite that ERA, the Royals pitchers recorded a grand total of 0 (zero) pitcher wins.  The game that they managed to win also included a blown save, though the blown save was caused by that could-have-been-infamous Miguel Cabrera solo homer on a ten pitch at bat following three consecutive Soria K's, all with two strikes and two outs in the 9th of a one-run game.  The Royals won the game, because they tagged Jose Valverde for a home run, a single, and a game winning double before he recorded an out, which was the theme of the entire series.  In this series, the three losing pitchers were all bullpen members, and none recorded outs in their losing appearances.

Game 1: Tigers 8, Royals 4

"Watched" this game on MLB gameday from a college classroom.  That limits the full experience of following a baseball game, but when you're a Royals fan in the Great Lakes area, following the team using Gameday is not at all a foreign concept.  It's much easier to follow a baseball game using internet-based software than it is to do with a football game, or even a radio broadcast (which I also added for the other two games).

Currently, Detroit is my local market, which essentially restricts me from ever seeing a Tigers game except when I'm at home, in front of a TV, and the Red Wings aren't playing.

Anyway, it was clear that Greinke was tossing a lot of balls relative to the control he usually has.  He wasn't exactly getting hit around: he was allowing a baserunner per inning, but he wasn't economical with his pitch count, and he wasn't exactly striking out a bunch of guys in the process, and the Tigers finally got to him in the sixth inning.

I know it's early in the season, and the last thing this franchise can handle is an injury to Greinke's pitching shoulder, but he came out of the game after 6 innings with only 97 pitches.  I don't know if I would have pushed him to 115 or anything insane like that on opening day, but if you're looking for the best guy to go back into the game in the seventh inning and record outs on the bottom of the order, I have no idea why Trey Hillman would pull Greinke at that point.  I was honestly shocked to see him out after 6 IP and 1 ER.  I was not at all shocked that Roman Colon walked the first hitter he faced on five pitches.

The Royals had given up the lead before they recorded an out, and Colon's 2010 debut lasted all of two hitters, which leads me to the obvious conclusion that Hillman's newfound trust in Colon was about skin deep.

Still, the Royals got to Verlander early in this game, sported timely hitting for the first and only time in this series, and led 4 to 1 on opening day.  So, despite Willie Bloomquist getting the start at 3B and possibly pulling Greinke too early, I thought the Royals played well in this one, even if their bullpen is complete junk.

Game 2: Royals 3, Tigers 2 (11 Innings)

Luke Hochevar headlined this game by throwing 7 2/3 scoreless, less than 100 pitches, and although he only struck out two, he walked none and induced a lot of weak contact.

I didn't get to see most of this game on TV before the 8th inning, because apparently, I can only actually see games that aren't in market.  The game came on television in the 8th inning, mercifully, and so I got to see the final four innings.  Which means I essentially got to see Soria be really, really dominant, and then Miguel Cabrera last long enough to hit a standard slicing foul ball that went just deep enough and long enough to plunk the foul pole for probably the cheapest home run ever hit.  Most MLB games feature foul balls that were better struck than Cabrera's "clutch" hit, but Cabrera is an excellent two strike hitter, which is a primary reason why he was still hitting at this point.

That was the play of the game, but the play of the game for the Royals was picking off Cabrera trying to steal third base off Kyle Farnsworth.  Either Jason Kendall saw this or someone on the bench alerted Kendall to Cabrera's aggressiveness, and the Royals limited the damage to one run in the 11th before winning in the bottom half.

Game 3: Tigers 7, Royals 3

This was kind of the same song/dance as opening day.  You have Brian Bannister, who didn't throw great, but was very economical with his pitches.  He was fortunate to be kept in the park as long as he was, eventually succumbing to the long ball in the 6th inning to Magglio Ordonez.  As he usually does in successful starts, Bannister kept the other team off of the bases.  Ordonez' homer only cost the Royals one run (Bannister's only blemish in 6 IP), but of course, two innings later, the same part of the order struck much, much harder.

After a scoreless inning of relief from Dusty Hughes, the first two Tigers (Damon and Ordonez) reached base, and then Cabrera got one up in the wind (hit a lot harder/higher than the one on Wednesday night), and it carried over the fence to turn a weak lead for the Royals into a decisive one for the Tigers.  The Royals had two opportunities to respond, scoring a run in the inning and loading the bases with two outs, but Alberto Callaspo grounded out to first and the Tigers only made it worse in the 9th.

Looking Ahead

Boston comes to Kansas City for a three game series this weekend, and the Royals figure to have the pitching advantage for both weekend games: Zack Greinke against Josh Beckett, and Gil Meche against Clay Buchholz, both making their season debuts for the season.  Greinke/Beckett is the headlining match-up: Zack faces off against Verlander and now Beckett in his first two starts of the year.

The most intriguing match-up, for an impartial observer, will be the matchup tonight between ageless knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, and the generally disappointing, but much more physically impressive Kyle Davies.  Of course, if the first series suggested anything, it's that the Royals shouldn't worry about winning the pitching match-up, they need to find a way to score runs and hold leads in order to help the staff.

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