(disclaimer: the following includes an account of history and the dramatic changes which occurred afterwards)
The Kansas City Royals played the Atlanta Braves in June 2010. The Royals had just won their last two series over the Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros, the first time they won consecutive series in the 2010 season. Their record stood at 29-38. They were a team on the move. In fact 2 weeks after this series, they rose to 39-46 and manager Ned Yost described them as "one good week out of First Place"
This is the story of how a homecoming could be reasonably depicted as a moment that everything changed forever.
The Royals were 12-23 when Ned Yost took over from Trey Hillman. So by the time Ned Yost returned to Atlanta, his team had gone 17-15 with 5 wins in their last 7 games. As well, this was a return to Atlanta after 4 years for Dayton Moore. Moore's Royals were only months away from being crowned the best farm system ever. While on the major league level, the team had a deceptively good 2008 (getting to 75 wins in September), a 2009 that fell apart in Game 30, and a 2010 that seemed to be moving in a positive direction.
Game 1's starters were Brian Bannister for the Royals and Derek Lowe for the Braves. Bannister was coming off of a start where he gave up 11 runs in 3 innings to the Cincinnati Reds. Bannister had won 5 straight games going into Cincinnati.
The Royals batting order/lineup was
- Batting First, In Left Field, Scott Podsednik. Hitting .287 and OPSing .697
- Batting Second, At Catcher, Jason Kendall. Hitting .266 and OPSing .648
- Batting Third, In Center Field, David DeJesus. Hitting .324 and OPSing .877
- Batting Fourth, At First Base, Billy Butler. Hitting .339 and OPSing .886
- Batting Fifth, In Right Field, Jose Guillen. Hitting .266 and OPSing .815
- Batting Sixth, At Third Base, Alberto Callaspo. Hitting .268 and OPSing .729
- Batting Seventh, At Second Base, Mike Aviles. Hitting .317 and OPSing .749
- Batting Eighth, At Shortstop, Yuniesky Betancourt. Hitting .276 and OPSing .721
- Batting Ninth, the Pitcher Brian Bannister.
The Braves tried their best to combat this starting 9, choosing to field Martin Prado, Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones, Brian McCain, Troy Glaus, Erik Hinske, Yunel Escobar, and Melky Cabrera in the top 8 spots of the order.
Bannister got around a leadoff double by Prado in the 1st. But in the 2nd, he allowed a single to Hinske, threw a wild pitch, walked Escobar, allowed a single to Cabrera to load the bases, saw the first run score on a bunt groundout by Lowe, and then Escobar scored on another wild pitch. The score was 2-0.
The Royals answered back with a Podsednik walk and a Kendall RBI, but the rest of the lineup failed to live up to the standards of grit and veteran leadership displayed by the Royals 1/2. Then in the 4th, Butler tied the game with a home run.
But in the bottom of the 4th, Bannister walked Hinske, gave up a single to Escobar, a double to Cabrera (scoring Hinske), a single to Lowe (!!!) (scoring Escobar), after outs by Prado and Heyward, Chipper Jones singled and Cabrera scored. The score was 5-2.
Bannister's day ended after the 4th. After the game, he cited suffocating humidity and a failure to eat properly as factors in his performance. He would go on to defeat Stephen Strasburg in his next outing. Bannister's final MLB appearance was one inning of relief vs the Indians in 2010 where he replaced Greg Holland on the mound and gave up a run on a wild pitch. He was released in November 2010, and after almost pitching in Japan, he retired from Baseball, and is running a non-profit that helps families in crisis in San Francisco (according to Wikipedia).
Chris Getz pinch hit for Bannister, making the 2nd out of the 5th.
Kanekoa Texeira relieved Bannister in the 5th. He pitched a scoreless 5th and was pulled in the 6th after giving up a run on a sac fly (hit by Chipper, Melky scored). Texeira's final appearance as a Royal was on April 20th, 2011. He pitched the 8th and 9th of a game the Royals lost 7-2. Texeira was lost on waivers to the Yankees in May 2011, only to be released in July by the Yankees, then resigned by the Yankees 13 days later. He has pitched in the Reds organization since 2012, relieving in Louisville in 2012 and being in an unknown zone so far in 2013.
Dusty Hughes relieved Texeira and struck out McCann. Hughes' last Royals appearance came as the losing pitcher in Game 162 of 2010, as Rocco Baldelli scored on an error by third baseman Wilson Betemit. Hughes was lost on waivers to the Twins in January 2011. Hughes posted a 2.13 WHIP in 15 appearances for the Twins. He has pitched for the AAA Gwinnett Braves since 2012.
Wilson Betemit pinch hit for Dusty Hughes, knocking Alberto Callaspo across in the 7th inning, making the game 6-3 (and knocking Derek Lowe out of the game). Jose Guillen knocked the 4th run across. We saw two innings from Victor Marte and a pinch hitting appearance from Brayan Pena. But the Braves held the line and won 6-4 with Billy Wagner getting the save.
After this loss, it was time for Game 2 of the series. The Royals had Zack Greinke, the 2009 Cy Young winner, who had just notched his second win of the 2010 season v. the Cincinnati Reds. The Braves had Kris Medlen, who'll be starting vs the Royals on Tuesday Night. Aside from the starting pitchers, both lineups were the same.
Greinke gave up 2 runs in the first (one unearned) and a home run to McCann in the 4th. The Royals closed the gap to 3-2 in the 5th with a Podsednik sac fly, and a Kendall groundout RBI. Kendall went into the series with 3 hits in his last 35 at-bats going over the last 9 games (10 for 51 since he became the regular #2 hitter for the Royals). But in this series, he had actually done good things with his bat.
An Eric Hinske groundout had made the game 4-2 Braves in the 6th. But in the 7th, an Aviles single and Betancourt double put two men on base for Greinke (who grounded out) and then Podsednik knocked Aviles in with a groundout. Kendall knocked Betancourt across with a single.
Going into the series, Kendall dismissed concerns over tiredness. He had started 31 of the first 32 games of the Yost era (a number that stood at 33 of 34 after game two). Kendall received his second off day for game three. He made 52 more starts in the Royals next 61 games. Then at the end of August 2010, it was revealed that he had torn his rotator cuff, and had been playing with the tear for 4 weeks. Kendall would go on to tear his rotator cuff again in 2011, and after a brief comeback attempt in 2012, he would remain retired.
Greinke's day finished at 101 pitches and 7 innings with a 4-4 game. Greinke would finish out his year with an 8-6 record and 4.35 ERA in his last 18 starts as a Royal. Greinke's tenure with the team would move towards its end in August 2010 when he commented that he wasn't excited by the Royals rebuilding efforts and that the chances of any of the prospects making an impact by the end of his contract (2012) was "pretty slim". While it turned out those statements were pretty much correct, they hastened the end of Greinke's time in Kansas City. After the statements in August 2010, a dance of shopping Greinke and then a demand to be traded ensued. We all know the details of the deal, which brought the Royals two players who'll be regulars in 2013 (Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar) . After the deal, Greinke played for two teams which played in KC, then he signed with the Dodgers and fell into a hard knock big city life recently as some of you may have heard.
Yuniesky Betancourt also made his final appearance in the series in game 2. He would post a 250/280/400 run with 11 HRs in his last 86 games in 2010. Yuniesky would go on to play for the Brewers in 2011, then the Royals in 2012 for some reason, and then the Brewers again in 2013. Yuniesky has split time between 3rd base and 1st base in Milwaukee, which means that while the Royals were not good several years ago, they didn't have Yuniesky Betancourt playing first base for them either.
Blake Wood pitched the 8th inning for the Royals. Blake Wood was the first Dayton Moore draft pick to play for the Royals and was making his 18th MLB appearance.
Willie Bloomquist pinch hit for Blake Wood. Bloomquist walked up to the plate with a 194/250/355 hitting line in 69 PAs (16 starts). He would make an out v. Billy Wagner. Bloomquist would get 111 PAs over 25 starts and a hitting line of 308/327/411 to close out his time in Kansas City. Bloomquist went on to be traded to the Reds, then he played in Arizona in 2011 and 2012. He is currently on the DL due to his heroics in the World Baseball Classic.
In the bottom of the 9th, Robinson Tejeda came into the game. Tejeda had a pretty solid 2010 campaign going into the game. But he gave up a home run to Troy Glaus on the 4th pitch of his appearance. Tejeda started off 2011 flat, giving up an OPS over 1.000 while making 7 appearances in the Royals first 10 games. Tejeda would make 2 more appearances in May 2011 before being demoted for the rest of the year. Tejeda pitched in the Indians organization once in 2012 and hasn't been seen in organized baseball since last spring.
So it was time for Game 3. The Royals starting pitcher was a man of boundless potential, Kyle Davies. The Braves started Kenshin Kawakami. The Braves lineup was shuffled slightly with David Ross starting at catcher and Omar Infante starting at second base. The Royals shuffled their lineup even more. David DeJesus moved to Left Field and leadoff. Brayan Pena started at catcher and hit 7th. Chris Getz played 2nd base and hit 8th. Mitch Maier played Centerfield and hit 6th.
It was Sunday, they had lost twice in the last 2 games, time for big lineup changes.
But when the game started, Kyle Davies who walked into his former ballpark with an ERA of 6.01, gave up two RBI doubles to Chipper Jones and Omar Infante in the first and the Braves led 4-0 after 1.
Jose Guillen reached on an error by the pitcher, Alberto Callaspo singled, Mitch Maier made an lineout to 2nd, Brayan Pena knocked in Guillen with a single, Chris Getz knocked in Callaspo with a single. The Braves led 4-2 after the top of the 2nd concluded.
But the Royal assault was not over after 2. Aviles and Butler unleashed the singles train on Kawakami, and Guillen knocked in Aviles with another single. This chased Kawakami out of the game and Cristhian Martinez came into the game. Mitch Maier scored Butler on a single to the pitcher, and Getz scored Guillen on a double. The score was 5-4 Royals after the top of the 3rd.
Kyle Davies didn't allow any runs in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th. He was pulled in the 5th after giving up 2 walks and topping 100 pitches.
Davies was replaced by Victor Marte. Marte registered the final two outs of the 5th even after loading the bases on a walk to David Ross. After this game, Marte's 2010 slid into a pit of lava. Marte gave up 24 runs in his last 11 appearances as a Royal, seeing his ERA soar from 3.12 to 9.76 in a month. Marte was demoted after giving up 8 runs in his final two appearances (which spanned an inning total). Marte has pitched in AAA for the Memphis Redbirds since 2011, making random appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012, posting a 4.91 ERA in 48 appearances.
After a scoreless top of the 6th, the Royals put Kyle Farnsworth into the game. Farnsworth gave up an RBI double to Chipper Jones, tying the game at 5. The Royals and Braves were scoreless in the 7th. Scott Podsednik pinch hit for Farnsworth in the top of the 8th and drew a walk.
Kyle Farnsworth was traded at the deadline of 2010. The deal sent Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel to Atlanta for Gregor Blanco (who appeared in several games of this series), Jesse Chavez and Tim Collins. Farnsworth and Ankiel were only briefly in Atlanta, with Farnsworth becoming a closer for the Tampa Bay Rays. Tim Collins has been a mainstay of the Royals bullpen since 2011. Gregor Blanco was dispatched quickly and went on to collect a World Series ring in 2012. Jesse Chavez was not very good.
Scott Podsednik was traded around the 2010 deadline. The deal sent Podsednik to the Dodgers for Lucas May (who didn't last long here) and Elisaul Pimenthal, who was last seen pitching in AA in 2012. Podsednik wound up getting terrible advice, turning down an opportunity to play for the Dodgers in 2011 and winding up being out of the majors until a stint with the Red Sox in 2012 (and a 2-day stint with the Arizona Diamondbacks, before returning to the Red Sox). Podsednik is not in baseball in 2013. Yet.
The Royals loaded the bases against Craig Kimbrel in a tie game with the Podsednik walk. But DeJesus struck out, Aviles struck out, and Butler popped out.
The Royals pitcher in the 8th was Blake Wood. Wood gave up a single to Prado, Heyward grounded into a double play, Jones and Glaus walked. Then Erik Hinske scored two runs on a double. Melky Cabrera knocked in the 8th run on a single. The Braves led 8-5.
As for Blake Wood. He had a pretty good 2011, with his final Royals appearance coming in Game 162 of 2011, where Wood gave up the Twins' winning run in a 1-0 Twins win. Wood missed 2012 due to Tommy John Surgery. The Royals lost him on waivers to the Indians in November 2012 and Wood is still on the disabled list.
Billy Wagner got the save and the Braves swept the series. The Royals were 29-41 and 11 1/2 out of first.
In all three games, the Royals were competitive. In all three games, the Royals lost. Twice due to bullpen malfunctions. Once due to a Brian Bannister start.
What happened to the core of the Royals lineup after June 20th, 2010?
David DeJesus: injured himself at Yankee Stadium, traded to Oakland for Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks. DeJesus spent 2011 in Oakland and has played for the Chicago Cubs since 2012. Vin Mazzaro became a villain early due to misfortunate circumstances (11 runs). Mazzaro went into the bullpen in Omaha in 2012. He's currently a reliever in Indianapolis (the Pirates system)
Billy Butler: Still here! Still hitting!
Jose Guillen: Managed to avoid injury for long enough to get traded to San Francisco in 2010. Guillen was left off the Giants playoff team due to accusations of PED usage. He retired from Baseball in the spring of 2011. The Royals received Kevin Pucetas for Guillen. Pucetas is on the Rangers AA team this year.
Alberto Callaspo: Traded to the Angels in July 2010 for Sean O'Sullivan and Will Smith. Rumors of the deal being rejected circled, but then after O'Sullivan pitched well vs. the Yankees, the deal was closed. O'Sullivan didn't do much in Kansas City and is now in the Padres organization at Tucson, Will Smith has had a short stint in KC where he didn't really do a lot. Callaspo has been an above-average third baseman in Anaheim since 2010.
Mike Aviles: Traded to Boston at the deadline in 2011. Played 100+ games and didn't hit very well on one of the worst Red Sox teams since the 1990s. Was traded for John Farrell and then traded to Cleveland in November 2012 where he's currently a backup infielder at 3rd. The Royals received Kendal Volz and Yamaico Navarro for Aviles, and neither has really done much. With Navarro being traded to Pittsburgh quickly and Volz retiring from baseball in May 2012.
Chris Getz: Still here! Becoming a late-innings hero in recent games. Still waiting for him to put together a sustained run.
Wilson Betemit: Became irrelevant when Mike Moustakas was promoted. Traded to Detroit for Antonio Cruz (now in High A) and Julio Rodriguez (last seen in Northwest Arkansas last year). Betemit played in Baltimore in 2012 and is on the 60 day DL this year with a knee injury.
Mitch Maier: Became an ultra-part time player in 2011 with the additions of Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera. Pitched for the Royals twice in 2011 and 2012. Became a free agent after 2012 and signed with the Red Sox. Hasn't been seen in Pawtucket yet.
Brayan Pena: The man who outlasted multiple Royals catchers became a free agent after 2012. He signed with the Detroit Tigers, and is their backup catcher.
The changes since June 2010:
A cinematic depiction of the Royals, if they become a success soon, could have the events of a sweep in Atlanta planting a seed in Dayton Moore's head that it was time to cast aside most of the guys they were playing in Atlanta, while getting some new players and opening the path for players in the farm system during this series. It'd be that moment where a disappointment in front of so many former co-workers motivated Dayton to renew his drive to finally finish the process. A drive that could have had it's final vital parts with the building of a rotation in the 2012 offseason.
The players in this series and where they were in the summer of 2010-
- Perez: Wilmington
- Hosmer: Wilmington (weeks away from a promotion to Northwest Arkansas)
- Butler and Getz: The two guys who were on the roster for the 2010 Atlanta series and 2013 Atlanta series
- Moustakas: Northwest Arkansas
- Escobar: Milwaukee
- Gordon: Omaha (about a month later, he was promoted to KC after the injury of David DeJesus)
- Cain: Huntsville (Milwaukee's AA team)
- Francoeur: New York Mets
- Kottaras: Milwaukee
- Johnson: Durham (Tampa Bay's AAA team)
- Tejada: San Diego
- Dyson: About to make rehab appearances in the Arizona Rookie League (hadn't played in 2010 until June 21st)
- Guthrie: Baltimore
- Davis: Tampa Bay
- Chen: Royals rotation, starting the next day in Washington
- Collins: New Hampshire (Toronto's AA team)
- Crow: Northwest Arkansas
- Gutierrez: Arizona
- Hochevar: 15-Day Disabled List
- Holland: Omaha (debuted in August 2010)
While most of the Royals offense are guys you saw in 2012, and a majority are people you saw in 2011, out of the current 25 man roster, only 3 of them were on the Royals 25 man Roster in mid-June 2010 and mid-April 2013.
Time will tell of the change seen by the Royals will involve meaningful games late in seasons. But there is no denying that the team that went to Atlanta in 2010 and the team that is going to Atlanta in 2013 have dramatic personnel differences.
They're going back to Atlanta, and maybe this time they'll make more of their series at Turner Field than they did in 2010.