Royals in Houston - The Rubber Match

A hit, Mike! - Scott Halleran

Because you can't say 'rubber match' without snickering a little.

The Royals, currently 3-5 on their road trip, finish it off tonight in an attempt to salvage a series win from the Astros. If, as a long suffering Royals fan, you don't watch Houston and get a very 2006ish Kansas City feel from them, then you just are not paying attention.

A case can be made that a 4-5 road trip is nothing to feel angst over, but like the Royals' current record, it is 'more how they got there' than 'how they ended up'. Sure, a lot/most/all of us would have taken a 22-21 record and a 4-5 road trip on the morning of May 23rd if offered back in March, but at this point, it all seems pretty desperate. That is a gut feeling, maybe not founded in logic at all, but one should remember that ballplayers have gut feelings as well and I have to believe there is some level of 'we are hanging on by our fingernails' permeating the Royals' clubhouse right now.

So, while The Arborist explains third base trees to us, and The Orator lectures on crowd size and it's net effect (something that not even Rex Hudler could be convinced of), we wonder if maybe just this once, Kansas City might be persuaded to score some runs for James Shields.

All Shields has done is throw eight innings in each of his last three starts, allowed zero, two and two earned runs and gotten a no decision and two losses for his trouble. James has gone no less than six innings in every start this year and given up more than three runs once (four in his second start...that he won - go figure). Everyone agreed that Shields was a good pitcher, few were ready to call him an 'ace'. Over the course of the season, Shields may well turn out to be a good number two pitcher or even a 1B pitcher, but right now, dude is a freaking ace.

On the current road trip, Alex Gordon is 16-37 and has 5 walks. Thanks to the those hitting around him, Alex has driven in just one run and scored six. As much as I tire of The Aborist's crotchety condescension, that is not really on him, but instead remains an ongoing indictment of Dayton Moore's complete unwillingness to provide his manager with some offensive options.

Lorenzo Cain has cooled, but is still a productive bat. We all know Billy Butler will come around (he already has a little). After that, however, a whole bunch of stink and nothing worthwhile available to clean it up. It is probably enough to make James Shields long for the days when Delmon Young played on his team.

The Royals need the win tonight because, well - Astros, and also because the return home for four against the Angels, then two with St. Louis, followed by two at St. Louis and three at Texas. Those ten games plus tonight's gets Kansas City to an off-day on June 3rd. Will they be over .500 by then or buried?

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