Ten. Twenty. One point five. Those are, respectively, the number of games in a row the Royals have won, the years since the last time a Royals winning streak reached double-digits, and the number of games the Royals are in first place after beating the Tigers 2-1.
In the first inning, the Royals flaunted their good luck like a peacock seeking a mate. Eric Hosmer singled then stole 2nd base. Two batters later, Alex Gordon stepped up and cracked a grounder right up the middle. It was to be a simple out, except the ball caromed off second base into shallow right field, allowing Hosmer to score. Batting average on balls in play, huh?
The Royals offense did not flex its muscles like it had the first few games. Unlike Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, Tigers starter Drew Smyly executed his gameplan and pitched a very good game. Striking out 6 batters, Smyly scattered 7 hits over 7 innings without a walk. One of those pitches, however, was an inside fastball to Omar Infante who yanked it into the left field bleachers for a solo home run.
Before the game, a curious event took place. Bruce Chen, translator, pitcher, and professional hypnotist, placed Jeremy Guthrie into deep hypnotic state over the phone in between one of his innings from Omaha. Chen whispered into his ear, "It’s 2009." Guthrie nodded. Chen whispered again. "You are not Jeremy Guthrie." Guthrie, despite being somewhat confused, nodded slowly, trusting his friend and colleague. "Your name is Zack Greinke." Chen snapped his fingers. Guthrie awoke, put down the phone, began talking about World of Warcraft, and jogged to the mound.
Guthrie exhibited pinpoint control and superb efficiency, shooting fastballs and wrinkling breaking balls through space-time around the bats of the Tigers. Guthrie walked only one, but, most importantly, struck out nine (9) Tigers. Only once in the first six innings did Guthrie run into trouble, but then this happened.
Alex Gordon. Lo, Danger Ox. The Plunger unclogs the bases.
In the 7th, Chen’s hypnotism of Guthrie began to fade, and Guthrie left a fastball up and in to J.D. Martinez who slammed a line drive home run to left field. A few batters later, Nick Castellanos pulled a similar pitch to deep left field, bouncing the ball off the wall. Gordon misplayed the ball slightly—he might have been able to make a great catch but didn’t quite judge it correctly—and Guthrie’s day was done after the double. His Greinke impression was pristine: 6.2 innings, 9 Ks, 1 BB, 1 ER. Herrera overpowered Don Kelly with three pitches and the inning was over.
In the eighth inning, the Royals removed the shackles from their Great Beasts, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, to devour the devourers. Davis’ inning looked like this: strikeout, strikeout swinging, strikeout swinging. Ho-hum. Holland had the uncomfortable position of dealing with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez. Though Cabrera singled to open the bottom of the ninth, Holland squirmed out of the inning with a pop-up, strikeout and a fly-out (or, as Physioc would probably say, another pop-up).
The Royals’ pitchers ended up with 13 strikeouts and one walk en route to a dominating performance of one of the strongest lineups in the American League. The offense was not great, but did just enough, and no offense is capable of consistently putting up 6-7+ runs a game like the Royals have recently.
Tomorrow, Kansas City makes up a rainout from early in the season for a chance at a 4 game sweep of Detroit. A win would place the Royals 2.5 games ahead of the Tigers. Either way, the Royals are guaranteed to enter Kauffman Stadium as the kings of the AL Central.
The Royals are unstoppable right now. Eventually they will lose a game. But it is not this day.