On June 15th the Royals were 17-48, owned a .262 winning percentage, and were a full ten games worse than any other team in the American League. They were nine wins short of the next worst teams in baseball (Pittsburgh and Florida) and were running in pace with the 1962 Mets and 2003 Tigers.
Thirteen days later the Royals are 25-50 and only one game behind the Pirates for the second worst record in baseball. Considering the relative quality of the National League this season, you can make a quite coherent case that the Royals are actually much better than the Pirates on balance, and likely better than the Marlins as well. Earlier this week I took a look at the recent Royal numbers and saw a moderately good pitching staff coincide with a lucky/"clutch" offense. The Royals' team line before last night's game was .261/.330/.376 for June, but from that stone they'd somehow milked more runs than 21 other teams. (And no, it wasn't from bunting people over, despite Bell's best efforts to force it so.) Maybe this is all a kind of divine levelling out, the Royals aren't good, but they weren't as bad as before, either. The entire AL Central is flaming hot right now, and the Royals are doing their best to keep up: Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota are all 9-1 in their last 10 games, while the Royals are merely 8-2. (Cleveland is 4-6, but also winners of two straight in STL) The Royals now own a .333 winning percentage, and a 4 game lead on the 1962 Mets through 75 games. Until further notice, the Futility Watch is being suspended.
Watch out Pittsburgh!
Last night was a game the non-flukygood-Royals could have lost at least three different ways. To start, they were on the road, where our boys our 10-30, and at one point were 2-18. Secondly, they trailed early 5-1, leaving even a strong team in dire straits. Finally, after roaring back to take a 7-5 lead, the Royals surrendered 2 runs in the 8th (Elmer Dessens' arm has since fallen off) to fall back to 7-7. Nine times out of ten, the Royals go 1-2-3 in the 9th, then allow a double-single sequence in about 10 pitches to lose the game in the 9th. If that doesn't work, Bell's also fond of getting a leadoff single, bunting him to second, then watching Berroa and Bako strikeout on 7 pitches. Either way, its a loss, 100%.
Except last night it wasn't.
Matt Stairs blasted the 4th Royal homer of the night, giving the Royals a 9-7 lead. The Royals would allow a solo shot in the 9th, but Burgos escaped thanks to a nice catch by Dejesus at the wall. Royals win.
By the way, did anyone else notice that Eric Milton got bombed for another three homers? Mays must be talking shop with him in the bullpen between innings. To give up three homers to the Royals, thats not something a man can do on his own.
Maybe Bell's onto something with his near daily sac bunt plays with Grudz after all? Mark's hitting .209/.258/.279 in June, which as you know, is slumping John Buck/Angel Berroa territory. Perhaps its time to give Grudz a few days off. Or maybe move him out of the second slot, or something. The Royals stupidity with Dougie in the #3 hole has gone on so long that they've actually failed to notice that he's pretty much morphed into an acceptable #2 hitter (well, on a bad team, but we already knew that).