Despite the unique experience of hosting the All-Star game, this season has felt very similar to many of the past six seasons for Royals fans. Although there was some optimism surrounding this team that they could be competitive this season, they are currently on pace to win 71 games, a familiar number of wins during the Dayton Moore era. To review the first half of the season, I picked out five games that I thought were the best games for the Royals this season, as well as five that I thought were the worst.
April 10th at Oakland Athletics, 3-0 - Royals fans were excited to see Danny Duffy pitch this season, and the hard-throwing southpaw did not disappoint in his first start of the year. Duffy threw six innings of one-hit ball, striking out eight Athletics while allowing four walks. This win pushed the Royals to 3-2 on the young season, guaranteeing them a .500 opening road-trip with a reasonable to be above .500 before their first home game. Not everything about this game was positive, as Lorenzo Cain was condemned to purgatory and could not find his indulgences until the All-Star break.
May 8th vs Boston Red Sox, 6-3 - The Royals picked up their third home win of the season in dramatic fashion, with Billy Butler belting a three-run homer against Matt Albers in the top of the eighth inning, which raised the Royals win expectancy in the game a cool 40%. Perhaps even more impressively, Jonathon Broxton managed to secure the save without allowing a single runner to reach base.
May 21st at New York Yankees, 6-0 - Felipe Paulino pitched his second straight dominant start in the Bronx, tossing 6.2 shutout innings. Paulino allowed six hits and two walks while fanning eight Yankees. In his previous start, Paulino had tossed seven shutout innings against the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles mustered five hits and two walks against the righty, and struck out nine times. These two starts gave Royals fans hope that Paulino could emerge as an above-average starter this season.
June 14th vs Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 - The Royals had their second walk-off win in two nights, this one coming in truly bizarre fashion. Mitch Maier reached base in true summer camp fashion, striking out but advancing to first because of a wild pitch. After outs by Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas, Jarrod Dyson drew a two-out walk. Future motivational speaker Brayan Pena singled to center, driving in MITCH, and then proceeded to take a wide turn at first base. The cut-off man Edwin Maysonet threw the ball to second, allowing Dyson enough time to steal home and the victory. The win gave the Royals their first three-game sweep of the season.
June 25th vs Tampa Bay Rays 8-0 - Luke Hochevar always seems good for a spectacular start each season and met his quota this night. Hochevar threw a complete game shutout, scattering seven hits across nine innings work, striking out eight while only issuing one walk. Opposing pitcher Alex Cobb also threw a complete game, despite allowing eight runs. In the past, optimism that the Royals had fixed Hochevar or that the right-hander was starting to reach his potential followed this starts, but this time people seemed more willing to accept that this type of start is a flash in the pan. The win was also important because it followed a demoralizing three game sweep at home by the St. Louis Cardinals.
April 11th at Oakland Athletics, 4-5 - The Royals had a one-run lead going into the bottom of the twelfth inning when closer Jonathon Broxton had a complete meltdown. Broxton recorded a strikeout, then Seth Smith to hit a groundout to Alcides Escobar, who booted the ball. Broxton then walked the next two hitters, allowed an RBI groundout, then hit the final two batters to end the game. The way the Royals lost this game hurt a lot of the goodwill they had built up in the previous five games of the opening road trip.
April 23rd vs Toronto Blue Jays, 1-4 - This loss was the tenth consecutive home loss for the Royals and the eleventh loss in a row. There was nothing particularly demoralizing about this specific loss, except for the inability to mount any offense against Brandon Morrow. The loss did guarantee that the Royals would not win a home game in the month of April, and gave the team a serious hole to climb out of early in the season.
May 7th vs Boston Red Sox, 5-11 - Most Jonathan Sanchez starts could qualify for this list, but I picked this game because I enjoyed the beatdown live. The Sanchize managed to allow six runs in three innings, allowing six hits, three walks and two home runs. When your pitcher is being outpitched by someone named Felix Doubront, you know things are going poorly.
June 6th vs Minnesota Twins, 2-4 - Any loss to the Twins is frustrating, but this one proved especially maddening because Felipe Paulino only tossed two-thirds of an inning before leaving with an injury that ended his season. Danny Duffy experienced a similar injury only a couple of weeks earlier against the White Sox, leaving the Royals without their two most promising pitchers this season on a team in desperate need of promising pitching. Also, the Royals only scored two runs against Nick Blackburn.
June 24th vs St. Louis Cardinals, 8-11 - This game was the final in a three game series at home against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Royals were only 4.5 games back out of first place when the series started, and there was some quiet optimism building that they could keep things competitive in the division throughout the summer. The Royals were then promptly swept by the Cardinals. Sanchez started this game as well, but the Royals gave him strong run support to hide his six earned runs in 5.2 innings. Unfortunately, Tim Collins struggled out of the bullpen, allowing four runs in 1.2 innings.
Are there any other games that deserve inclusion on this list? Let me know in the comments.