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Royal Ups and Downs: The Big Moment Edition

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The series that chronicles the highs and lows of the Royals roster

Joe Robbins

As with many things in life, the first game of the Royals-Tigers series either A) didn't live up to its considerable billing or B) went altogether too close to expectations, depending on your worldview. We've spent so much time building up the Royals-Tigers head-to-head games that it almost feels like we're owed close games, whereas last night's contest was anything but. There's a prom analogy in here somewhere, but perhaps it's best if we stay away from that. Suffice to say that the excited of the big moment fizzled a bit, not unlike an event that gets talked up for years and then finishes with "Closing Time" by Semisonic.

The Royals still have other chances to make their own, certainly; they remain a game up on the Tigers and two in the loss column, though the lead will most likely be split whenever the suspended Cleveland games finishes, and this was merely the first of five meetings with Detroit. Though frankly it's hard to ignore the fact that yesterday's pitching match-up, Jeremy Guthrie vs. Justin Verlander, was probably the wild card of the series. Tonight's match-up seems to considerably favor Detroit, and James Shields going on Hump Day is probably an edge for the Royals. Knowing the way this season has gone, Kansas City will probably hang a crooked number on Max Scherzer and then get shut out by Rick Porcello, thoough.

As I sort of wildly guessed last time, a lot of the Royals success for the rest of the season depends on the pitching staff, particularly the young guys who haven't made it through September before in their careers. If there's one thing that's definitely changed for the worst since last we met, it's the health of young guns Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. Thus, when you're reading this week's Pitching Staff Ups and Downs, please cross your fingers that those two are healthy enough to take the ball a few more times. There's only 20 games left on the Royals schedule, 19 if you throw out the suspended game. Now's the time to make your move, KC. You don't want to be left out of the big dance because the Seattle Mariners asked her out first.

Jason Vargas - Nope_medium

Vargas's last couple starts have been ones where he's avoided walking anyone, and struck out five hitters in both. Perhaps he's been around the plate a little too much, actually, as he also yielded sixteen hits in 12.2 innings. Vargas's outing vs. the Indians was the less effective of the two, as he gave up four runs and on ten hits. He rebounded by shutting out the hapless Texas Rangers over 6.2 innings. I'd love to give him another green arrow, but the degree of difficulty for shutting out Texas just ain't what it used to be. Tonight's start vs. Scherzer is huge, so let's hope the Tigers are as confused by Vargas as the Rangers were.

James Shields - Up_medium

Limited the Cleveland Baseball Team With An Offensive Mascot to one run over seven innings, though of course the Royals failed to take advantage of it. Then, against the Yankees, he one-upped himself with 8.1 scoreless frames. As with Gordon, Shields second half performance is basically all you can ask of a player who the Royals lean heavily on; if KC does make the postseason, Shields is another player who's done his utmost to drag the rest of the roster to the promised land.

Jeremy Guthrie - Kablooey_medium

If you hadn't already dispensed with the notion that Jeremy Guthrie is somehow still capable of anti-FIP voodoo in any meaningful fashion, this stretch of the season should be getting y'all to that point. The fact that Guthrie's pitch-to-contact arsenal can successfully take advantage of the very good defense behind him sometimes gets in the way of the fact that a lot of other pitchers would simply be better at getting outs. That was sort of the biggest reason that his contract extension was panned, as the most likely aging-pattern for Guthrie-types isn't a pretty one (unless you are, weirdly enough, a fan of a lot of well-below-average innings). At a time when the Royals can't afford to give away games, his outing against Detroit (and yes, give an assist to Eric Hosmer) was the opposite of what the doctor ordered.

Yordano Ventura - Nope_medium

He's successfully made it through the last two starts after having back trouble, so let's hope that's what happens for the rest of the month as well. Ventura's not lighting the world on fire, but another couple reasonable six inning efforts--as his last two starts were--would be big for the boys in blue. Is that likely? Ventura's at 77.5 LOB% right now, and he's shown some signs of fatigue already. Back problems really do suck, so let's hope that was a blip on the radar. Keep your fingers crossed.

Danny Duffy - Up_medium

Back problems just suck, but, if you're talking about MLB pitchers, shoulder problems are terrifying. We have a tendency to downplay some pitcher injuries, what with the advances in modern medicine and the capabilities of certain TJS-performing doctors, but we should still have a healthy respect for the problems that can arise from the ol' ball and socket. Duffy left the game on the 6th of September with what was termed as "shoulder stiffness." Now, we're hearing that his left arm is "structurally sound" but that he's dealing with "severe inflammation."

Duffy was pretty good in his last start before the injury, but he also has been taking advantage of good luck and great defense, sporting a LOB% of 76.2, so it's worth wondering if maybe it's not worth testing his shoulder to get him back on the mound for three starts. "Severe shoulder inflammation" doesn't sound good with a young pitcher, and Duffy's already been through TJ surgery. Rather than wishing for immediate health and continuing performance down the stretch, maybe we should just cross out fingers that the Royals will make the right call here.

Francisley Bueno - Kablooey_medium

Bueno has basically pitched his way out of Ned Yost's good graces, which is hard to do -- just ask Aaron Crow. Since August 26th, the last Pitching Staff Ups and Downs, Bueno has made only three appearances. He's given up two runs in those two innings. Pass.

Aaron Crow - Nope_medium

He hasn't earned a down arrow in his last two appearances, but the reason Crow's been so sparingly used is because of how miserable he'd been over the previous couple weeks. With a 31:20 K:BB and having surrendered 9 dingers in 53.1 innings this season, there is no reason Crow shouldn't stay in low-leverage duty. I think, at long last, the Royals manager might have noticed.

Jason Frasor - Kablooey_medium

Definitely hit a rough patch, giving up a run against Detroit and multiple baserunners to one of those miserable Texas-based ballcubs. Frasor's still striking out basically a batter per inning, though, and I'd rather see him and his 37-year-old arm in a game than either of the two younger pitchers above.

Casey Coleman - Kablooey_medium

"I'm not Louis" got the call up as well when the rosters expanded, and has been thoroughly unimpressive. He's yielded 12 baserunners in six innings. The Royals appear to be spinning the wheel and seeing if any non-HDH relievers come up as winners, but their bets aren't exactly paying off in spades.

Louis Coleman - Nope_medium

He's baaaaaack. Louis, in an effort to be known as "Not The Other Coleman," has been able to keep the opposition off the board in three of his four appearances since being recalled from Omaha. If you followed the way his season was going early in the year, you know this is a fairly big accomplishment. He's still not pitching well enough where he can be trusted in a high leverage situation.

Scott Downs - Nope_medium

Going through this list of relievers really does hammer home the whole, "yes the bullpen is good but it's incredibly top-heavy" thing, doesn't it? Downs is back from injury, and, while he hasn't been pounded like before it happened, he still looks like a guy who's seen his best days.

Liam Hendricks - Nope_medium

It might be piling on to say this, but you can expect more of what you saw in the New York game from Hendricks. Catching lightning in a bottle against the Twins was fun, but the Twins do tend to help other teams catch lightning pretty frequently. Over his short MLB career, Hendricks has shown very little sign of being an effective MLB starter, and if he's the plan to take over for Duffy or Ventura, then this could be painful.

Brandon Finnegan - Nope_medium

Looked good in his debut. At this point, I'm completely onboard with the idea that Finnegan should be the high-leverage lefty out of the 'pen. When the other two options are Bueno and Downs, take the risk of putting the young guy in.

Wade Davis - Up_medium

There's just no stopping Wade this year. He's up to 94 K's in 65 innings. He's yet to give up a home run all year. The fact that he can be worked for a free pass every-so-often is completely offset by the fact that hitters are "hitting" .142 against him.

Kelvin Herrera - Up_medium

Kelvin Herrera was last charged with a run in June. Soooo, I guess it's fair to call this season a pretty good bounceback year.

Greg Holland - Up_medium

Bounced back from a relatively lukewarm stretch to record 10 K's over 7 IP in 7 appearances. It's weird to think that one of the best closers in baseball is the second-best reliever on his own team...and that the bullpen with Holland and Davis and Herrera still isn't as good as you'd expect, but that's where the Royals are. Regardless, the HDH trio keeps on trucking with no sign of breaking down.

~

The Royals are back at it tonight against the Tigers, holding a one-game lead, with the aforementioned Vargas-Scherzer match-up. Happy Tuesday, all!