Who are the 2017 Royals? This is an important question that may be answered by the end of next week. Are they like the 2000-2012 squads - complete hopeless in every single way? Are they more like 2013 where a terrible month early ruined their chances despite having a talented team? Or are they more like the 2014 team which defied all odds to climb back into contention long after everyone had written them off? The likely answer changes every week. You'll see analysts - even those as smart as you possibly can be if you talk on the internet for too long - go back and forth on this team every week.
"Well, if they can just sweep Cleveland here, we could believe they're back in it!"
"If they could take 3 of 4 from the Astros after winning that Cleveland series that would be a really good sign!"
"Look at that amazing comeback! That could be the spark that gets them going!"
Part of the problem, of course, is that a lot of the local analysts want to believe. They're looking for any sign. If you watched yesterday's national broadcast, or any national broadcast this season you'll see that this phenomenon doesn't really extend outside of KC. Eric Karros at no point suggested the Royals were going to go on a run because of their remarkable 9-run inning. There was a moment during a local broadcast earlier this year where Ryan LeFebvre asked Ken Rosenthal which teams that were scuffling early might still have a run in them. Ryan was pretty clearly hoping the noted bow-tie model would pick the Royals as one of those teams. Rosenthal very carefully did not mention Kansas City once in his reply to that question.
So...what does all that mean? It means that the Royals' hopes are probably not as good as anyone close to the team wants to believe. But, well, they're still not done, yet. They are in the midst of a 9-game road trip against 3 of the teams almost as hapless as they are this season. Karros did suggest, yesterday, that perhaps if they won 6 of those games they might start to feel themselves back in it. I'm thinking they need to win more like 8, which after losing the first game would mean an 8-game winning streak. So, because I am nothing if not willing to compromise, I suggest 7 games must be won on this road trip for the Royals to feel like they're back in it. Is that a tough path to follow? Is it perhaps a bit harsh of me? Maybe. But that April was brutal, too. And the Royals need to pick a direction. You obviously don't want to give up on a team that's looking very good this year, but if they look anything less than that you're throwing away years of competitiveness for a long shot this year and that's bad business,
Anyway, let's get back to the small picture. So far in this series the teams have taken turns sending out an unproven rookie versus a proven, if unspectacular, veteran. In both games the rookie has completely imploded and failed to pitch more than 2 innings. In both games the veteran didn't do much better, but his team won. Today we'll see what happens when both teams unleash unproven rookies. If previous results hold true and considering the sorry state of both teams' bullpens after the first two games we could see today determined by the match-up of Drew Butera vs Erick Aybar.
Before we get that far it will be Jake Junis making his third career MLB start. He has a 5.23 ERA but only because 4 of the 7 runs he allowed to the Astros in his last start were ruled unearned by archaic and subjective error rules. None of the current crop of Padres have ever faced him in the major leagues. The Padres will counter with Dinelson Lamet - isn't it going to be "fun" listening to Rex and Phys try to pronounce his name - who will be making his fourth career MLB start. He has a startling 6.92 ERA and allowed 9 runs, 7 earned, in his previous start against the Diamondbacks. He did it in two-thirds fewer innings than Junis, too. Remember that joke I made about Butera and Aybar? Now you can add "starters allow lots of runs and don't pitch many innings" to it. Neither starter has pitched more than 5 innings in an MLB start.
Today's finale in gorgeous San Diego. That DH dude still M.I.A. pic.twitter.com/PoPbK8Vuwd— Mike Swanson (@Swanee54) June 11, 2017
Dinelson Lamet gets the nod for the series finale vs. Royals at 1:40pm today! Here's the full lineup: pic.twitter.com/3JaCkPbS7u— San Diego Padres (@Padres) June 11, 2017
Those guys are definitely salivating. I'm tired just thinking about it. At least there is no DH, today, or we might see a run at the record for total runs in an MLB game.