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Game CXXIII Thread: Cleveland at KC

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Hope is turning to ashes

Kansas City Royals v Oakland Athletics
Jason Hammel stands alone against the enemy.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

At the beginning of the weekend the Royals had high hopes. They’d won two straight series with some convincing come-backs and a dominating offensive performance or two. Here came the Cleveland baseball team, worn out from a long road trip. The Royals were fresh from an off-day, at home, and ready to play a team against whom they had a winning record so far this season, and they were heating up. This was the Royals chance to prove that they weren’t just strong contenders for a wild card birth; they still had a shot at the division crown.

But, of course, that’s not what happened.

Cleveland has defeated the Royals convincingly in both the games played so far this series, scoring 15 runs to the Royals’ 1. Ian Kennedy has continue to be a disaster since returning from injury, minus a small period of time when he looked decent again. Jason Vargas continued his long, slow descent from Cy Young Award contender to “Jamie Moyer but hittable.” It has not been pretty.

There is good news, though. Cleveland has finally gotten hot at the same time as the Royals struggled and that has helped to give them a commanding lead in the division. But the Royals are still, remarkably only 1.5 games away from the Twins, Angels, and a wild-card spot. They still have the easiest remaining schedule this season with plenty of games against Minnesota, Detroit, and the Chicago White Sox. And the Royals showed us once already this season that they are capable of becoming scorching hot for an entire month at a time. If they can stay close in the playoff race until the last couple weeks of the season and then get scorching hot they could make it into the wild card game and become everyone else’s worst nightmare in October, again.

The other bit of good news is that if starting pitchers are continuing trends then the Royals have the right guy on the mound in Jason Hammel. Hammel has not been particularly good for the Royals this season but ever since he made a mechanical adjustment earlier this year and started pitching out of the stretch he has walked many fewer batters and pitched much more consistently. There is value in consistency, even when that consistency is 2-4 runs in 5-6 innings every game. Largely due to that consistency the Royals are favored to win today’s game.

Danny Salazar is a very good pitcher going for Cleveland, despite temporarily being demoted to the bullpen. While his 3.75 ERA in his career-high 15 games against the Royals is not particularly promising it is significantly more attractive than what Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer have enjoyed against the Royals.

Lineups

I was going to write some stuff here about what the Royals should be trying to do today and in the near future. But Cleveland’s twitter avatar is Jose Ramirez with flames badly photoshopped on his head. How do you follow that?