Series Review: #18 Kansas City Royals
The struggles continued on the trip into beautiful and historic Kansas City. The reigning champs took the Rays to the woodshed on the way to a sweep as they rode their strengths of hitting and bullpen to overwhelm the flailing Rays. As the toilet continues to swirl it is getting more and more difficult to see a light switch turning on that spurs the Rays into a long run of sustained good play.
This season is starting to feel like the 2007 season that was a frustrating joy to watch due to lower expectations. In that season the Rays had their best offensive unit in franchise history to that point. The problem was that the sell out for offense led to subpar defenders at most positions. Compounding the defensive issues with a woeful bullpen that was historically bad led to a team that had many leads, but held few. Since the fall of Kiermaier this season has replicated that previous letdown to a “t.”
It is nigh impossible to replace players like Kiermaier and Forsythe, whom pair great and good gloves with good and great bats, respectively. Without similar, two-way, options to fill in for these guys the team has been forced to pick their poison. They have universally gone with bat-first guys that lack in the glove department mostly because those are the available options. There simply isn’t a good glove, ok bat combo that can step in to at least hold up their end of the deal. That means have corner outfielders in center and corner defenders at second base. The results have been miserable.
I had the Rays as slim or stronger favorite in each game of this series based on the actual matchups that occurred, but the Rays fell short across the board with only the third game coming close. While I place much of the blame on the defense that isn’t something being quantified by these numbers. All those runs lost go directly to the pitchers making their numbers look worse than they probably should. Run prevention boils down to more than the pitcher, but that is who has to wear it in this system.
The Rays outhit projections with great performances from Longoria and Casali, and good production from Miller and Morrison. Souza and Dickerson put recent slumps behind them to contribute at an average level, but the team was let down by the guys that would otherwise be hidden from their weaknesses if the team was fully healthy. Mahtook, Jennings and Guyer now make up a timeshare in left and center fields instead of left and left out. Motter would make a fine 25th man, but he’s being pressed into nearly everyday duty where his struggles with righties become more magnified. The vaunted depth is proving to be more towards replacement level than the average big leaguers needed to fill in during this difficult time.
On the pitching-side of things we see that Drew Smyly continues to falter with one of his worst performances of the year. Collette delved into this, and it’s worth your time to give a read. Boxberger showed that he rushed back too soon from an injury that has a higher rate of recidivism than your average heroin addict. He’s back on the disabled list, but not before burning a village or two on his way there. Erasmo has gone from a sturdy table to Jose Mesa in the last week perhaps due to some early overuse, but as one of the few reliable options on the season his workload should hardly get lighter going forward. We saw some nice things from Sturdevant, though he should probably be shielded from lefties if there is a reasonable choice. He could pair nicely with Cedeno in the specialist roles necessary for a good pen. Matt Andriese continues to be the best starter on the team of late, but even a fine and deep performance wasn’t enough to secure the win for him.
They Royals hit and hit and hit some more just for good measure. Everyone in their lineup is capable of a competitive at bat including the recent call ups of Merrifield and Eibner. It was sad to see the latter go down with what looked like a lower body injury. He was showing an ability to hit all comers, but now will have to watch from the sidelines for a bit. Fellow UCF alum, Drew Butera, has evolved from a no-bat, good glove into a good enough bat for backup purposes. It has been a joy to watch him evolve even if he was the enemy for this series.
Ian P’n Kennedy knows how to walk a tightrope. He showed that he would rather give out walks like candy on Easter than groove a pitch, and it worked well for him as the Rays struggled to flex their power against him. Chris Young filled the Erasmo role very capably acting as a bridge between a short start and their vaunted bullpen. The other two starters weren’t good by any stretch, but they kept the Royals in their games long enough for the bats to overwhelm. The Royals Zergswarmed their way to victory this series earning each victory along the way.