It was hardly a last stand with the season just getting started, but the Royals' weekend wipeout by the Goliath that Cleveland turns into whenever the Tribe visits Kauffman Stadium lately was somewhat reminiscent of the fate that befell General George Custer and his troops at Little Bighorn almost 150 years ago.
Only, the Royals will survive their dismantling in their opening home stand of the 2012 season and painfully take away from it the things the Boys in Blue must do better if they want to fulfill the goals they the organization - and, by extension, the fans - have set for them this season. Unfortunately, the going gets more difficult before it gets any easier for Kansas City, with AL Central division favorite Detroit coming to town for three games beginning Monday night followed by Toronto for a three-game weekend series.
Royals pitching suffered a total meltdown in the three-game home series at The K against a not-that-good Indians' team that had won only one of their first five games before arriving in Kansas City. Royals' pitching gave up almost as many hits (40) and nearly twice the number of runs (32) against Cleveland than the KC staff did in KC's first six games. Plus, Kansas City's earned run average in the three games with the Indians was 9.00, contrasted with a 2.39 ERA in the six games prior to the home opener.
The one bright spot in an otherwise dismal three-game set was that the Royals' offense was producing scoring opportunities and getting hits - they produced 36 hits to the Indians' 40 - but they just weren't able to shutdown the Cleveland bats and prevent big innings. In Saturday's 10-inning 11-9 loss, Kansas City used six of the seven relievers on its roster (left-hander Everett Teaford was the only reliever not used because he had gone four innings of long relief on Friday).
Except for the strong comeback to tie the Indians at nine-all in Saturday's game after falling behind 9-2 and jumping out to a 3-0 advantage after two innings on Sunday, the Royals were never really were in a serious position to win any of the games. This has some local fans instinctively thinking "here we go again. We've seen this movie before." And they're right. We have seen this before, but not from this promising young team that came into the season with such high hopes.
It's true that the Royals didn't perform up to par - not the right game, but it probably wouldn't have mattered - over the weekend. But guess what? They're going to lose a few more before the season's over, and some of them are going to be laughers, like a couple of the games in the Indians' series. And they're going to lose them in three and four-game streaks on occasion. What will be surprising is if they string together many, if any, double-digit swoons like the Royals' have in recent seasons.
Starting pitching was thought to be Kansas City's greatest lingering problem area coming into the 2012 season, but before Joakim Soria went down in spring training, the bullpen was believed to be good and getting better. Neither looked good against the Indians.
Offensively, Kansas City's 2012 starting lineup is solid and won't have much trouble scoring runs in most games. But the new-look Royals are not going to win many slugfests. They're going to have to come up with pitching stops. How the team performs in one-run contests may be the surest measure of how successful the Royals can be this season.
The immediate task for manager Ned Yost's troops is to prove to themselves, as well as to their fans, that the weekend home-opening series with Cleveland is merely an aberration, the exception and not the norm. It's way too early to push the panic button or get too hung up on three games in a 162-game season. After all, we're only 1/16 of the way into the 2012 campaign. There are 154 games still to be contested, and much can and will happen over that timeframe.
There is no reason not to believe, certainly not at this early stage, that the balance scale over the long haul won't be more weighted to the good than the bad.
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