Cardinals Week 2.0

I-70.jpgTomorrow the Cardinals invade Kansas City and Kauffman Stadium. It’s going to be another big weekend out at the K and Saturday is nearly a sellout already and both Friday and Sunday’s tickets are going fast.

But before we start getting worked up on this beautiful off day in Kansas City, let’s get a few things straight.
Here’s what we know. The Royals and the Twins are the hottest teams in baseball, both having won 10 of their last 11 (note: Minnesota currently trails San Diego in a Thursday matinee, 1-0, in the third inning). The Royals have the best interleague record (12-3 mark) which is half a game better than the Twins entering today.  Yep, you can gloat a little.
Trey Hillman rightly brought us back down to earth when he said following last night’s win that it was a “step” and said we need to focus on continuing to take baby steps. He’s right, but today’s an off-day. Time to soak in the success of the past two weeks and look forward to what promises to be a wild weekend here at Kauffman. Let’s fill the K will blue and drown out the red.
Let’s get in a quick pick-me-up before we focus in on St. Louis, and go around the horn…
The Royals have gone 11-2 since June 12, an .846 win percentage. They’ve shaved five and a half games off their division deficit and sit in fourth place, seven games back. We’ve won four series in a row for the first time since June of 2003 and already have clinched a winning mark in June.
On top of those four series wins, the Royals have won all five interleague series this season, squaring off against some tough foes including the Florida Marlins, who were in first place at the time back in May and sit just two games back in second now, the Arizona Diamondbacks who currently lead their division, the Wild Card-leading Cardinals, the third-place San Francisco Giants and the defending National League Champion Rockies.

6-26 Hoch.jpgSecond
With a low scoring game last night and the longest outing of Luke Hochevar’s career, we want to talk some more pitching. Royals starters have been impressive in interleague play and during this hot stretch. They’ve gone deep into games, averaging 6.2 innings a game during interleague play and 6.1 innings over the last 10. No surprise, they are 11-1 with two no decisions in interleague this season and 8-0 with two no decisions over the last 10 games. Going deep also keeps the bullpen fresh and effective. Just ask opponents how fresh and effective Joakim Soria has been (he has six saves in the last 10 games).
Hochevar earned his fifth big league win last night, going eight innings and throwing just 95 pitches. The sinkerballer recorded lot and lots of groundball outs last night, and is now fourth among American League pitchers with at least 13 starts with a 1.97 groundball/fly ratio. To explain that a bit more literally, Hochevar recorded 24 outs last night. He recorded 17 ground outs and three fly outs (along with three strikeouts and a caught stealing). That equals a groundball percentage of 85 (17 out of 20 outs put into play came on the ground).
If that was over your head, just remember, the key to Hochevar’s success is to keep the ball down. He’s a sinkerballer and wants groundballs.
The Cardinals Albert Pujols came off the disabled list to play for St. Louis today, allowing the former Fort Osage High standout to make a homecoming this weekend…Royals pitchers on the D.L., Leo Nunez and John Bale, might be coming off shortly after the All-Star break, although they still haven’t thrown off the mound yet…Joakim Soria has 21 saves and KC’s pre-All-Star break record is 25 (Jeff Montgomery in 1993)…he has nine saves in the month of June alone…Mr. Clutch, David DeJesus leads the Majors with a .451 batting average with runners in scoring position, 29 points higher than Cleveland’s Casey Blake.
The Silverstein Eye Center “Eye”-70 Series is moving west this weekend. To steal a Dodgers’ slogan: “Think Blue.” With three games on the line, we want Kauffman to be coated in blue. Don’t wear you’re white or gray or pink or mauve or whatever Royals jerseys and T-shirts. Opt for the blue alternates. Break out the powder blues, the Gil Meche T-shirt Tuesday shirts from last year. Whatever blue you’ve got, wear it.
We swept the Cards for the first time in St. Louis last week and we’re looking to keep it going. The Royals won 2 of 3 last season at Kauffman with a memorable moon-shot by Alex Gordon into the right field fountains. The Royals need just one win to secure a win in the season series after splitting last year. A second sweep this season would put the interleague series at 25-26, making next year very interesting.
Like we mentioned yesterday, plenty of promotions going on this weekend and tickets are going fast. Friday is also a silent auction to benefit the Prostate Cancer Foundation. In honor of Art Stewart being inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday night, keep an eye out for our second Touch ’em All interview on this blog, with an exclusive look into John Martin’s world. John is the man who has painted every Royals Hall of Fame portrait to date as well as numerous Royals media guide covers and much more. So look for that right here on Around the Horn.
Enjoy the off-day and continue to think blue.

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