July 2008

All's quiet on the K.C. Front

7-31 Olivo.jpgThe trade deadline has passed and the Royals haven’t changed.

The quiet from the Kansas City front office says that General Manager Dayton Moore likes this team. Yes, there have been some low points this season. But the team is riding a four-game winning streak and has won five of its last seven, including its first sweep in Oakland in 20 years. With the good vibes rolling today, we’re going to look at a few trends and maybe some on-pace numbers…

Winning ways
The Royals have won five of their last six on the road dating back to the All-Star break. If you include their last road game before the break, they’ve won six of seven.

Billy Butler is hitting
He’s got a .289 average and a .578 slugging percentage since the All-Star break. He’s had five homers and 15 RBI in July, with four and 14 post-break.

The pitchers are mowing down opponents
Zack Grienke and Brian Bannister set and tied career highs in K’s with 11 and seven, respectively, in games one and game three of the Oakland series. As a team, Royals pitchers punched out 31 A’s during the series.


6-23 Soria.JPGThe All-Star
At the back of the pen is Joakim Soria – the All-Star. He saved all three games in Oakland and has finished four straight. With today’s off day, he should be recharged to face the Sox over the weekend. And yet again, we’d like to make another plea to ESPN’s anchor desk.  His name is pronounced “Wah-KEEM SOAR-ee-a.”  Not “Joe-ah-kim” like the former Florida basketball player. The man’s an All-Star, treat him like one.

Walking the line
Alex Gordon set a Royals record yesterday with five walks. Gordon didn’t record an official at-bat. He is the second player this season to record five in a single game, but the only player to walk five times in only five plate appearances. The Rangers’ Milton Bradley walked five times in eight trips to the plate on April 16.

Pace-setting
Alex Gordon easily leads the team in walks, with 16 more than Mark Teahen. Gordon is currently at 51 walks and is on pace to have 76. To compare, Teahen is on pace for 52.

7-28 Butler 2.JPGThe Royals currently have four guys with 10 or more homers. The team has another two players sitting at eight and nine dingers. And then Billy Butler and Mike Aviles, who both have time at Omaha this season, are at six round-trippers. If both keep hitting at the pace they are on right now, they’ll reach 10. That amounts to eight Royals with 10-plus home runs.

The 2003 club is the last K.C. team to have eight slug double-digits. Those players were? Carlos Beltran (26), Raul Ibanez (18), Angel Berroa (17), Joe Randa (16), Mike Sweeney (16), Aaron Guiel (15), Ken Harvey (13) and Michael Tucker (13). The ’03 squad ended with 162 home runs for the year.

Butler has played 80 games and according to pace numbers should hit 10 exactly. Around the Horn would like to predict a few more because of his July numbers – five homers in 25 games would be a pace for 32 in a season, which projects to 10.6 over the remaining 53 games.

To be fair, we’ll look at a few predictions for pitching. Joakim Soria, who we talked about earlier this season when he tied Jeff Montgomery’s 1993 pre-All-Star game save record (25), is on pace for 45 saves. He’ll stencil his name into the record books again with that total. It would tie the club record, set by Montgomery in ’93 and Dan Quisenberry in 1983. Monty had an 88.2 save percentage and Quiz ended ’83 with an 84.9. Soria is at 93.7 after saving 30 of 32 games.

7-31 Mahay.jpgRon Mahay, maybe the most reliable man in the bullpen aside from Soria, has 18 holds this year. That’s already third on the Royals all-time list. At his current pace, he’ll reach 27 (26.7) which would fall one short of the team record of 28, set by Jason Grimsley in 2003.

One more note to think about, Zack Greinke has 125 strikeouts. That’s a pace for 186 (185.6, but you round up when talking about the kind of stuff he has), which would place him tied for eighth in the Royals record books.


Thumbnail image for 7-29 Military Hat.jpgThis weekend
An exciting nine-game homestand starts tomorrow with Ken Griffey, Jr. and the White Sox.  Yep, the “kid” and his 600+ homers will make his first appearance at “The K” since 1999. Saturday has a lot going for it. It’s Military Apprecitation Day with camo caps to the first 20,000. It’s a FOX national broadcast and a 2:55 start time.

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Another: The Finale in Oakland

Short
Another solid offensive game last night for the Boys in Blue…Another multi-homer game…Another strong start from Gil Meche and the Royals rotation…Another shave of the head for John Buck…And another save for Joakim Soria who now owns the record for most saves in a single season by a Mexican born pitcher.

It all added up to another win for the Royals, their third in a row.

Tonight’s lineup: Off day tomorrow, so we’ll try to give you another Touch’em All on Friday. Don’t miss our last Touch’em all interview with Hall of Fame broadcasters Denny Matthews and Dave Niehuas.

Aviles 2B
Maier CF
Gordon 3B
Guillen RF
Teahen LF
Butler DH
Gload 1B
Olivo C
Pena SS

Bannister P

Today’s Official Game Notes.

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Day in, Day out

7-29 Guillen.jpgIt seems like each day, someone new steps to the front of the line to be the hero for the Royals. Last night, Zack Greinke led the way. He was boosted by the offense from Jose Guillen early and Alex Gordon late, but Greinke shut the A’s down.

Tonight, Gil Meche, with a two-game winning streak steps to the front of the line to hopefully be that hero. To see what’s been going on with the Boys in Blue, let’s go Around the Horn…

First
Zack Greinke set his career strikeout high earlier this season (actually he tied it), but last night he upped it by one. Greinke punched out 11 A’s. Greinke struck out 7 of the nine hitters he faced at least once. Only Kurt Suzuki and Carlos Gonzalez ended the night without being fooled by Greinke.

7-29 Greinke.jpgMore than his K’s though, Oakland hit only .231 against him for the night. That includes the two hits he gave up before being relieved by Ramon Ramirez. In the eighth, Greinke struck out the first batter, allowed his first walk of the night and then gave up the two hits.

Fans can be encouraged by the fact that Greinke wasn’t satisfied with his outing. After the game he told reporters he was rolling and then in the eighth he walked a batter “for no reason,” which got him into trouble.

Greinke’s solid performance came on the heels of good starts by each member of the rotation, which has owned a collective 2.12 ERA over the last five games. During the last turn, Royals starters have allowed just seven runs in 29.2 innings. Oh, and you know what the best thing about a rotation is? It comes back around again. So good news, tonight’s starter is Gil Meche, the man who started the recent starting surge and the man who has a 2.67 ERA over his last nine starts.

Second
It’s said that hitters will feed off each other. The Royals are doing that right now. They have 10 homers since the break, nine of which have come during multi-homer games. Billy Butler and Mike Aviles did the job on Sunday. Last night it was Jose Guillen and Alex Gordon with homers of their own.

7-29 Gordo.jpgGordon and Aviles both racked up three-hit games last night and Butler, who’s been strong since the All-Star break, was also on base three times, reaching once with a walk.

Butler was at first for Gordon’s homer and Aviles was on when Guillen powered one out despite fighting a nagging groin injury. For Aviles, it was just another run scored.

But statistically it was more than that. He’s the second best hitter in the Majors during the first inning (minimum 25 at-bats). He holds a .467 average which trails only San Diego’s Scott Hairston who is hitting .471 during the first frame. Aviles is 10-for-15 in his last 15 first inning at-bats, a .667 average.

A big Around the Horn shout-out goes to the Elias Sports Bureau for that fun fact.

Short
Mike Aviles is tearing things up among American League rookies (he’s mentioned about half-way through this video which was produced at the break and escaped Around the Horn until now) despite having played about half as many games as the leaders. He’s sixth with 17 multi-hit games, fourth with seven three-hitters, fifth with 22 extra base hits, second with a .489 slugging percentage and he’s first with a .314 average…Joakim Soria tied the single-season saves record for a Mexican-born pitcher with his 28th last night. The record was set by Juan Acevedo in 2002 with Detroit…The temperature at first pitch last night was 57 degrees in Oakland.  A far cry from the hot and stickiness of KC recently.

Third
A big homestand against three playoff contenders starts this weekend. First it’s the Sox (of the white variety) for three, then its the Sox (red this time) for three and then the Twins close the stand out with a weekend series.

7-29 Military Hat.jpgAs we’ve been mentioning, this Saturday’s game is special for two reasons. It’s Military Apprecitation Day with camo hats being given out to the first 20,000. Around the Horn heard today there will be an enlistment ceremony on the field before the game. What is the other big news about the game? It’s been moved from a 6:10 start on FSN-KC to a 2:55 start on FOX.

If you missed it, Around the Horn posted its Touch’em All interview on Sunday with Hall of Famers Denny Matthews and Dave Niehaus. Check out the Ford C. Frick Award winners.

Today’s Official Game Notes.

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Game 1 in Oakland

Tonight’s lineup: Don’t miss our last post, a Touch’ em All interview with Hall of Fame broadcasters Denny Matthews and Dave Niehuas.

DeJesus CF
Aviles SS
Grudzielanek 2B
Guillen RF
Butler DH
Gordon 3B
Buck C
Gload 1B
German LF

Greinke P

Today’s Official Game Notes.

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Touch 'em All: Denny Matthews and Dave Niehaus on Cooperstown, the problem with kids today and grown men crying

7- 26 Denny.jpgIt’s time for another Around the Horn Touch ‘Em All interview, a favorite feature for us.

This sit down was done a few weeks back when the Mariners were in town. Around the Horn wanted to wait for the right moment to post it and today seems very fitting. We had the extreme privilege of sitting down with two Hall of Famers during the Seattle series, our very own Denny Matthews, the 2007 Ford C. Frick Award winner and the 2008 Frick winner, Dave Niehaus, the Voice of the Mariners.

 Niehaus entered the 2008 season having missed just 82 Mariners games. He had broadcast 4,817 of the Seattle’s 4,899 games, missing 21 in 1996 for medical reasons. He threw out the first pitch during the inaugural game at Seattle’s Safeco Field and his expressions for home runs like “My Oh My” and7-26 Niehuas 2.jpg “It will fly away” are recognized throughout the Northwest and across the country. He was also an inaugural member of the Mariners’ team Hall of Fame.

With Cooperstown induction ceremonies happening today, we figured it would be the perfect time for the roundtable interview we held. Around the Horn grabbed Matthews and Niehaus before the Friday night game of the Mariners series and found a quiet, secluded space in Kauffman Stadium (the mail room, an hour and 15 minutes before game time and 15 minutes before Dave had to be on-air). Once we had them together, we let the Hall of Famers do their thing.

Around the Horn: What does it mean to be a Ford C. Frick Award winner and be honored at the Hall of Fame, the same place that so many players you’ve covered and watched are honored?

Dave Niehaus: Well, first of all, I don’t know about Denny, but I never expected it. It came out of the blue to me. As a matter of fact, it happened 7-26 Niehuas.jpgon my birthday, February the 19th, and I didn’t even know that was the day they were giving out the award. I’d known that for several years, I’d been one of the finalists. But if it happens, it happens, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

As far as what it means to me – it means everything. Denny was the 31st, I’ll be the 32nd. There are only 32 guys who have won this award. After all this is our Oscar, our Academy Award.

I’d never been to Cooperstown until Memorial Day weekend and I went there to talk to Curt Smith on a “Voices of the Game” show. It was an epiphany for me. It really was – not only Cooperstown itself, but going up there that particular weekend and seeing all those American flags. But for me as a kid growing up in Southern Indiana, wash out on the line with real wooden clothes pins; it was right off of a Saturday Evening Post magazine cover. It was Norman Rockwell-ish.

When I got there and was taken in and taken to private places that Denny’s been but few people get to go downstairs and put the white gloves on and touch artifacts that nobody else gets to touch. It’s unbelievable. Then, when you get in the actual place where they have the plaques. You walk in there and it’s like going to church. I mean people speak in whispers there. You can almost hear the echoes in there because it’s a really holy place. I mean after all Christians have Rome. And Jews having the Wailing Wall. And I suppose Islam has Mecca. Baseball fans have Cooperstown. And that’s exactly the way I felt. I felt like it was a holy place. So that’s a very short answer for you.

Denny Matthews: It buckles you really. I’m with Dave. I started to think the day after they announced it for me, if there was a higher award for baseball/broadcasting. And I thought about it for three of four minutes and you know what, there isn’t. There’s none higher. It’s just one of those things that, it’s a once in a lifetime obviously. 

7- 26 Denny 4.jpgI asked George Brett because George went in, in 1999. He was prepping me and I was trying to pick his brain, what to expect and everything. And he said it will be four of the fastest and most unforgettable days of your life. And he said “Slow it down as best you can. Soak it all in and just enjoy the heck out of it.” And that’s pretty good advice.

I tried to do that. I think I did a pretty good job. But it does go fast because there’s so much going on. It will go by in a flash. But if you can slow it down and just kind of soak in every moment, talk to all the guys and hear the stories. The way that they embrace you, it’s a quite a deal.
 
Niehaus: I’ve been told about exactly what you said. As a matter of fact, that weekend, Memorial Day weekend, we were in playing the Yankees and I took the one game off to go up there and do this. And Reggie Jackson and I went up there on Saturday, so Friday night I was standing around the batting cages as the Yankees were taking batting practice and I went up to him and said “What’s it like when you get up there to talk.” And he said “Let me give you some advice.” And I said “What’s that?” And he said “Don’t turn around and look behind you.” (Denny starts laughing)

He said “You’ll see all those Hall of Famers up there and it will be intimidating.” He said, “You’ll break down.” So I don’t know whether I will or I won’t. But that’s good advice right?


7- 26 Denny 2.jpgMatthews:
Oh absolutely. And what’s really cool after you’re done with your speech, they’ll come over and shake your hand and say “Oh, that was fun,” or “Great stories,” or you know “Good job.” These guys slapping you on the back and telling you what a good job you did, it’s like “Wow.” You feel like you’re 3,000 feet in the air. It’s really amazing.

ATH: The two of you have probably seen more games for your respective ball clubs than anyone else associated with your franchise. Denny, you’ve been with the Royals since their inception in 1969 and Dave you’ve been with the Mariners since they began in 1977. What does it mean to be the guy that is sort of a walking history book for your organization?

Matthews: It carries some responsibility with it doesn’t it?

Niehaus: Yeah, it does. First of all, I’m sure Denny, as well as I have probably had chances to go other places. Once you have your taproot in a place, its tough to go somewhere else. He’s from the Midwest and I’m from the Midwest, but I ended up in Seattle.  I was with the Angels for ten years before that. But I was the No. 3 guy there and I got to go to Seattle and be the No. 1 guy and become a part of the community. We didn’t win too many ballgames. We weren’t a .500 ball club until 1991.

7-26 Niehuas 1.jpgBut you become a part of the family up there. People look forward to hearing you every spring. You become a part of their life. I think the things that are important to me are the people that listen to you are the people that don’t necessarily buy the tickets. These are the people that are the shut-ins, the people that can’t come to the ballpark. One of the highest awards I’ve ever received is I was honored by the Washington State Society for the Blind because people said they could see the game through my eyes. And that tells me that you are doing your job when you do that.

So that means a lot to me to be able to have done almost every Mariner game. We’ve had more downs than ups. But I do the games for exactly what they are, one through 162 every season. And they say, “Do you ever get down?” No, I never get down. I’ve never been paid to go to work in my life for crying out loud. I go to the ballpark everyday and if you love the game, that’s not work.

Matthews: One of the common questions and I’m sure you get it too is, when the team is bad, how do you keep your enthusiasm and so on. I’ve always said if the team is not playing well, I’ve got to be even better.

Niehaus: Absolutely.

Matthews: If I’m only as good as the team is playing, I ought to try another profession.

It’s a special thing to be with one team now. With all the cable and everything, it’s very rare now for a guy to be with one team exclusively. And that was kind of the neat thing about the class of last year with Tony Gwynn and (Cal) Ripken and Rick Hummel from St. Louis who won the writer’s award and myself, all four of us had been with one organization…period. That probably will never happen again.

Niehaus: Yeah. Not only that. Denny was brought up and I was brought up on radio. Kids today are being brought up watching television, probably more than listening to the radio. I think being brought up on television perhaps takes away from some of the skill in being able to describe ballgames and use the English language. Gene Autry – and I might even use this in my speech, I don’t know – but Gene Autry, my first boss who owned the Angels said “David, you call a hell of a game. Not the game I’m watching but a hell of a game.” (Denny starts laughing again)

So I might be representing some of the guys who put a little bit of whipped cream and a cherry on top of the game. But you’re able to expand a little bit on radio. Whereas on television you’re a slave to what the producer and director put on that box and tell you to say. I was brought up listening to the radio. I grew up in southern Indiana and on a night like this when the fireflies are out, you’ve got the watermelon floating in the No. 10 washtub and I had this old floor model Zenith radio and I heard this voice coming from a distance out there, “It might be, it could be..” I’d rise off my seat three or four inches every time. Harry Caray put this game on such a level for me that they were gods. I went to my first Major League game at old Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis and I was never so disappointed in my life. I found out they were just normal people and not gods.


7- 26 Denny 1.jpgMatthews:
(turning to Dave and totally forgetting about Around the Horn to start his own interview, which is what we were hoping) Did you ever take your radio and twist the dial at night and try to get different games?

Niehaus: Yeah, yeah. Especially back here (in the Midwest). Yeah, you could get Chicag (apparently, growing up in southern Indiana, you leave the “o” off of Chicago). You could get Pittsburgh, you get Cincinnati, you get Kansas City.

Matthews: Detroit?

Niehaus: Yeah, you could get Detroit.

Matthews: Yeah. That was fun. That was the deal when you were growing up. I had fun. My dad was a Cardinal fan so from the time I’m three or four years old, the game was on at the house. I could care less obviously. I kind of knew what was going on. But now you’re seven, eight, nine years old and now you begin to pay attention and you want to play. Playing is all you want to do at that age. I didn’t know about broadcasting. I never thought about technology.

ATH: I’ve gotten so wrapped up in what you guys were talking about; I’ve forgotten what my next question was going to be.

Matthews: Well, it was a good one.

ATH: Denny, what kind of advice do you have for Dave in making his speech?

Niehaus: Please.


7- 26 Denny 3.jpgMatthews:
It will be four of the fastest days of your life. What George told me was great advice. Cal Ripken – they have a big party on Saturday night with the families all there and big round tables – Ripken’s family and my family were side-by-side. And after everybody had finished eating, I thought it was kind of a classy move. He took his chair and maybe he was tired of talking to everybody in his family, but he came over to our table. He just turned his chair around and started talking to everybody at our table.

And I said to him, “So when do we start to get nervous about our speeches?” And he said “How about now?” I said, “Well yeah.” And he said, “The thing is, I’ve got two places in my speech where I know I’m going to have to back off. It’s going to get very emotional.” And I said, “Yeah, I’ve got a couple of places in mine too and I know where they are.” He thought for a second and he said, “You know what, if we’re not excited and emotional about tomorrow, then we have no business being here.”

Niehaus: Maybe the most impressive speech ever made there lasted about 30 to 45 seconds and that was in 2001. It happens to be a friend of mine. Bill Mazeroski got up there and was overcome with emotion. I’m not sure he even spoke one moment – started crying, sat down and received maybe the biggest ovation ever received. It showed how much he loved the game. I’m sure I’ll be very emotional. That’s the way I am now, even thinking about it and I tear up.

I haven’t written one word yet. I have an idea of what I want to say. But I haven’t written one word and probably won’t until I get to Cooperstown. It’s really overwhelming to me to think that I am even there. The only thing I can relate this to is there’s a popular kid’s show that comes on every Christmas, The Polar Express. You know what I’m talking about? Where these kids go up to the North Pole and they all go up there with belief. And Santa Claus is there and he gives this one kid a bell. And they go back and drop him off at his house. And he wakes up on Christmas morning and the bell is not there. He’s disappointed and he goes downstairs. He opens a present and there’s the bell. Well, this is my bell.

Matthews: Tom Seaver and I were talking a couple of days before the induction and he said “How do you feel with the build-up to this.” And I said “Well, I’ve got a good analogy. When I was in college and I played football, the game is on Saturday, but the build-up begins on Monday. And as the days go by -Wednesday, Thursday – now the adrenaline is starting to build, the excitement is there and all of a sudden, it’s Saturday and you’ve got a game that afternoon.” And I said to Tom, “Hey, Sunday is game day.” That’s the way I felt. There’s a tremendous build-up and I hadn’t experienced that since college.

Niehaus: I’m going to feel the same way. I can’t wait for the Monday after to get here because it will all be over. And yet, I’m so anticipatory with it coming up, that you can’t wait for it to come also. Monday is going to be a (heck) of a day for me. After the ceremonies, I’ve got to drive to Albany to catch a flight the next morning at seven o’clock to Dallas to do a ball game the next night. So it’s going to be a very busy day. But Sunday is going to be a day that’s chalked full of memories you’ll never forget the rest of your life.

Matthews: Game day.

Niehaus: Game day. That’s right.

Matthews: Sunday’s game day.

ATH: One more question because you’ve both got to run to get on-air. Denny I’d like you to critique Dave’s work and Dave you to critique Denny’s work and just talk for a few seconds about what you hear in the other’s voice.

Niehaus: We don’t get to listen to each other.

Matthews: Exactly. If he had been on in the Midwest when I was a kid, I could probably give you a pretty good run down or vice versa. I do know this: tremendous knowledge, tremendous passion, tremendous excitement, always in the game, great concentration – that’s what it takes. And he brought it up earlier; you have to have a feel for the game, you have to have the language there at your fingertips, to be able paint the picture for the blind person that’s 93-years-old out in Hutchinson, Kansas. As she’s sitting there, that’s the biggest deal of her day, is sitting down and turning on the radio to listen to the Royals or the Mariners as I’m sure Dave can tell you. If you can paint the picture for those people then you are getting your job done.

Niehaus: I feel the same way. I think the number one thing that people who listen to Denny or listen to me, come across with is 7-26 Niehuas 4.jpg“These guys are real fans. They love to do what they are doing.” It comes across in your voice. We were talking about bad games, I’ve always thought, just because it’s a bad game, doesn’t mean it’s a bad broadcast. Quite the contrary, I think that’s when you are really challenged, in an 11-1 blowout, a 13-4 game or something like that – to be able to talk and tell stories.

I have great admiration for this man, for anybody who’s in our business and certainly for anybody who’s up on that wall. I’ll be number 32. Let me tell you something, there will be a lot more famous guys than myself or Denny, but as far as I’m concerned and as far as he’s concerned, there will never be anybody more appreciative.

ATH: Thank you both so much for your time. Dave, good luck in Cooperstown. You’ve made a fan out of Around the Horn. We’ll see you again in September and maybe catch back-up with you then. Again, thank you both so much for your time.

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Girls Night Out Recap

7-26 Girls Night Out.JPGGirls Night Out had it all Thursday, chocolate, massages, manicures, music and of course a two-hour happy hour with plenty of martinis… and oh, yea, a 4-2 Royals win over the Rays.

Team photographer Chris Vleisides waded through the pool of pink that converged on Parking Lot H and sent Around the Horn these images yesterday.

7-26 Girls 1.JPGThis is a view from the stage – the center of the attention. Around the Horn was proud to see such a strong showing from the female population in Kansas City.

Pink and white rhinestone Royals caps were given to the first 20,000 and women who bought the VIP package which included drink vouchers, and tickets also got a free T-Shirt.

7-26 Girls 2.JPGKMBC 9’s Karen Kornacki conducted player interviews with a few Royals who courteous enough to give up some of their preparation time to make an appearance in Parking Lot H.

David DeJesus, Joey Gathright and Mike Aviles answered questions for the crowd assembled around the stage.

7-26 Girls 3.JPGOne of the most popular activities at Girls Night Out this year and last year were the free massages. Massage therapist from around Kansas City set-up inside a tent and and helped relieve some of the ladies’ stress and tension – which is exactly what Girls Night Out is all about.

7-26 Girls 4.JPGHere are some of our happy patrons, stress-free and ready to head into the game.

7-26 Girls 5.JPGFor another perspective of the mass of people, here’s a picture of the women heading into the Stadium after Girls Night Out ended.

 

7-26 Girls 6.JPGAs a part of Girls Night Out, the Royals Charities helped to raise money for the American Heart Association. Before the game, a check for $30,000 was presented to the organization.

The money for the donation was was raised through the group sales VIP packages and straight T-shirt sales during the event. 

 The Royals would like to thank all of the ladies who came out and had a good time. You’re welcome back anytime.

Tomorrow: Look for an Around the Horn Touch ‘em All Interview with Seattle Mariners’ broadcaster Dave Niehaus and Hall of Fame broadcaster Denny Mathews, in honor of Niehaus’ induction into Cooperstown tomorrow. 

Tonight’s lineup: 

DeJesus CF
Aviles SS
Grudzielanek 2B
Guillen RF
Butler DH
Gordon 3B
Buck C
Gload 1B
German LF

Hochevar P

Today’s Official Game Notes.

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Pitch It, Catch It and We'll Find a Way to Score

It was a solid win last night over a first place team. Timely hitting, great starting pitching from Gil Meche and a couple glamorous defensive plays and viola! Its the recipe to beat a team which, even after the loss, holds a slight edge over the defending World Series champs. And even better it came on Girls Night Out, which by all accounts was another huge success.

True, its just one win and we talked just the other day about being able to move on from 7-25 Meche.jpgone game to the next, but on the same token, its good to enjoy the team’s high points. That’s what being a fan is all about right? To do that, let’s go Around the Horn…

First
Gil Meche never went anywhere, but a rough start skewed his numbers. Now he’s back on track and poised to pass his win total from last season, when he was undoubtedly the Royals ace and won Pitcher of the Year. Meche did not allow a run for the first time since May 4 at Cleveland, when he also pitched seven shutout innings. After that start, he dropped his ERA to 5.98. One rough start later and he jumped back up to 6.31.

Then he started whittling it down. After logging so many innings, it took a while, but he’s shaved a full two runs off his ERA since his May 9 start versus Baltimore. Over his last 14 starts, Meche has a 3.27 ERA in 88 innings with 69 strikeouts, which is 7.06 K’s per nine innings.

For a little more prespective, the 2007 Gil Meche set a career best with a 3.67 ERA with 156 punch outs in 216 innings, which is 6.5 K’s per nine innings. Granted, Meche kept his numbers up over 34 starts in 2007, but it looks like we’ve seen the return of the real Gil Meche.

Second
Defense is just as important to a win and three times already this homestand (we’ve only got video evidence of two), David DeJesus has made a spectacular play down the left field line. He’s laying out down there to save his pitchers runs.

His catch last night in particular – a head first layout onto the warning track gravel – became an instant replay on SportsCenter’s Top Plays, Baseball Tonight’s Web Gems, FSN’ Final Score, The Baseball Report and MLB.TV’s highlights. He literally stole a base hit or an extra base hit from the Rays’ Dioner Navarro.

Baseball Tonight’s Buck Showalter had some praise for the Royal, saying with him in the corner outfield position puts him among the elite defensively at that position. Oh and national media, his last name is pronounced “duh-HAY-soos” with the accent on the middle syllable, not “duh-hay-SOOS” with the accent at the end.  Mispronunciation is kind of a pet peeve of ours.  While we’re at it, it’s “WA-keem SORE-ee-uh”, not “Joe-uh-KIM” or “Sore-eye-uh” or whatever.

7-25 Maier.jpgNot to be completely overshadowed by DeJesus’ night, Mike Aviles also made an outstanding throw to first to help cut short the Rays rally in the eighth.And Mitch Maier* recorded six putouts in the first five innings in his first game in the big leagues this year.

*Maier went 1-for-4, recording his first hit in the Majors since he went 2-for-4 against Minnesota on September 28, 2006.

Short
Speaking of Mike Aviles, he has hit safely in 13 of 14 games after having his career high 12-game hitting streak snapped two days ago…The Royals induced a double play from Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura in the fifth, his first of the season. He’d gone 392 at-bats without hitting into a double-play, which led the Majors…Joakim Soria (did you pronounce it correctly?) picked up his first save against the Rays last night, leaving Boston as the only American League team he hasn’t recorded a save against…Notes from Trey Hillman’s pre-game press conference: Mark Teahen is still stiff and out of the lineup again. Hopefully he will resume outside workouts tomorrow…Also from Trey: Hillman saw the rehab DVD for John Bale, who is starting for Omaha tonight. He said Bale’s velocity is not back to where is was but the arm action looks okay…Finally: John Buck shaved his head last night before the game, reportedly because Gil Meche said he’d stay locked in better if his catcher had a shaved head. Hillman said Meche, who did the shaving, wasn’t going to come anywhere near him with the clippers.

Third
Minor League Notes:

Triple-A: Mike Aviles is still 5th in the Pacific Coast League in triples (six in 51 games), the leader, Tucson’s Tim Raines, Jr. has 11 in 98 games.

Double-A: Kila Kaaihue of Northwest Arkansas leads the Texas League in homers with 25 and is third in slugging percentage (.615) and RBI (71). He also leads the league with 79 walks and has 39 strikeouts in 87 games.

Single-A Advanced: The Wilmington Blue Rocks, or 7-25 Robinson.jpgRunnin’ Rocks are tops in the Carolina League in stolen bases. They’ve stolen 200 bases in 102 games, 79 more than any other team in the league. They’ve broken a team record already, lead the league in walks (359) and have five of the top six base stealers in the CL. Derrick Robinson (pictured left) leads the league with 48 steals, followed by Jarrod Dyson at 33, Joseph Dickerson at 24, Winston Salem’s Paulo Orlando at 22 and Chris McConnell and Kurt Mertins at 21…Josh Johnson (11 SB) is third in the league with a .423 OBP and tied for second with 65 walks…Dickerson also leads the league in triples at 10 

Single-A: Burlington, Iowa’s Adrian Ortiz leads the league with 128 hits in 99 games…Jason Taylor lead the Midwest League with 60 walks…Mike Moustakas’ 12 homers is tied for 11th, but the league leader only has 19 in the pitcher’s league. Two are tied for second at 16, five players have 14 and two more have 13, so he’s not far off the pace…David Lough is second in the League with nine triples…Alexander Caldera is fifth in the league with 113.1 IP.

Rookie League-Advanced: Burlington, North Carolina’s Kelvin Herrera is second with a 1.83 ERA in 34.1 IP. He also leads the Appalachian League in WHIP with a 0.84 mark.

Rookie League-Advanced: Idaho Falls’ Nicholas Francis has a .582 slugging percentage, which is fourth in the Pioneer League. He’s also fifth with a .978 OPS and first in triples with five…The Chukars also have some runners with three of the top five base stealers, including the leader, Patrick Norris who has 14 in 31 games. Norris also leads the league in walks with 23…Bryan Casey holds a 1.93 ERA which is second in the PL. 

Rookie League: The Arizona Royals Jose Bonilla is fourth in the Arizona League with a .390 average, fifth with a .688 slugging percentage and fifth with a 1.129 OPS…Deivy Batista is fifth in doubles with eight…Deybi De La Cruz is tied for third (two tied at four) with three wins and is sixth in the league with a 2.73 ERA. He also has 26 K’s which is sixth and only one strike out behind teammate Carlos Fortuna who is tied for fifth. 

Tonight’s lineup: Remember, Emerson Drive and Dan Quisenberry Bobbleheads tomorrow. 

DeJesus LF
Aviles SS
Grudzielanek 2B
Guillen RF
Gordon 3B
Butler DH
Gload 1B
Buck C
Maier CF

Meche P

Today’s Official Game Notes.

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Friday Night at the K versus Tampa Bay

Tonight’s lineup:

DeJesus LF
Aviles SS
Grudzielanek 2B
Guillen RF
Gordon 3B
Butler DH
Gload 1B
Buck C
Maier CF

Meche P

Today’s Official Game Notes (check back later).

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Pink = Blue

7-22 Girls.gifToday is a lot of things. It’s Girls’ Night Out. It’s the 25th Anniversary of the Pine Tar Game. And at the heart of it all, it’s the start of a four game series against the first place Rays.

Tampa Bay is bringing the heat to Kansas City with a .590 winning percentage and a half game lead over the defending World Series Champion Red Sox. The Rays aren’t messing around, so we won’t either as we go Around the Horn…

First
Girls’ Night Out brought huge crowds last summer and the demand was heard. So the event is back for another year. It will feature a two-hour happy hour, massages, manicures, players interviews, cheese and fruit and lots and lots of chocolate.

The party is out in Lot H, and lasts from 5:30 to 7:00.

The first 20,000 women through the gates tonight get a pink and white rhinestone Royals cap courtesy of Meierotto Midwest Jewlers. It should be a lot of fun for all the ladies who attend. And we’d bet some of the guys might enjoy themselves as well.


7-24 Pine Tar.jpgSecond
25 years ago today, Hall of Famer George Brett hit a home run off Goose Gossage, who will be inducted into the Hall this weekend. The only problem was Brett used an “illegal” bat. By rule no foreign substance can appear above the trademark of the bat (18 inches from the handle). Well, as Royals fans know Brett was a pine tar junkie. He got it on his uniforms, his helmet and it covered his bats.

The Yankees had noticed his bat was illegal a few weeks before and waited for the right moment. Brett’s two-run homer to put the Royals ahead in the ninth on July 24, 1983 seemed like the right moment. The rest is history. Brett was called out. He went ballistic. The Royals protested. The American League overturned the call. The Royals went back and finished the game on August 18, winning 5-4.

Short
Joey Gathright was put on the Disabled List with a bone bruise in his right shoulder…Mitch Maier, who was hitting .316 with 24 doubles, a triple and nine homers, was recalled from Triple-A Omaha to replace Gathright and will be playing center, batting ninth and wearing No. 35 tonight…Notes from Trey Hillman’s pregame press conference: Gathright’s injury is one that he’s been trying to play through, but because of the nature of the bruise, rest is really the only thing that will help him heal…Also from Hillman: He loves Maier’s ability to play the outfield and said he was one of the best defensive outfielders during spring training, and he definitely takes some of the best routes to fly balls…Two interesting Mitch Maier facts: He was in the same draft as Mike Aviles (2003) and Hillman’s compliments are more impressive because the outfield is Maier’s third position after being drafted as a catcher and then moving to third base.


7-18 Emerson.jpgThird
Emerson Drive is the next huge thing to hit Kauffman Stadium. The country rockers will play a concert on Saturday night following the Royals-Rays game, which starts at 6:10. Along with Emerson Drive on Saturday, Royals fans will be treated to Dan Quisenberry Bobbleheads.

The following Saturday, Aug. 2, is Military Appreciation Day with Royals camo caps. The game has been changed to a 2:55 p.m. because its getting national coverage on FOX.

But none of the festivities are being canceled. There will be several special presentations going on that day and we’re still looking for pictures of your loved ones who are serving our country. Any pics will do, but Around the Horn would especially like to see pics with Royals gear in them. If you have anything you’d like to send us, please do so at blog@royals.com.

Tonight’s lineup:

DeJesus LF
Aviles SS
Grudzielanek 2B
Guillen RF
Gordon 3B
Butler DH
Gload 1B
Buck C
Maier CF

Meche P

Today’s Official Game Notes.

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Finale vs. Detroit

Notes from Trey Hillman’s pregame press conference: Hillman says he likes the way the pitchers are competing but they are having trouble locating pitches and that’s been the problem. He is looking for the Royals starters to get ahead in the count more often, by throwing the first pitch for strike one…Also: He also says Esteban German is heating up and looking like the player Hillman was told about before he came to Kansas City. To back Hillman up, German hit a triple of Tiger flamethrower Joel Zumaya last night and is hitting .438 over his last 13 games. His average is up to a season high .250.

Here’s today’s lineup:

DeJesus DH
Aviles SS
Grudzielanek 2B
Guillen LF
Gordon 3B
Teahen RF
Olivo C
Gload 1B
Gathright CF

Grienke P

Today’s Official Game Notes.

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