Hittin' the road

8-12 Bannister.jpgThe Boys in Blue left K.C. yesterday afternoon and square off against the White Sox. Brian Bannister is on the mound tonight to start the three game set. 

When the Royals leave Chicago after Thursday’s day game, they will have played the Sox 12 times in 38 days. During those that time, the Royals have played a total of 10 series (four against the White Sox) and had a four-day break for the All-Star festivities..

These two teams are getting to know each other well (and they may not like what they’re finding out?), but have just one matchup left after this week (Chicago comes to town September 19-21). To take a look at the next Sox series and the nine-game, three-city road trip the series starts, let’s go Around the Horn…

First
The 28-game stretch against .500 clubs that started on July 18 has just two stops and six games left (three against the White Sox and three with the Yankees over the weekend). Despite the tough schedule, the Royals have come away with a respectable 11-11 record.

The Royals can still do some damage in their final two series and despite their position in playoff hunt, they can play spoiler. The Sox are tied in the loss column with the Twins and are a half game back from the division leaders. The Sox, who have controlled the Wild Card and the Central Division at times this season, are two games off Boston’s pace in the race for the final American League playoff spot. 

Meanwhile New York had started surging to make a push for the A.L. East, but have now lost four in a row and sit nine games back from first-place Tampa Bay. The Yankees are five back in the Wild Card standings. Time is of the essence for them.

8-12 Yanks.jpgAs for the Boys in Blue, we had a good run in each city last time we were there. The Royals split with the Yankees back in early June (and could have had at least one more), creeping back into the final game and slapping future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera a loss, thanks to homers by Miguel Olivo and a game-winner from Jose Guillen. In fact, Guillen blistered the Yankees with four homers, 10 RBI, two doubles and a .563 average over the four games.

Billy Butler was the story last time the Royals were in the Windy City. Butler helped lead the Royals to a 2-1 series win, homering twice and knocking in seven with a .386 average.

It’s tough to know what the Royals will get in either town. Both teams have been riddled with injuries lately. The most notable losses for the two were starters Jose Contreras (White Sox, out with a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon) and Joba Chamberlain (Yankees, out with rotator cuff tendinitis in his pitching shoulder). Both teams are trying to cope with their losses while trying to stay in the playoff picture.

Second
Around the Horn needs to clean up a few loose ends we’ve neglected the last few days on the pitching side of things. If you haven’t heard, Zack Greinke dropped his appeal. He began serving his suspension (five games for hitting Nick Swisher after a bench clearing incident versus the White Sox) on Sunday and is scheduled to miss his start on Friday. He will be pushed back one day and start Saturday’s day game in New York.

The Royals also traded Horacio Ramirez to the White Sox late Saturday night. In return, the Royals got outfielder Paulo Orlando. Orlando was playing for the Carolina League Winston-Salem Warthogs (the Sox’ Class A Advanced affiliate). Last night he made his Wilmington8-12 Blue Rocks.gif debut and went 3-for-4 with a double and a triple against his former mates. The Brazilian native is the Carolina League’s leader in triples and he upped the speed quotient of the Blue Rocks.

You might remember Around the Horn posting a while back about the Runnin’ Rocks. Well, Orlando just adds more speed to their lineup. Derrick Robinson leads the Carolina League with 55 steals, followed by teammate Jarrod Dyson with 37 swipes and in third is Orlando with 28. Wilmington has six of the top eight base stealers in the Carolina and six of the top eight triples hitters as well.

Wilmington’s amazing speed doesn’t end there. Their 47 triples are 12 more than second place Winston-Salem and their 233 stolen bases are 82 ahead of the Warthogs.  

Short
The Royals are riding a five-game winning streak on the road and start a nine-game road trip tonight…Mike Aviles has 23 multi-hitters in 55 career games (42 percent of his games)…Lefty Josh Newman was called up Sunday to replace the traded Horacio Ramirez. Newman is wearing No. 63…Tony Pena broke a 0-for-17 slide with his two hits on Sunday…Pena is one of four players to enter a game as a pinch runner this season and deliver a walk-off winner…Joakim Soria tied a career high with four strikeouts in a single outing.

Third
We have some housekeeping of our own to do here at Around the Horn. The long-awaited renovations update is coming as is our Clubhouse photos sneak peak. The media relations staff held a hard hat tour yesterday of the stadium, so we’ve got plenty of material. And as for the sneak peak, the pictures are taking a little longer to edit than we’d hoped (plus the Olympics are distracting!).

Speaking of the Olympics, have you guys been watching? We have. We’ve been watching Team USA basketball rolling and seen Michael Phelps break three world records already. We’re also excited for USA baseball to start tomorrow (TV schedule). 8-12 USA.jpgUnfortunately the Royals don’t have anybody on this version of team USA or any of the other Olympic teams, though we have in the past. In fact, pitchers Neal Musser and Matt Wright, who are with Triple-A Omaha right now, were members USA Baseball team which won the gold medal over Chinese Taipei during the 2007 World Cup. And Billy Butler helped the USA in a qualifying tournament following the 2006 season.

One final note: The Royals have put together a new ticket package which sells for $40 and includes four View Level tickets (valued at $15 a piece) and a $20 QuikTrip card. The card can be used on gas or merchandise and the retail value of the entire package is $80, but you only pay $40. Is there anything better than getting a deal on both baseball AND gas?

We’ll have a lineup for you later.

Today’s Official Game Notes.

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