Intra-Divisional Damage

9-9 Bannister.jpgThe Boys in Blue are in Minnesota tonight, for the first time since the opening weekend of the season. If your counting, that’s 136 games ago. With un-balanced scheduling, our divisional games have been spread out and come in bunches.

The Royals played Minnesota the first two weekends of the season went over a month without seeing them again, then went two months without a game versus the Twins. Now, we visit Minneapolis twice in three weeks, once on each of the remaining road trips. For a look at how things shake out the rest of the way, let’s go Around the Horn…

John Buck was on the radio this morning talking about the season and what’s left to play for. Obviously Dayton Moore and Trey Hillman both have said they want to evaluate certain players to see how they fit into the team’s future. 9-9 Buck.jpgBut Buck also mentioned playing the role of spoiler. He said while he’d rather be in a different position, there is something to be taken from playing well against teams fighting to make the playoffs.

The most publicized example in recent Royals history was in 2006. The Royals entered Detroit in the final weekend of the regular season and swept the Tigers right out of the playoffs, by taking all three games. Detroit finished one game back from the Twins, and finished as the Wild Card team instead of the Central Division Champs. Torii Hunter, who is now an Angel, sent over some champagne to the Royals’ clubhouse during the Twins first trip to Kauffman Stadium in 2007 as a thank you (the Royals eventually had to give the gift back to avoid Hunter getting a fine).

With two series left versus the Twins and one with the White Sox, the Royals stand in a position to have a serious impact on who represents the Central in the playoffs. Currently Minnesota trails Chicago by two and half games, after going 5-9 on their long road trip. The Twins are seven back from Boston in the Wild Card hunt.

So the Royals will see a team desperate for wins this week and face three pitchers whose ERA sits under 4.00 in: Nick Blackburn (tonight, 3.71 ERA), Kevin Slowey (tomorrow, 3.75 ERA) and Francisco Liriano (Thursday, 3.33 ERA). It will be a tough test, but will certainly help with the team’s ongoing evaluation.

9-9 Cota.jpgSecond
The Burlington Bees are the Western Division Champs and are just three wins (best-of-five series) from becoming Champions of the Midwest League. They finished their second sweep of the playoffs on Sunday, downing Cedar Rapids 2-1. Luis Cota was the star of the game, limiting the Cedar Rapids Kernels to one run on three hits in seven innings of work. Cota, a Royals 10th rounder in 2003, had seven K’s during Sunday’s game.

It took the Bees just four wins (two best-of-three series) to get where they are after finishing as the Western Division Champs for the second half of the season. Now they’ve blown through the playoffs, sweeping the Kane County Cougars and the Kernels to become one of the last two teams alive. It’s their first MWL Championship appearance since 1999.

Now they await the end of the Eastern Conference Championship, which is scheduled to resume play after being rained out last night. The South Bend Silverhawks currently hold the 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three series. With a win tonight, 9-9 Moose.jpgSouth Bend would face Burlington tomorrow and Thursday. If the Dayton Dragons win tonight, the series will go to Game 3 tomorrow and the Midwest Championship will open on Thursday with the first two games at Burlington’s Community Field.

Burlington is currently home to the Royals No. 1 overall draft pick from 2007, Mike Moustakas. The third baseman led the MWL in homer with 22 and won the Bees’ Player of the Year Award. He and the rest of the Minor League Player of the Year winners will be at the K to sign autographs on Futures Night, which is the last Friday home game of the season (September 19).

The Royals are 4-2 in September…Mike Aviles has played 82 games now (half a season), and he owns a .324 batting average which is tops among American League rookies. He’s also first in on-base percentage (.354), third in slugging (.476), fourth in doubles (24), fifth in hits (109) and sixth in runs…Tonight’s starter Brian Bannister has a 2.91 ERA over his last three starts, despite a 0-2 record…Zack Greinke made his 100th start Sunday, becoming the third youngest Royal to reach the milestone at 24 years and 321 days. Only Bret Saberhagen (23 years and 133 days) and Jose Rosado (24 years and 286 days) were younger when they reached 100.

We’ve got just one week left here at the K. Around the Horn has been trying to clean out the offices all day in anticipation of the renovations kicking into full gear immediately following the season. On that note we’d like to say thanks to all of the season ticket holders and those who bought advanced tickets. Those of you who moved seats to accommodate the renovation process were extremely helpful and understanding. Thank you!

9-9 Stocking Cap.jpgPromotions list:
Remember retro-pricing for the four games during the Seattle series.
Tuesday 16: Final T-Shirt Tuesday this season. It’s a blue long-sleeve tee for the fall.
Wednesday 17: One last Ink College Night, plus Halfway to St. Paddy’s Day.
Firday 19: Minor League Futures Night, plus Fireworks Friday.
Saturday 20: Stocking caps from FSN-KC. We’ve also added a “Shirts Off Our Backs” promotion in which you can buy a scratch ticket for $1 and have a chance to win one of the jerseys which will be worn that night. More info on this coming soon.
Sunday 21: The final home game of the season. One last Sprint Fun Run and Bob Evans Family and Friends Day.

Today’s Official Game Notes.

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