Manager Ned Yost knows the importance of today’s game with the Detroit Tigers. Yost knows the big swing between being three a half games behind and one a half behind the division lead with a week to play. “We gotta go out and get this one,” he said.
Kansas City will continue to need production from the recently revamped top of the lineup of Alcides Escobar and Nori Aoki. Yost has juggled the middle of the order a bit with Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez in that sequence batting behind Lorenzo Cain, who returns today and bats third after not playing in Saturday’s game. Yost said he’s trying to find a middle-of-the-order guy to get hot.
As for the ups and downs of a pennant chase, the Royals, despite an agonizing defeat Saturday, are enjoying the ride.
“It’s fun,” Yost said. “It’s the old wide world of sports adage; the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. You win and you’re on top of the world, you lose and you’re in agony for 12 hours until you can come back to the park. It’s a lot of fun playing in this type of atmosphere, playing for these stakes. That’s what you work hard for.”
What they are working hard for is not just a playoff appearance but a run at a World Series title.
“It’s been our goal for a long, long time,” Yost said. “Develop a team that is playoff capable of winning a championship. That’s our goal and that’s what [this group] is trying to accomplish.”
By Nate Rowan
After Friday night’s 10-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers dropped the Kansas City Royals a game and half behind in the American League Central and left three teams, including KC, within a game of each other for two A.L. Wild Card spots it would appear the Royals are in desperate need for a big game from someone who’s been in these kinds of games before. Say, Big Game James Shields, for instance, who toes the the rubber for Kansas City in hopes of pulling the Royals within a half game of the division lead and putting the pressure on Oakland and Seattle, who play later today. While it may not be one, these games this weekend feel like playoff games and Shields has six postseason starts under his belt. For manager Ned Yost, Shields is the guy he wants in this spot.
“It’s huge to be able to have that, to have that playoff experience and have that ability to step up in a big game,” Yost said. “That’s his nickname [Big Game]. And he’s shown why he’s gotten that nickname, just for us, even in these last three or four starts. He’s stopped losing streaks and helped us win ballgames that we really needed to win.”
“[I] couldn’t ask for anybody else on the mound today.”
Looking at last night with optimism would show that the back end of Kansas City’s bullpen is in great shape. With the off day, Kelvin Herrera hasn’t pitched in three days while Wade Davis and Greg Holland have worked in two. If Shields can give the Royals at least 6.0 innings this afternoon, Yost will have all of his weapons out of the bullpen at his disposal.
By Nate Rowan
Today’s game is on FOX (WDAF in KC). Here’s a look at the Dish Network numbers through game 162, with all games on FSKC:
Saturday, September 20: FOX
Sunday, September 21: Dish 440 or 412-28
Monday, September 22: Dish 441 or 412-29
Tuesday, September 23: Dish 442 or 412-30
Wednesday, September 24: Dish 441 or 412-29
Thursday, September 25: Dish 441 or 412-29
Friday, September 26: Dish 442 or 412-30
Saturday, September 27: Dish 442 or 412-30
Sunday, September 28: Dish 441 or 412-29
It’s been a long time since Kansas City experienced such a meaningful series at home this late into September but the Royals find themselves a half game behind Detroit for the AL Central lead and the Tigers are in town for a three-game series to conclude KC’s regular season home schedule. A lot can happen this weekend regarding playoff positioning and with 11 games remaining (including the suspended game that will be finished in Cleveland), this city, its fans and the team knows the importance of these games.
“Today we got a chance to take care of our own destiny,” Yost said. “We haven’t seen a series like this in Kansas City in a long, long time. It’s going to be exciting.”
Standing room only tickets are all that remains this weekend, meaning it’s possible over 100,000 fans file through the Kauffman Stadium turnstiles. Despite a 4-9 record at home with crowds over 30,000 this season, Yost believes his team can use the energy to their advantage.
“Big crowds are going to be a benefit to us, that’s why it’s home field advantage when you got a stadium full of people cheering for you,” Yost said. “I think it’s going to be fun, [the players] are going to embrace it.”
Yost will continue to stick with a similar lineup tonight against Detroit’s Justin Verlander. Billy Butler, who has had his struggles recently, will bat seventh at the designated hitter.
“It wasn’t even a thought,” Yost said regarding a question about Butler being in the lineup. “Billy’s had great numbers against Verlander for a long, long time. In the game the other night against Sale he ended up with a double down the right-field line and sometimes it just takes that one hit to allow you to exhale and relax a little bit and get you on track.”
Billy is 34-for-82 (.415) with five doubles, two home runs and 15 RBI against Verlander and has more plate appearances (92) against him than any other pitcher.
By Nate Rowan
The Royals’ push for a possible postseason bid will have the club on national TV several times as the regular season winds down. Here’s the rundown:
All remaining games will be on FOX Sports Kansas City, with the exception of tomorrow’s game (Saturday, September 20), which is exclusively on FOX (WDAF FOX 4 in Kansas City). All games will air on the Royals Radio Network.
Friday, September 19 – In addition to the FSKC broadcast, tonight’s game will air on ESPN 2 (outside of the FSKC broadcast area). Dan Shulman, John Kruk, Curt Schilling and Buster Olney have the call. The game will also air on ESPN Radio with Jon Sciambi and Jim Bowden.
Saturday, September 20 – Tomorrow’s game was moved to a 12:05 Central start time for the Fox Network broadcast. Justin Kutcher, Tom Verducci and Ken Rosenthal will be the announcers. The game is one of two during the exclusive FOX window, meaning that 79% of the country will get the Royals/Tigers game, with the rest of the country receiving the Cubs/Dodgers game. Please check your local listings. The game will also air nationally on ESPN Radio with Jon Sciambi and Jim Bowden.
Sunday, September 21 – In addition to the FSKC broadcast, Sunday’s game (1:10 Central start) will be shown on TBS (local blackout applies). Ernie Johnson, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ron Darling will be in the booth.
Wednesday, September 24 – The Royals have been informed that next Wednesday’s game in Cleveland (6:05 Central) will be ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball national telecast. That game will air on FSKC in Royals territory.
The Royals announced today that only standing room tickets remain for all three home games this weekend at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals face the Detroit Tigers tonight at 7:10 p.m., Saturday at 12:05 p.m. and Sunday at 1:10 p.m. Remaining standing-room seats are available for $20 at royals.com/tickets. Fans are urged to arrive early to reduce traffic congestion at Kauffman Stadium. Listed below are features and promotions for the final regular-season home series:
Friday, September 19 – Detroit Tigers vs. Royals, 7:10 p.m.
• Futures Night – The Royals salute the Pitchers and Players of the Year from each minor league affiliate prior to the game. All of the players are expected to participate in an autograph session from 5:30-6:15 p.m. at Gate A near the Royals Hall of Fame before receiving their awards in a special pregame ceremony.
• Buck Night – Fans can enjoy a special Buck Night. Hot dogs, small Pepsi products and peanuts are just $1 each all night long. http://www.royals.com/fanvalue.
• ThunderStix Giveaway – The first 20,000 fans will receive a pair of “GO Royals” ThunderStix, courtesy of Draft Kings.
Saturday, September 20 – Detroit Tigers vs. Royals, 12:05 p.m.
• Fan Appreciation Day presented by Sprint – The Royals reward fans for their tremendous support throughout the season with prize giveaways throughout the game. All fans in attendance have a chance to win autographed memorabilia, tickets to the Club’s 2015 home opener, an All-Access Ballpark Tour, gift cards from Royals partners, and much more. For the entire list of prizes, visit http://www.royals.com/fans.
• Royals Scarf – The first 10,000 fans will receive a Royals Scarf, courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors.
Sunday, September 21 – Detroit Tigers vs. Royals, 1:10 p.m.
• Royals 2015 Early Bird Schedule & 2014 Team Photo – All fans in attendance receive a 2015 early-bird team schedule with a 2014 team photo courtesy of Pittcraft Printing.
• Family FunDay Sunday – Each Sunday home game features pregame interactive kids entertainment by School of Rock, plus face painters, caricature or balloon artists in the Outfield Experience. Fans also have the opportunity to get pregame autographs from select players each Sunday.
• Sunday Fun Run – All fans 14 and under can run the bases after the game (conditions permitting).
Nori Aoki recorded an amazing 11 hits during the Chicago series…four on Monday, four on Tuesday and three on Wednesday! His second hit on Wednesday set up Lorenzo Cain’s three-run homer and also tied both George Brett and Willie Wilson for the most by a Royal in a three game series at 10. Aoki wasn’t done – just an inning later, he recorded number 11, claiming the club record. Fans chanted his name during the late innings and Nori returned the appreciation by tipping his cap during a postgame interview. Aoki was the subject of a Gatorade bucket splash, though most of it ended up on his translator, Kosuke Inaji.
The Royals will look to keep pace in the pennant race by taking the rubber match of a three-game set with Chicago this evening.
The hosts will have to go through Chris Sale and his 1.99 ERA in order to do so, of course, but manager Ned Yost found a silver lining to the task of competing with Sale.
“He throws a lot of strikes,” Yost said. “And that’s good for us because we swing at a lot of balls. But he’s got really good stuff. You know you’re going to have your hands full. You just have to battle it out. You hope you can score a couple of runs and your pitching and defense can keep you in the game and get to the bullpen.”
Amid Kansas City’s lineup of free-swingers is All-Star catcher Salvador Perez. Perez, who has carried the offense at times this season, finds himself mired in a 5-for-45 (.111) slump since Sept. 6. He’s struck out a dozen times and walked just once over that span.
“He’s trying too hard,” said Yost. “He’s up there trying to make something happen. And you can’t go up there and make something happen on the first pitch or two. You’ve got to kind of catch your breath, step back a little bit, and let the at-bat come to you instead of trying to take the first pitch, no matter where it is, and drive it into the gap. You’ve got to get up there and be a little bit more selective.”
The absence of free-passes doesn’t alarm Yost, but the Royals’ skipper is concerned about pitch selection.
“Salvy’s never been a guy that’s gonna take a lot of pitches,” he said. “He’s always been a guy that puts the ball in play, and swings the bat, and he’s always a dangerous guy. But there’s been some instances here, lately, where he’s swinging at balls that never were strikes – that didn’t leave the pitchers hand a strike.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, offensively, is Nori Aoki, who is enjoying his hottest homestand of the season against an opponent that he has dominated. Aoki went 4-for-5 last night, his second consecutive four-hit game, and now has 12 hits over his last 24 at-bats.
“Nori’s gotten hot,” said Yost. “We needed that. We need some guys getting hot and creating some scoring opportunities, and Nori’s been driving in runs and he’s been doing it all for us. Earlier in the year, when Nori was leading off, it was uncanny, every time he was on base he’d find a way to score. We hope that we can keep that trend up. Back-to-back four hit nights have been big. We need to mix in a few more guys getting hot like him and we’ll be in great shape.”
The Royals will enjoy a day off tomorrow before hosting Detroit in a pivotal three-game series beginning on Friday. Yost will use the off-day to celebrate his father-in-law’s birthday – sort of.
“My wife called me yesterday and said that she was coming into town today, and I thought she was coming in Friday, so I was thinking, okay, I get the whole off day to myself, you know?”
When asked if he was aware of the reason for the Missus’ early arrival, Yost was reminded of at least one significant aspect associated with Sept. 17.
“She says, tomorrow’s my father’s birthday. Today, right? Well we got married on her father’s birthday 37 years ago, and I absolutely forgot my wedding anniversary. So we’re going to go have a nice dinner… and take a trip to Bass Pro Shop and see if they’ve got any new fishing lures or any new bow sights.
“I should’ve never got married in September because the baseball season’s going on,” Yost quipped. “And she doesn’t even get mad anymore. She just takes it as a given that I’m going to forget it.”
As for a peace offering? Yost knows just the thing.
“I’ll buy her a fishing pole,” he said. “She likes to fish.”
By Kolby Paxton
In what amounted to a seemingly perfect illustration of what it is, exactly, that “speed do,” the Royals ran past Chicago in a dramatic ninth inning, come-from-behind victory on Monday, and the club will look to carry that magic into the second game of the three-game set this evening.
“What we saw last night, you don’t see,” said manager Ned Yost. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, where you tie a ballgame and win a ballgame in the ninth inning on two balls that didn’t even leave the infield. It was unique. It was fun. It was exciting… but today is a different day.”
Yost asserted that, while the events of last night may well have been fit for the silver screen, the comeback victory neither changed, nor affirmed the teams’ confidence and/or approach moving forward.
“These guys fight every day,” he said. “They don’t need validation after a game like that, ‘Boy we can come back.’ They’ve been doing it all year long.”
Liam Hendriks will be on the hill for the Royals tonight, making his second start in place of Danny Duffy and his fourth appearance for Kansas City overall. After tossing a gem in his first start with the club, Hendriks has run into some trouble of late, taking back-to-back losses, including Sept. 11 vs. Boston, when the right-hander exited after just 2.1 innings of work.
“The first inning or two he was okay,” said Yost. “In the third inning, he hung a curve ball and then just tried to be too quick in his delivery to the plate. And that got his tempo off, got his rhythm off. Just stay within yourself, use the strike zone, throw strikes, and let your defense work for you.”
As for Duffy, Yost said that his simulated game went according to plan on Tuesday. The lefty is scheduled to make his next start against the Indians on Monday.
“His stuff was really, really good,” he said. “Threw some good curve balls, threw some really good change ups. Had regular life on his fastball, just a little erratic with his command, which is to be expected.”
Yost announced on Tuesday that he plans to shake up the pitching rotation slightly when the Royals face-off with Detroit this weekend.
“After the off-day, we want to keep Shields and Vargas on regular rest,” he said. “We’re going to slide Guthrie back to the Sunday game. That enables us to have our two left-handers pitch in Cleveland, Duffy, Ventura, and Vargas, and then lines us up for the Chicago series.”
By Kolby Paxton