Needless to say, Kansas City hasn't kept up their furious pace with which they went into their April series in Toronto. But this week's split of a four-game set at the Metrodome is perfectly respectable for this young club -- a team that still holds a division lead over squads in Minnesota and Chicago, both of whom have taken longer than anticipated to find their groove.
This series has two interesting pitching matchups: Halladay-Affeldt on Saturday, and Kelvim's return, on Sunday. The Royals' entire pitching staff has struggled over the last three weeks; this weekend, the onus will fall on the Jays' pockmarked staff to cut out their frustrating habit of losing games in which their lineup gives them five (or more!) runs of support.
Bill James thinks they're fluky, and the Royals may well come crashing down to earth when they hit the West Coast, starting Monday. Hopefully the Jays can kick-start their descent a bit early this weekend with another solid showing on the road. But oh, all those games against Cleveland and Detroit...the Royals will likely still be at least relevant after the All-Star break, and that's an accomplishment. Maybe Tony Pena's proving the Mike Scioscia Hypothesis true: crafty, annoying ex-catchers make good managers in the clubhouse.
On to the Advance Scout!
* KC has earned the Twins' respect ... Denny Hocking on the Royals: "I think they've adopted the character of their manager, Tony Pena...Hard-nosed, intense. We haven't seen the Royals like that in past years" ... Ron Gardenhire was even more complimentary: "They've earned where they're at. They're not a fluke. Not when you can pitch like that. It looks to me like they have some heart" ...
* The Royals might be a fluke, but they do have young pitching talent. In addition to Hernandez, Affeldt, Snyder, et al., the Royals have Jimmy Gobble and Zack Greinke on the farm -- and the Nos. 5 and 30 picks in the first round this year, thanks to ineptitude and Paul Byrd, respectively ...
* Fine, Ken Harvey has 30 K's and is hitting .254 with rotten peripherals. But in his last 22 games, Harvey has eight game-tying or go-ahead hits ... In the seventh inning on Sunday, Baltimore walked Raul Ibanez to get to Harvey, who broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run single ... Pena: "Harvey just keeps doing it...If I need a big hit, that's the guy I want at the plate right now. For some reason, he can just get the hit" ... But Harvey made a crucial error in the bottom of the 10th inning on Tuesday, allowing A.J. Pierzynski to jar the ball loose as Harvey went for a tag at first ... Harvey's become a popular player in the clubhouse.
* Carlos Febles hasn't started since injuring the ring finger on his right hand while attempting to bunt on Saturday ... X-rays were negative ... So was his impact on the Royals' offence before his injury ...
* Sad news for the Jays' staff: Mike Sweeney is back from his hamstring injury ...
* Since starting the season 0-for-16, Carlos Beltran has hit in 15 of 18 games, with 6 multi-hit games ...
* Blister-plagued Jeremy Affeldt hasn't been super thus far, but he was very solid against the Twins on Monday: Six innings, two runs, one walk, eight K's ... Six innings was his longest outing of the season ... Torii Hunter on Affeldt: "He came with it tonight...He was throwing some gas" ... Pena says that Affeldt has the ability to win 20 games if he's given enough time to develop ...
* Veteran setup man Jason Grimsley has an 0.94 WHIP at home out of the pen ...
* SkyDome's favourite opposing closer, Mike MacDougal, is tied for the league lead in saves with Keith Foulke at 11 ... He blew his third save on Tuesday, surrendering a ninth-inning single to pinch-hitter Bobby Kielty ...
* Sunday's opponent, Kyle Snyder, stifled the Twins on Tuesday, giving up just five hits and no walks in six-and-a-third ...
* On Wednesday, Albie Lopez provoked a bench-clearing confrontation when he animatedly accused Twins third-base coach (and good ol' number zero) Al Newman of running up the score in a 7-0 game ...
* Pena said that he saw tears in Runelvys Hernandez' eyes after he broke Matt LeCroy's nose with a fastball...Hernandez came unglued, pitching-wise, after the inadvertent beaning ... Said Hernandez: "I'm sad about that, but that happens in the game"...
* Joe Randa is a frosty 3-for-his-last-45 (.067), but started the Royals' 14th-inning rally yesterday with a double off of Johan Santana ... Desi Relaford: "He's been struggling, and it's good for him to get a knock" ...
* Never mind hammering out a worldwide draft! MLB's priorities are in the right place: Major League Baseball threatened to fine Relaford $1,000 per game for wearing his uniform pants all the way down to his shoes, hiding his socks ... Relaford changed pants, giving him a slightly different look, in an effort to comply ... No word on whether Barry Bonds got any similarly amateurish threats for doing the same thing ...
* Angel Berroa made a dynamite play in the 12th, robbing Jacque Jones of a hit on a lightning-fast AstroTurf grounder up the middle ... In fact, the Royals turned two on the play ...
* Darrell May has been demoted to the bullpen after a loss and five no-decisions in six starts, in which his ERA was 4.83 ... He pitched three and two-thirds innings of clutch relief, though, in yesterday's marathon win over the Twins ... May becomes the bullpen's only lefty ... But is he happy with his new role? May: "I think it's bull...There's really nothing else to say about it"...
* George Brett just turned 50. Yikes!
Probable Batting Orders
Friday: LH George vs. Hendrickson
Saturday: LH Affeldt vs. Halladay
Sunday: RH Snyder vs. Escobar
Long: Lopez R, May L
Short: Lowe R, Wilson R
Setup: Grimsley R, Carrasco R
Closer: MacDougal R