The Royals took care of the Rangers Tuesday night, securing the series win, and improving their record in September to 2-0. They maintained their 1/2 game lead over Detroit, and are still fighting to make it to the playoffs for the first time in 29 years.
The win wasn’t pretty, as they scored just 2 runs despite hitting 6 doubles on the night, as their troubles hitting with RISP continued. Guthrie pitched a phenomenal game though, allowing just 1 run on 8 hits thru 7 innings.
The Royals are showing flashes of greatness mixed with flashes of mediocrity, and it’s resulted in one crazy, roller coaster ride type of season. As they enter the last month of the season, however, they are going to need to overcome one major obstacle if they want any chance at staying in the pennant race.
We’ve seen it in small does throughout the season, but it’s become more notable in the past week. The Royals, with their above average pitching rotation and rock solid back end of the bullpen, are a one dimensional team.
By one dimensional, I mean that the Royals have solely relied on their pitching staff to get them through games this season, and it might come back to bite them if they continue to do so in September. In their first two games against Texas, the Royals scored a mere 6 runs, but it was just enough because of the pitching staff, a recurring theme throughout the season.
Now flash back to the Cleveland series. The Royals offense was stymied by below average pitchers, while the Indians had no problems scoring. Defense may win championships in football, but it certainly won’t in baseball.
Twitter exploded last night when Ned Yost said that “The Big Three” (Herrera, Davis, and Holland) wouldn’t be available to pitch, which showed that fans have a clear lack of confidence in the rest of the bullpen. The Big Three headline what is supposed to be one of the best bullpens in baseball, but they’re the only good part of the bullpen.
As we’ve seen throughout the season, the Royals lack the depth in the rest of the bullpen to complement The Big Three. The Royals are going to need to find other relievers who can take the mound to do damage control, not close out a game. We’ve seen guys like Aaron Crow and Francisley Bueno ruin chances to rest The Big Three by allowing runs when the Royals have a large lead.
The problem is that the offense never produces enough runs to bring in any other pitchers except The Big Three. The team is one dimensional in the sense that the offense isn’t good enough to protect Herrera, Davis and Holland, so the three of them are always needing to be used.
Even last night, when Aaron Crow pitched the ninth inning to close out a 2-1 game (Twitter didn’t like that at all), Yost began to warm up Holland when Crow got himself into a jam. Crow was able to get through the ninth unscathed, but the fact that Holland even began to warm up indicates Yost doesn’t have confidence in his other relievers either.
September baseball is all about winning, and the only way the Royals are going to be able to do that is if their offense starts showing up. It’s clear that the pitchers are starting to fatigue, and are in dire need of offensive help.
The one dimensional approach has held up for now, but won’t for long. It’s going to be the Royals biggest obstacle in the last month of the season. Overcome it, and the playoffs are in store. Let it beat them, and it’s just another disappointing season.