After taking the first two games this weekend against the Cleveland Indians during a wrap-around home series, the Royals dropped the final two games by a combined 19-3 score. Though still early in the season, these are the types of results that remind fans of just how downtrodden a baseball town Kansas City has been for the better part of two decades.
Just last year, the Royals endured a twelve-game losing streak in the season’s opening month and did not record a home victory until May 3. Kansas City is 6-4 at home in 2013.
Two-game losing streaks are commonplace throughout a 162-game marathon of a Major League Baseball season; even the best teams can’t avoid them. The key, however, is not allowing two to become three or three to become six and ultimately shaking a team’s psyche and daily approach to the game.
Kansas City’s Achilles heel over the years has been starting pitching, specifically lacking the type of pitcher who is capable of taking the mound in the precise situation that tonight’s game offers. Though it cost them their top prospect (outfielder Wil Myers) in a trade during the offseason, the Royals acquired Shields for moments like this.
Shields can’t expect to go out and perform like his usually reliable self tonight against the Rays because it simply will not be good enough. The Royals will demand much more out of their new No. 1 starting pitcher.
Kansas City needs Shields to stamp out the memories of last season’s early troubles and to allow fans to reflect on just how deep this city’s baseball roots actual are.
For the Royals and Shields, tonight’s game is as big as it gets.