Immediately after Alex Rodriguez’s two-run shot tied the game in the seventh inning, I was bracing for yet another stomach-punch game.
How many times can one fan base keep coming back from these kind of defeats?
In the past three weeks, Royals fans have endured a 12-game losing streak—Kansas City’s fourth in the past four years. The rest of the league had three such streaks combined.
This streak featured low-lights such as a no-hitter, the blowing of a five-run ninth-inning lead, and a complete game by Jesse Litsch.
Then there was Saturday’s brutal 12-11 defeat to the Yankees, which I thankfully was not able to watch.
Today’s game was looking like just another link in a near-impossible chain of collapses.
But in what ran counter to nearly everything that has happened in this horrific stretch, Jose Guillen hammered a Mariano Rivera cut-fastball to left to put the boys in blue up for good. It was about time one of his four home runs on the weekend led to a win.
The 3-2 win defied all sorts of recent norms, as the Royals somehow reversed the momentum of Saturday’s crushing loss—a loss that could have had a similar snowball effect to the no-hit game—and punctuated the best series by a Royals hitter in years.
Guillen batted .643 in the four-game set, with four home runs and 10 RBI. It was the most homers and RBI ever hit by a visiting player in a series at Yankee Stadium. Royals batters just don’t have these kind of games.
Who would have thought that among the three high-profile sluggers the Royals went after this offseason, Guillen would be having the best year?
Certainly not me. After April, I thought Guillen was just another product of the alleged HGH he was on as a Mariner. Okay, he still might be a product of a substance frowned upon—but it’s about time the Royals had one of them on their side.
KC was ready to throw a franchise-record contract at Torii Hunter (.268 BA/8 HR/31 RBI) and ready to overpay significantly for Andruw Jones. It now looks like Guillen—at the plate at least—may have been the correct signing. He leads the American League in doubles (21), is third in RBI (48), and is batting .354 since May 1. And in a lineup as anemic as Kansas City’s, 48 RBI is astounding.
This is the first legit power threat the Royals have had since Jermaine Dye or Mike Sweeney (in the three years where he was healthy). Guillen's numbers (.269/11/48) may look pedestrian compared to actual sluggers, but they’re simply unheard of in Kansas City.
In the previous three seasons, power has not been a word uttered when describing a Royals hitter. Last year was particularly demoralizing, as Emil Brown led the team with 62 RBI (you read that correctly) and John Buck led the way with a staggering 18 home runs (ditto).
If he keeps hitting in the same realm he’s hitting now, no one will care about that temper tantrum where he called his teammates “babies,” and openly bashed the organization’s losing ways. I certainly applauded the tirade. The organization has no recent history of success, and the Royals’ regulars have not been the best pressure players. They needed someone to do this.
It’s been hell to watch No. 3 hitters bunt for hits, and have catchers lead the team in home runs. Guillen’s comments were right on the money—and I’m surprised no one had done this until now.
Twenty-two-year-old DH Billy Butler may not agree, as he is now living in some makeshift apartment in Omaha after getting demoted for being one of the “babies” Guillen was describing. It was probably for his own good, as Butler was regressing and turning into another patented Royal singles hitter. In time, the pudgy one-tool player will learn to appreciate the left fielder’s odd motivational method.
Despite the collective underachieving this team has done, its cleanup man is pulling his weight. The man is absolutely killing the ball—and even though his team is not exactly making similar strides, it’s great to watch balls travel over the Kaufmann fences with some regularity again.
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