Guthrie Sharp as Royals Double-Up Rangers 6-3
Death. Taxes. The Royals win another game in August.
Kansas City (72-56) stretched their lead in the AL Central out to a full three games by doubling up the Texas Rangers on Saturday night, 6-3.
Just three batters into the game, Alex Gordon put the Royals on the board with a towering home run off of the right-field foul pole. The two-time All Star left fielder tied Salvador Perez for the team lead with 15 homers.
Texas got the run right back, and the score remain deadlocked at one until the fifth inning. A single sandwiched in between two walks loaded the bases with two outs against Nick Tepesch. Jarrod Dyson came through with a gutty four-pitch walk, showing the plate discipline that fans have been looking for the team to show more often. In the next at-bat, Omar Infante lined an 0-2 pitch into center field for a clutch two-run single, pushing Kansas City’s lead out to 4-1.
The Royals would strike again in the sixth inning when Dyson singled home two more runs, making the score 6-1 in favor of Kansas City. Dyson, now hitting .364 since the All-Star break, tied a career-high with three RBI.
Jeremy Guthrie came up huge once again when there was a focus on "keep the bullpen rested". After allowing a home run to Shin-Soo Choo on the first pitch of his outing, Guthrie (10-10) settled down to fire eight stellar frames. The solo homer would be all the Rangers managed, as they mustered just five hits in total off of him. He struck out two and walked one.
Defense played a vital role in Guthrie’s great start. Excluding the leadoff home run by Choo, Texas had just five baserunners in eight innings off of the Royals’ starter. Two of them men were erased by double plays, while a third was thrown out trying to steal off of catcher Eric Kratz.
Guthrie became the fourth Royals starter to pick up 10 wins on the season. When Danny Duffy earns two more individual victories, it will mark the first time since 1985 in which all five of the team’s starting pitchers eclipsed the 10-win mark.
Many fans, including myself, have spent their fair share of time poo-poo-ing Guthrie in the last few weeks. More often than not, he’s managed to come through with a quality start. The Royals have now won five of his last six starts, with him getting the win in all five of those games.
It’s easy to forget that one month ago, on July 22, the Royals were 48-50 and had lost seven of their last eight games. They were seven games back of the Detroit Tigers just 31 days ago. Of all people, Bruce Chen and Mike Moustakas were the heroes in a 7-1 Royals win.
Since that game, Kansas City is maintaining an incredible winning percentage of 80%. They’re 24-6 in that time period, making up a full 10 games in the standings to leapfrog Detroit and climb into playoff position.
If there’s one blemish in the game (or in the team’s remarkable recent run), it’s the continuing inability to close out blowout games. Aaron Crow was given the ninth inning with a 6-1 lead, and he quickly induced two groundouts to push the Rangers to the brink of a loss.
It was here when the same woes that have given the Royals anxiety recently struck again. A walk and two singles pushed two runs across for the Rangers, making the 6-3 game a save situation considering the tying run was now in the on-deck circle. Greg Holland warmed, and Ned Yost made the trip to the mound. Surprisingly, though, he didn’t gesture to the bullpen, instead opting to keep in the 2011 All-Star reliever to finish the game. The installment of confidence seemed to work for Crow, who then got J.P. Arencibia to fly out and end the game.
As frustrating as it is, when the biggest problems with your team are the struggles of long-term relievers used primarily in blowouts, things are going pretty well. The Tigers’ bullpen has allowed 22 runs in the last 24 hours. It could be a lot worse.
Speaking of Detroit, they managed a split in their day-night doubleheader with the Minnesota Twins. After falling 12-6 in the first game, Justin Verlander pitched into the sixth inning in game two, and the bullpen staved off the Twins to win 8-6. After adding up all of the day’s action, the Royals gained a half-game on the Tigers, stretching their lead out to three games. Their playoff odds on ESPN are now nearly 82%.
Another amazing stat: with 34 games left, Kansas City has already either matched or surpassed the win total of all but three Royals teams in the last decade. If they’re able to win four of their last eight games in August, they will surpass the 2007 team as the second-winningest team of the Dayton Moore era – with all of September still to play.
Up next: Kansas City goes for their first sweep of an AL team since mid-June tomorrow when Jason Vargas (10-4, 3.17 ERA) opposes Scott Baker (1-3, 5.75). Baker will make just his fifth start of the year on Sunday, and his first since July 13.