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Phillies visit Kansas City for just second time since the 1980 World Series

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Phillies visit Kansas City for second time since the 1980 World Series

On the surface, this mid-May series in Kansas City between the Philadelphia Phillies (21-15) and the host Kansas City Royals (13-25) at Kauffman Stadium might not seem very interesting.

However, when you consider the situations of the two combatants and the Phillies upcoming schedule, the importance of winning – better yet, sweeping – this series should become more apparent to all Phillies fans.
First, those situations. You can tell just by looking at the win-loss records of the two squads that they are in far different places this year. The Phillies lead the National League East Division standings by four games, five in the loss columng.
Meanwhile, the Royals are in the basement of the AL Central Division. They already sit 11.5 games in back of the first-place Minnesota Twins, 13 out in that loss column. In fact, they are buried in the cellar at the current time, a full five back in the loss column from the fourth place team in their division.
These are the teams that the Phillies must beat up on if they are going to really pull away in their own divisional race. Also, after this weekend the club returns home for the next nine games. That would usually be a good thing, and it probably is in the scheme of things. But they return home to face some tough competition at the start of a scheduling crucible.
Of the Phillies next 23 games, 20 are against teams who currently have a winning record. And the three against a losing team come next weekend at home against the Colorado Rockies, who are just below the .500 mark and are always dangerous.
The Phillies will return home to a four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers (23-16) followed by three with the Rockies. Then they go on the road to the Windy City and four with the red-hot Chicago Cubs (22-13) and on to Milwaukee for three more with the Brew Crew. A quick stop home for a three-game series with the Saint Louis Cardinals (22-16) is then followed by a trip out west to face the Los Angeles Dodgers (25-15) and San Diego Padres (21-17).
That, my friends, is what is called a “test” in the sports world. It is the kind of stretch that tells you whether or not you are a legitimate contending team or not. It is a gauntlet that can either make a team, bringing it closer together, elevating it to new heights, or expose it as either a flawed club or an outright fraud.
And so, this weekend in Kansas City is important to the Phillies. They are a better team than the Royals. But that doesn’t mean that Kansas City doesn’t possess talented players entirely capable of coming up with a strong weekend and sending the Phillies home lamenting a missed opportunity . Gabe Kapler needs to have his club ready to play, and they need to go hard after these three games.

FRIDAY STARTING LINEUPS

PHILLIES LINEUP

  1. Andrew McCutchen LF
  2. Jean Segura SS
  3. Bryce Harper DH
  4. Rhys Hoskins 1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto C
  6. Odubel Herrera CF
  7. Cesar Hernandez 2B
  8. Maikel Franco 3B
  9. Nick Williams RF

ROYALS LINEUP

  1. Whit Merrifield 2B
  2. Adalberto Mondesi SS
  3. Alex Gordon LF
  4. Hunter Dozier 3B
  5. Jorge Soler RF
  6. Ryan O’Hearn 1B
  7. Kelvin Gutierrez DH
  8. Martin Maldonado C
  9. Billy Hamilton CF

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

  • Jake Arrieta: 4-2, 3.40 ERA, 1.244 WHIP, 40 hits allowed over 45 IP across seven starts with a 37/16 K:BB
  • Six of Arrieta’s seven outings can be characterized as strong, with only his April 27 start at home against the Miami Marlins as a poor outing. That would be his lone non-Quality Start (at least 6 IP, no more than 3 ER allowed) to this point.
  • Arrieta has four career starts vs the Royals: 2-0, 3.70 ERA, 22 hits over 24.1 IP with a 24/10 K:BB. However, three of the four came in 2010-11, and he has not faced them at all since the 2015 season. He made a start at Kauffman Stadium as a rookie with the Baltimore Orioles in 2010, and then made another start there in the 2011 season for Baltimore.
  • Homer Bailey: 3-3, 5.25 ERA, 1.306 WHIP, 34 hits allowed over 36 IP across seven starts with a 34/13 K:BB
  • Bailey has made seven starts, and in five of those he hasn’t pitched badly. However, in his two poor starts, he was miserable. Back on April 8 in his second start, Bailey allowed seven earned runs over five innings, mostly a product of three home runs. Then on April 23 he was bounced after just one inning by the Tampa Bay Rays after allowing four earned runs on three hits and four walks. In those other five starts he allowed just 23 hits over 30 innings with a 27/7 K:BB. Opponents have managed just a .219 BAA over his last five starts. In other words, unless the awful version happens to show tonight, Bailey can be expected to toss a solid game.
  • Bailey has made 11 career starts against the Phillies: 1-4, 3.74 ERA, 57 hits allowed over 65 innings with a 54/14 K:BB. His last came early last season when he went six innings for the Cincinnati Reds in a 6-1 loss at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies scored five times off the Reds bullpen after Bailey left that game.
  • Tommy John surgery in 2015 followed by surgery to remove bone spurs in his pitching elbow in early 2017 caused Bailey to miss most of the 2015-17 seasons. He made just 26 starts over those three years, 18 of those after returning in 2017.
  • Back on December 21, Bailey was included in a big trade between the Reds and the LA Dodgers, who subsequently released him the following day. He signed as a free agent with the Royals on February 9.
  • Bailey and Arrieta are two of five active MLB pitchers to have tossed multiple no-hitters in their careers. Bailey’s came all the way back in 2012 and 2013.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES

  • This is the first meeting between these two teams since the Phillies took two of three games at Citizens Bank Park in the 2016 season. It will be just the second regular season trip to Kansas City for the Phillies, with the last coming way back in 2007. Of course, the Phillies famously captured their first-ever World Series championship by defeating the Royals in six games back in 1980. The Royals won their first just five years later. Both franchise’ now have two titles.
  • Tonight marks just the 13th regular season meeting between the Phillies and Royals, tied with the Los Angeles Angels as the fewest games which the Phillies have played against another MLB opponent.
  • This will be the Royals first Interleague series of the season. They went 6-14 last year in such games, and are 190-213 since Interleague play began back in 1997. They will face each of the Phillies divisional rivals later in the season. The Phillies set a franchise record with a dozen Interleague wins last season, and have a .600 winning percentage against AL clubs since the start of 2018, fourth best in the NL.
  • Andrew McCutchen has faced Bailey 51 times, more than any other Phillies player, and is hitting .314 off him. No current players in the Phillies lineup have homered off Homer.
  • Billy Hamilton, perhaps the flat-out fastest player in Major League Baseball, has faced Arrieta 18 times, most on the Royals. He has just a .167 average vs the Phillies right-hander. Alex Gordon is the lone Royals active hitter to take Arrieta deep.
  • Harper will serve as the Designated Hitter in Friday night’s opening game. Harper was the DH just once last season with Washington, going 0-5 with two strikeouts in a game at Toronto on June 17.
  • Today is the 29th birthday of perennial AL All-Star catcher Salvador Perez. An All-Star in each of the last six seasons and winner of the AL Gold Glove at catcher in five of those, Perez is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He is expected back at full strength for the 2020 campaign.
  • Over their last 13 starts, the Phillies rotation has combined to post a 2.42 ERA in leading the Phillies to a 9-4 record in that span, with their collective ERA as the 2nd-lowest among all MLB staffs during the stretch.
  • Keys for the Phillies? They are 16-4 when scoring first, 18-4 when scoring four or more runs, 18-6 when blasting at least one homer, 12-1 when they out-hit the opposition, 19-1 when leading after six innings, 20-8 when their starting pitcher goes at least five innings. On the flip-side, they are 0-11 when trailing after six innings, 1-4 when tied after eight innings, and are 0-2 in walkoff decisions. In other words, they haven’t done well when trailing late to this point.
  • A celebration of life for Phillies chairman and minority owner David P. Montgomery, who passed away earlier this week, will be held at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, June 6, 2019 at 3:05 p.m. This is a scheduled off-day for the Phillies coming off a west coast trip. The service will be open to the public with gates opening at 2 pm. Parking in the CBP lots will be free. In lieu of flowers, the Montgomery family kindly requests that contributions be made to: Phillies Charities, Inc., Citizens Bank Park, One Citizens Bank Way, Philadelphia, PA 19148.

FRIDAY PROGRAMMING INFORMATION


Phillies should not shut Aaron Nola down with just two starts remaining

Nola has become an ace for Phillies
(Photo: By Arturo Pardavila III via Wiki Commons)
This 2018 season has been a true breakout campaign for Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola. In his fourth year at the MLB level, Nola has shown that he can be that rarest of commodities – a true ace.
The 25-year-old right-hander was chosen by the Phillies out of Louisiana State University with their first round selection at seventh overall in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft. As he developed professionally over parts of two minor league seasons, consensus expert opinions had him with the upside of a mid-rotation starter.
That is a fairly common tag hung on pitchers when scouts and other talent evaluators are not absolutely certain the pitcher has a top-of-the-rotation arm. However, that pitcher also has amateur and minor league performances and pitching repertoires which demonstrate a likelihood of reaching and sticking in a big-league rotation.
As a perfect example, Nathaniel Stoltz of Fangraphs summed up his own scouting report on Nola in August 2014 as follows:
…it’s hard to see him having more than a #3 starter’s ceiling. If he settles in at a #3/#4 level quickly, that won’t be the flashiest of payoffs, but it’ll also be hard to really take issue with his selection…There’s a solid chance he could get to that level of performance, but the line between it and interchangeable back-of-the-rotation, Kyle Kendrick sort of output is fairly thin, and he’s not guaranteed to end up on the right side of it.
Over Nola’s first two partial seasons with the Phillies, his results were indeed those of a solid #3 starter in the rotation. He went 12-11 over 33 starts during the 2015-16 campaigns, allowing 190 hits across 188.2 innings with a 189/48 K:BB ratio.
Last year, Nola reinforced that level of performance over a full season. In 27 starts during the 2017 campaign, Nola went 12-11 with 3.54 ERA and 1.208 WHIP. He allowed 154 hits over 168 innings with a 184/49 K:BB ratio.
Due to the fact that he was able to compete so effectively at just age 24, many began to adjust their evaluations up on Nola, feeling that he could develop into a solid #2 starter for a contending team.
One key for him to reach his potential was going to be for Nola to demonstrate longevity, that he could remain healthy over a full season.
His 2016 campaign was ended in mid-August when he was shut down for the year with a low-grade UCL sprain and flexor pronator tendon strain. In 2017 it was a strained lower back that kept him out of the Phillies rotation for a month from late-April through late-May.
In this 2018 campaign, Nola has ticked off all of the boxes and elevated himself to that “ace” or #1 starter level.
Following last night’s outing against the New York Mets, Nola has surrendered just 143 hits in 199.1 innings over 31 starts. He has a 16-5 record, and a dominating 210/53 K:BB ratio with a 2.44 ERA, 0.983 WHIP, 2.97 FIP, and a 173 ERA+ mark.
In his own piece on last night’s game, Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia pointed out that no Phillies pitcher in over a century has pitched at least 200 innings in a season while holding opposition batters below a .200 average. Nola has held hitters to a .201 average over his 199.1 innings this year.

Seidman quoted Phillies manager Gabe Kapler on those numbers and Nola’s performance in this 2018 season:

“It speaks to durability. Look, if you’re the best option for your team, more times than not, the manager is going to give you the opportunity to take down an additional inning. Almost always, Nola feels like the best option to get the next three hitters out. Piling up 200 innings is a huge accomplishment.”

Nola was also named to his first National League All-Star Team back in July, and pitched the 5th inning of that mid-summer classic. Nola punched out the first two AL batters that he faced in Salvador Perez and Mookie Betts, gave up a base hit to Jose Altuve, then got Mike Trout to pop out for a shutout frame.
Here in the season’s final month, it appears as if Nola may have slowed down a bit. In three of his four September starts including last night, Nola failed to reach the 7th inning.
While that isn’t a big deal for most starting pitchers – after all, he did go five or more in each – it was different for Nola. He reached at least into the 7th in 15 of his first 27 starts prior to this month.
There have been some calls lately for the Phillies to shut Nola down for the season. The club has all but mathematically slumped their way out of both the divisional and wildcard races, trailing in each by five games in the loss column with just a dozen left to play.
Even if the Phillies were mathematically eliminated from postseason play, the club should not stop Nola’s season short. At this point he is only scheduled to make two more starts, both against the division-rival Atlanta Braves. Those should come this weekend in the Sunday series finale in Atlanta, and then on Friday night September 28 at Citizens Bank Park.
Two more starts and 10-12 more innings are not likely to do any harm. What they will do is give Nola the physical, mental, and emotional satisfaction of getting through an entire season in Major League Baseball.
At some point, perhaps as soon as next year, the Phillies will expect Nola to lead their rotation into and through an October playoff run. With just two starts left in this 2018 season, especially with both coming against their likely biggest rivals in battling for those playoff positions in the coming years, now is not the time to start babying the young ace.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “No reason for Phillies to baby Aaron Nola at this point

Whit Merrifield breaks out as Royals return to contention

Whit Merrifield emerges as productive second baseman
When the Kansas City Royals opened play for the 2017 MLB season, very few prognosticators picked them to be a contender.
The Royals captured back-to-back American League pennants in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. And in 2015, they won the second-ever World Series crown in franchise history. That isn’t all that long ago.
But fortunes of big league mini-dynasties can turn around in a hurry these days. The Royals slipped to a .500 finish a year ago. With the Cleveland Indians on the rise in the AL Central Division, and with an aging homegrown core, the Royals looked like yesterday’s news.
Flash forward a few months, and here we are in the Dog Days of summer. Heading into play on Tuesday, August 8, Kansas City is tied for one of the two American League Wildcard playoff berths. The club also sits just three games behind the Indians in the division.
As the season was set to open back in late March, Royals skipper Ned Yostannounced that then 21-year old Raul Mondesi Jr had won an open battle for the team’s second base position.
The losers in that battle, Whit MerrifieldChristian Colon, and Cheslor Cuthbert, were left to battle for bench roles with the club in the final days of spring training.

PLAYER PERFORMANCES RESULT IN CHANGED PLANS

Merrifield had an option remaining, and so ended up opening the year back with Omaha in the Pacific Coast League. He quickly showed that he could rake AAA pitching. Over 37 plate appearances, he hit for an outstanding .412/.432/.794 slash line with three home runs.
Meanwhile in Kansas City, to say that Mondesi was over-matched would be an understatement. He slashed just .103/.167/.179 over his first 14 games and 46 plate appearances. Mondesi did steal five bases, but he simply wasn’t reaching often enough to make a real difference in that regard.
Into the breach stepped Merrifield. Given an opportunity to start with the big club, he took it and ran. The 28-year old is now hitting .294 over 401 plate appearances. He has 13 homers, 49 RBI, 50 runs scored, and stolen 18 bases. In short, Merrifield has been an unexpected gem for the Royals.
A little over a week after Merrifield took over the job at the Keystone position, Kansas City began to win. Since May 1, the Royals have a 50-38 record.
Rustin Todd of the Kansas City Star noted in a piece earlier this month that the Royals’ vice president for communications, Mike Swanson, was reporting that Merrifield was in rare company.
Per Swanson, Merrifield was just the seventh player in big league history to produce 175 hits, 80 runs, 40 doubles, and 20 stolen bases over the first 162 games of his career.
“With his versatility, there’s a lot of things he can do,” Yost was quoted by Todd. “He can steal a base, he can bunt, he can swing the bat, he hits the ball to all fields. He gives you a good at-bat.”

IMPROVED APPROACH LEADS TO BREAKOUT

Merrifield was Kansas City’s selection in the 10th round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft out of South Carolina. As he rose through the Royals farm system, a strong 2014 season split between AA and AAA was the only sign that he might be more than a big league bench player. At least so far, he has turned out to  be so much more.
In a recent piece for Beyond the Box Score, Anthony Rescan broke Merrifield’s success down in a more analytic fashion.
“This year, Merrifield has displayed a solid amount of offensive upside. His aggregate offensive statistics have spiked up significantly. He currently sits at a 111 wRC+, .339 wOBA, and a .289 TAv. All of this is being done at a .309 BABIP as well.” ~ Anthony Rescan
Merrifield’s consistent production has been a key to the turn-around of the Royals lineup. Not once this season has he gone more than two games without producing a hit.
Since the MLB All-Star break, Merrifield has only upped his game, hitting for a .327/.366/.577 slash line and six home runs in that span.
The Royals have surprised many by fighting back into contention here in the 2017 season. However, the club has now dropped six of their last eight games. And they just lost their all-star catcher and team leader Salvador Perez until September.
To stay in the race, Kansas City is going to need their remaining veteran core of Eric HosmerMike MoustakasLorenzo Cain, and Alex Gordon to step up in the lineup. Continued production from Merrifield is also sure to go a long way towards the Royals returning to postseason baseball.

Can the Royals Bounce Back and Contend in 2017?

The Kansas City Royals and their fans suffered through nine straight losing campaigns and 17 of 18 dating back to the 1994 strike season.
Then in the early part of this decade, the club began to build up one of the top farm systems in the game.
It all came together for them at the big league level with back to back AL pennants in 2014 and 2015, and a World Series championship in 2015.
But this year the Royals slid back to the .500 mark, finishing in third place in the American League Central Division. They were 13.5 games behind the division-winning Cleveland Indians, and eight games behind the AL Wildcard pace.
It was a frustrating summer for the defending champs. But that eight game difference between themselves and the playoff teams is not insurmountable.
The Royals plan to return to that postseason contention in 2017, but is that a reasonable goal? With a few tweaks, some breaks, and not unreasonable improve performances, the club can indeed reach the postseason once again.

LINEUP LOSSES IN PLAYERS AND PRODUCTION

Kansas City lost a bunch of key players from their lineup in 2016, costing them both firepower and veteran influence.
Ben Zobrist was always likely a one-year rental, and possibly an expensive one considering good-looking pitcher Sean Manaea went to Oakland in that 2015 trade deadline deal.
Since Zobrist was a key player in actually winning a World Series, it will always have been worth the cost. It worked out for him, of course, as Zobrist became the MVP of another World Series winner with the Cubs.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas lost his season in May to a torn ACL. Moustakas is expected to be ready for spring training and the 2017 season when, at 28 years of age, he should be just entering his prime.
Two of the club’s best run producers, first baseman Eric Hosmer and DH Kendrys Morales, slipped this season.
While Hosmer hit seven more homers and knocked in 11 more runs, he also roped nine fewer doubles and scored 18 fewer runs. His average and on-base percentage each fell more than 30 points.
Morales hit eight more homers but knocked in 13 fewer runs, while his average and on-base percentage each dropped precipitously as well. He will turn 34 years old in June, and ended up leaving for the Toronto Blue Jays via free agency earlier this month.

MOUND MINUSES AND INJURIES HURT

On the mound, Edinson Volquez needed to step up this year. Instead, he stepped down. Volquez’ ERA rose nearly two full points, as did his Hits/9 ratio. He is now a free agent.
Yordano Ventura went from an 8.5 to 9.2 H/9 , allowed nine more home runs, and saw his K/9 drop from 8.6 to 7.0.
Wade Davis was dominating in 2015 when he pitching in a staff-high 69 games. He missed half of July and then the entire month of August due to a forearm strain this season.
Greg Holland had been a strong closer in 2015. But he became a free agent after that season, and then missed the entire 2016 season after needing Tommy John surgery. He is back on the free agent market, though a return to Kansas City is almost certainly not going to happen.

HOW ROYALS LINEUP COULD CONTEND IN 2017

With so many losses and question marks, how can Kansas City hope to contend in 2017?
Part of that answer comes from their own homegrown core of players in Hosmer, Moustakas, catcher Salvador Perez, and left fielder Alex Gordon. Every one of those players was down in some way this year. A bounce-back from those four would go a long way towards contention.
Another key player who needs a recovery season is center fielder Lorenzo Cain. He went from nearly winning the AL MVP in 2015 to being just another guy this past season. Cain has much more talent than he flashed in the 2016 season.
From August 9 on, Jarrod Dyson hit .321 with a .372 on-base percentage and 14 stolen bases. He can be a lineup catalyst.
25-year old Hunter Dozier re-emerged as a prospect, and then made his big league debut. If he can translate his minor league improvement into big league production, it would add another potent bat to the mix.

ROYALS PITCHING RECOVERIES ARE KEY

On the mound, the Royals 2016 Player of the Year was lefty Danny Duffy. He will be a full-time member of the rotation next season after an outstanding summer split between the rotation and bullpen this year.
Jason Vargas was able to return to the rotation at the very end of the season after missing most of the 2015 and 2016 seasons following Tommy John surgery. He is being counted on as a member of the 2017 rotation.
Duffy, Ventura, Vargas, and steady Ian Kennedy would make up a group that, if healthy, can be a Wildcard-contending rotation. There are a number of fifth starter candidates who could also step forward.
In the bullpen, Davis needs to come back strong. If he can return to closing and get solid support from veteran Joakim Soria and youngsters Kelvin Herrera and Matt Strahm, this can be a strong relief corps.
A few of these players will become free agents after the 2017 season, so if it doesn’t work out over the first few months, the trade deadline probably becomes time for management and ownership to make deals to replenish the farm system and try building once again.
With a smart, inexpensive free agent signing or two and the right answers from the players mentioned here, Kansas City can again contend in 2017. With the wrong moves and the wrong answers, they could find the whole team blown up just two years after winning a World Series.

The Other Team Shows Up

Omar Infante’s HR twisted dagger into Hunter Strickland

A funny thing happened last night on the way to the San Francisco Giants inevitable World Series championship. The other team showed up.

The Kansas City Royals erupted for five runs in the 6th inning, then turned the game over to their shutdown back-end bullpen. The result was a 7-2 victory and a 1-1 tie in the 2014 World Series.

That 6th inning eruption likely came as a surprise to many pundits and scribes who, particularly after San Fran’s 7-1 romp in the opener, had already begun the Giants coronation as 2014 champions.

A gentle reminder to them: it’s a best-of-seven series, not a one game elimination.

The Giants still may win this thing. They accomplished the bottom line basic of any team that opens such a series with a pair of games on the road, they won at least one. They go home now for three straight in front of their raucous fans. They hold home field advantage in what has become a best-of-five.

But they did not drive a stake into the bodies of the Kansas City team. Instead, it was the hosts who showed the visitors that they’ll never be Royals (apologies, Lorde.) Kansas City won for the 10th time in 11 postseason games this Fall. Not only did they stay alive, they made a statement.

In a tight 2-2 game in the 6th inning, longtime Royals slugger Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler, whose 1st inning single had tied it early and kept the Giants from mentally burying KC, delivered again. His 2nd rbi single put the Royals on top 3-2 and opened the flood gates.

Butler served up some Country Breakfast in the 6th to put KC on top

Many of those same scribes and pundits who had already buried the Royals have also taken frequent potshots at manager Ned Yost. But it was Yost, again, who pushed the right buttons with his team. He pinch-ran for Butler, and when Salvador Perez ripped a 2-run double to the power alley just to the left of centerfield that runner, Terrance Gore, came around to score, and the Royals had a 5-2 lead.

The damage was done by the Royals against Giants’ reliever Hunter Strickland, who has been consistently crushed during this postseason. But Giants skipper Bruce Bochy, the World Series’ “genius” manager in the eyes of the scribes and pundits, continued to run him out there in key moments.

Strickland wasn’t done making Bochy, or himself, look bad. The next batter, contact hitter Omar Infante, drove a no-doubt-about-it homerun over the left field fence. It was 7-2, and Strickland lost his mind, as he has previously. His screaming tirade directed towards who-knows-who appeared aimed towards Perez, and the two jawed.

In the end, Hunter Strickland devolved from simply a young flame-thrower who got beat in a couple key moments to a young man acting the fool on the biggest stage that baseball has to offer. For Bochy, it has to go down as a “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” moment.

The overmatched (sic) Yost then turned to that shutdown back-end bullpen of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and closer Greg Holland. Herrera dominated in the 6th to get starter Yordano Ventura out of a jam, then struggled a bit when called in to also do the 7th after the long wait while KC scored their runs. But he kicked it up a gear, got out of his own jam, and the Giants were effectively done.

Kelvin Herrera did a nice job powering KC out of two jams

Over the final two innings, Davis and Holland did what Davis and Holland do: they allowed next-to-nothing, and they got touched almost as infrequently. The two allowed just one combined hit, and struck out 5 of the 6 batters they faced.

The bottom line of this affair was that the other team in this series, the Kansas City Royals, finally showed up. Maybe it was a game late, but they answered the Giants romp in the opener with one of their own, looking every bit as dominant on this night as the GMen had on Tuesday.

If there is one lesson that those many scribes and pundits learned as a result, it is that you don’t bury a good team because of one bad game. The Kansas City Royals are a very good team.

In my Power Ranking at the end of the regular season, the Royals finished as the top-ranked team in all of baseball. That team showed up last night, and now we have a series. It probably should have been expected. It was by me.