It may just seem like an ocean of wheat and yellow-green buffalo grass, but after Sunday evening, that's our wheat and yellow-green buffalo grass, because in the Battle for Western Kansas, the Kansas City Royals emerged from a four-hour, 34-minute slobberknocker proud and victorious. Our hometown team prevailed in the grudge match, 10-5, in a contest that saw six pinch-hitters, 15 pitchers, 26 hits and two blown one-run saves. (But zero home runs! Hmm...) For our spoils, we'll claim those mountains and that lake, too.
RYAN SHEALY DIDN'T HIT A HOME RUN, as predicted, but he might as well have: three hits in five at-bats, a walk, run, double and two RBIs. Since returning from injury on May 16, here's what he's done:
Wednesday: 2 for 4, 1 RBI; avg .140 (from .113)
Thursday: 1 for 4; avg .148
Friday: walk in only plate appearance
Yesterday: 3 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 1 R; avg .185
Today: 3 for 5, etc.; avg .214
I'm sure Garth over at Pine Tar Charts can map out that trend for you, but I crunched some numbers myself and figured that if Shealy's batting average rose at its current geometric rate (y=mx+b, where m~.025, calculated from x1 (.113) to x5 (.214)), then in his next five games he would go 3-for-5, 3-for-4, 4-for-6, 3-for-3 and 4-for-5. Of course, if we used the slope of a quadratic curve, Shealy would be batting 7-for-7 by his fourth game and then something like 5-for-3 and 9-for-4 and so on, and after that it would just get ridiculous. I'll take the 3 for 5.
THE CORNER INFIELD OF THE FUTURE PREVAILS in the 12th. It started with Alex Gordon getting on base with his league-leading ninth HBP, then stealing second. The aforementioned Shealy followed by reaching down and flicking a two-strike pitch over the second baseman's head, sacrificing his bat -- which shattered -- for the go-ahead RBI.
JOEL PERALTA, NOW SLUGGING 2.000 LIFETIME, after his 12th inning double to the left-center wall in his first career at-bat... which he hit with his eyes closed.
Some will say the NL is better than the AL on a matter of principle -- nine players play on the field, not 10; it was this way in 1903 and should be that way now -- but I say NL games are better because only in that league can a relief pitcher hit a double to the left-center wall in his first career at-bat... kind of like Archibald "Moonlight" Graham (in the movie and not the real-life picture to the left, anyway).
"THIS GAME IS SO CRAZY" --Manager Buddy Bell, echoing Shealy from a few days back. Did we mention Peralta smoked a two-run double in his first Major League at-bat?
JOHN BUCK. Other than the starting pitchers, the only Royal who didn't play.
JOAKIM SORIA STRUGGLES WITH THE THIRD OUT, again. You've heard announcers say the last three outs are the toughest ones to pick up? Soria doesn't have any problem with the first two of those three... just that very last one. For the fourth time in his last six appearances, Soria allowed a run to score with two outs. Not more than one run, mind you: exactly one, with two outs. The good news? The Royals have won two of those games, and Soria is still the best option available.
ROYALS FINISH ROAD TRIP 6-4. And if it wasn't for a questionable call in Oakland and two one-run losses in Chicago, we might be looking at 9-1. But let's not get greedy: 6-4 is still very good for a team that didn't win six total road games last year until June 4.
And if you watched yesterday's game, you'd know: while these Royals will still make you scream -- Emil Brown kicking the ball in the bottom of the 11th to allow the tying run to score, for instance -- they're rarely dull. By all accounts, it seemed they'd would lose today's game, probably in the 11th, when the Rockies had runners on first and second with none out. But this team pulled together and won, and maybe that's a sign of things being different from years' past. Then again, maybe it was because they were playing the Rockies. Whatever the case, these guys have injected us with a healthy dose of optimism, so Tuesday they should be greeted home with open arms. Let's go, Royals!