Saturday, June 30, 2007

Five wins in a row for the first time since 2003

In the past, it seems you'd almost expect, going into a game like yesterday's, that the Royals would do something to screw up all that sweet momentum. Things were going too well, and yes, with this team, historically speaking, there is such a thing as too well. With stopper/No. 2 ace Brian Bannister, winner of four of his last five, on the mound against a struggling Jose Contreras, loser of four of five, in a weekend homecoming, longtime Royals fans could be excused for thinking a disastrous loss was imminent. Around these parts, when life gets good, all it really does is put us on a tee for the real world to swoop down and smack the sense into us.

Ah, if only these were those Royals, programmed to believe last place is an inevitability. This year's version takes the extra base, gives up their bodies (two more HBPs makes it 51 for the season), executes gutsy pitches, and makes opposing managers regret keeping their starter in for too long (Contreras in the 7th? Seriously, Ozzie?).

Ozzie Guillen, alas, also had this to say:

"To me, what's the difference between last place and first place?" said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "Maybe pride? Nobody wants to finish last, especially with the ball club we have. How much money we're spending with this ballclub, it shouldn't finish last."

Sometimes we too wish money could cure the world's problems, Oz. Of course, your expensive, shiny little ballclub is now clinging onto fourth place by a thread.

"I think it would be huge mentally. It's a small little mental hurdle," [Bannister] said. "To most teams, it probably wouldn't be that significant. But to us, I think it's a big deal. For a bunch of young guys playing their hearts out right now, I think it's a good short-term goal for us. The team's right here in front of us. It's a small little challenge for us to step up and win the series."

Alex Gordon, Shane Costa, Billy Butler... the future all came out and performed yesterday, two hits each... just like Joey Gathright, Esteban German, even Tony Pena Jr. And Zack Greinke, again, was brilliant. It's the fault of this blog to have neglected him too much this past month. He pitched 2.2 innings to collect the save. In his last seven appearances, he's given up just two runs, throwing more than an inning each time.

"Zack was outstanding again," said manager Buddy Bell. "He was really efficient. He looks like he's having fun. I'd have fun, too, if I had that kind of arm with that kind of stuff."

20,525 came out for the two-hour, 33-minute game last night. I only wish I were in the city. Someone who was there want to share what it was like?

UPDATE: Ozzie Guillen on Zack Greinke: "One of my favorite pitchers."

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