Nobody is swinging the bat for the Royals quite like Alcides Escobar. Known for his glove (we’ve dubbed him the Shortstop Jesus… Escobar saves, get it?) and for his manager not lifting him for a pinch hitter with the game on the line in the ninth inning. After bottoming out at .203/.237/.236 on June 6, he was probably the most unlikely candidate for any kind of an offensive surge. Yet surge, he did, hitting .440/.481/.640 over his last 14 games. Ned Yost has been so impressed, he’s moved Escobar from ninth in the order to eighth! Quite the promotion.
Instead of pointing the finger at Jeff Francoeur… Oh, to heck with it. A hot April had The Frenchman hitting .314/.357/.569 and had many Royals fans believing he was finally turning into a pro at the plate. I can imagine Dayton Moore, gleefully rubbing his hands together as he pulled out old Baseball America’s looking for other old Atlanta draft picks from back in the day. Boy, those were fun times. Unfortunately, the good times came crashing down. Over his last 30 games, Francoeur is hitting .205/.248/.282. But he has stolen a career high 10 bases. Mainly because the Royals are
aggressive insanely risky on the bases.
Royals fans think their team is five starting pitchers away from contention. They may be right, especially in the weak AL Central. The pitchers the Cubs will face this weekend include Bruce Chen who will be making his first start since going on the DL. Chen is considered the strongest starter on the staff (Note, I didn’t call him the “ace.”) which can only be thought of as unfortunate. On Saturday, it will be prospect Danny Duffy, who can’t hold a runner on base and slows the game to a crawl every time a batter reaches. Given he has a 1.79 WHIP, his starts take about three and a half hours. They’d be longer, but he’s in the showers by the fifth inning. The Cubs are lucky they’re catching him this year, because he does have all the tools to be a top starter. Right now, he just lacks the confidence to succeed at the big league level. Then on Sunday, it will be Luke Hochevar, who will hold the Cubs to one hit through six innings and then give up doubles and home runs like they’re buy one, get one free at the local Swap and Shop. If the Cubs don’t score five runs against Hochevar, they could get demoted to the International League.
The Royals are much stronger at home than on the road, but are in a tailspin of typical proportions. Plus, there will be plenty of Cub fans at Kauffman Stadium where we have outfield seats and ivy growing on the center field batters eye, so they should feel right at home. Cubs take two of three.
Craig Brown can be found suffering with the Royals on his blog, Royals Authority, part of the ESPN SweetSpot Network