Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Wild Card

September 17, 2008

With football season now in full swing, the sounds of pads popping and cleats churning in the grass and mud will be a constant for the next couple months.

But there's one sound that soon will be drowned out once again by the passing of the fall season: the sound of baseball.

While De Soto and Eudora played their last games in May and last legion games this summer, the Royals have just 10 days left in their season. Their final home-stand of the year began Monday and concludes this weekend with a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox.

While the White Sox and Minnesota Twins are battling it out for first place in the A.L. Central, the Royals are thankfully nearing the end of another last-place stinker of a season.

I use the word "stinker" because that's really the best word to describe Kansas City's 2008 season. A new manager in Trey Hillman, and additions of a big $12 million bat (and at times an on-field and clubhouse distraction) in Jose Guillen, a $4 million dollar situational lefty in Ron Mayhay and $2.5 million to projected setup man Yasuhiko Yabuta and a $57 million payroll all added up to last place in the division.

But there are signs of hope for the Royals, most notably the pitching staff in Zack Greinke, Gil Meche and closer Joakim Sorria.

Greinke has started to develop into the pitcher the Royals hoped he could be when they drafted him. Greinke is 11-10 with a 3.73 ERA. Granted, that ERA isn't great numbers-wise, but he has been ranked in the top 10 in the American League in innings pitched at 188 and is fifth in the league in strikeouts with 172.

Meche, who is the veteran on the staff and had a disastrous April, has redeemed himself by posting solid numbers since then. And Meche has been even better after the All-Star break. Meche is 5-1 with a 2.59 ERA in the second half of the season. Meche is also sixth in the A.L. in strikeouts.

And Sorria has been nothing short of lights out for the Royals. The second-year closer was the Royals' All-Star this year and is in the top 5 in saves. His 90 mph fastball and big curve ball are really all he needs to be successful. Throw in his changeup as his third pitch and hitters are baffled facing him.

Together these three arms combine to give the Royals hope by having two solid starters and a closer, which is something they haven't had since the mid 90s.

But soon the sound of the umpire shouting "strike three!" while ringing up a batter will be gone from Kauffman Stadium for another seven months.

So if you can squeeze it into your schedule this weekend, head over to the old ballpark and enjoy the sights and sounds of America's favorite pastime. Because there really is no substitute for seeing and hearing the soon-to-be gone sounds summer in person.

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