Greinke back to form as Royals roll over Tigers...

"I tried to throw the ball like MacDougal — as hard as I could with my head down and eyes closed.”

With Mike Sweeney and David DeJesus out of the lineup, the Royals played what just might have been their finest game of the season last night, beating the Tigers 12-2. The offense feasted on Detroit's poor pitching, as every starter in the lineup collected a hit. Aaron Guiel (who no longer must live in RC shame with the AAA in front of his name) paced the way with three hits, including a big two-run homer in the second inning, and Justin Huber collected the first three-hit game of his career. Emil Brown knocked in three runs with his 30th double of the season, and big John Buck hit a monster home run (estimated 428 ft.) to left for his 10th dinger of the season.

Angel Berroa even managed to have another good game, going 2-for-4, but even more significant, he drew his first unintentional walk since JULY 20, a ridiculous span of 173 at bats.

Congratulations, Angel, on your wonderful plate discipline.

In the field, the Royals were similarly good on defense. Guiel made a number of nice plays, including a sliding catch, and the double play combination of Berroa and Andres Blanco turned in a pair of highlight reel double plays. The first has to be a candidate for double play of the year, as Berroa dove to his right to snag an Ivan Rodriguez grounder headed for the hole, popped up to a knee, spun, and threw a strike to Blanco, whose pivot and throw to first made it look like he's been playing second base his entire life.

The other double play began when Blanco flagged down another outfield-bound bouncer to his left, spun and threw off balance to Berroa, who quickly completed the double play with a perfect throw to first. On both plays, Blanco displayed an athleticism at second base that neither Donnie Murphy or Ruben Gotay possess. Gotay wouldn't have gotten within five feet of the second double play grounder, and Murphy, as good as he is, would have never gotten enough on the throw to nail Pudge on the first double play. RC isn't advocating a switch at second -- we still prefer Murphy -- but Blanco clearly offers things that neither Murphy or Gotay can on defense.

The story of the night, however, was Zack Greinke. This was easily the best performance by Greinke since early in the season, and it represented a return to his old form. Instead of trying to overpower everyone with a barrage of 94 mph fastballs, Greinke started changing speeds again. His fastball was sitting in the 86-89 mph range for most of the night, but we did see him dial it up on occasion. His control was pinpoint, and his breaking ball was slow and sharp. One at bat in particular showed us exactly what we've been wanting to see. It was a four-pitch strikeout of Craig Monroe in the fifth inning:

Pitch 1) 72 mph curveball inside for called strike
Pitch 2) 93 mph fastball low and inside -- fouled off by Monroe
Pitch 3) 83 mph fastball/change-up (could have been either) high and outside for a ball
Pitch 4) 77 mph curveball just above dirt, swung on and missed for strikeout

This is the Greinke that RC grew to love. Our only concern is that Buck's pitch-calling became very predictable, and Greinke seemed to be starting everyone off with the slow curveball. He won't get away with that for long.

Of course, Greinke's night ended prematurely when he threw a retaliatory pitch behind Rodriguez's back with two outs in the sixth inning. It was pretty clearly intentional, although Greinke brushed aside such suggestions after the game with what just might be the quote of the year: "I tried to throw the ball like MacDougal — as hard as I could with my head down and eyes closed.”

Classic. Before his exit, Greinke threw 51 of 68 pitches for strikes, which, again, is the Greinke we remember.

  • High Desert didn't fare nearly as well as the Royals in their playoff game last night. Taking an 8-4 lead into the top of the ninth inning, the Mavs' bullpen (led by Chad Blackwell) imploded, surrendering four runs to send the game into extra innings. The Lancaster JetHawks came up with the game-winning run in the 11th inning, and the Mavericks' season is over.

    Of course, we'd be more upset if it weren't for Chris Lubanski, who hit for the cycle in the game, and finished the playoffs with an .867 batting average. Lubes went 13-for-15 in the three games with three home runs, a double, and a triple. That's quite a way to end the season.

    Also, RC friend Jonathan Mayo yesterday afternoon interviewed Lubanski on MLB Radio. It was a fine interview, and you can listen to the archive here (the interview begins at the 12:25 mark). Lubanski is planning to return home to Pennsylvania for a while after the season, and he plans to work out in both Florida and Arizona during the offseason. He'll most likely begin next season in Wichita.
  • Friday

    17,000 "faithful" Sox fans in attendence as Royals two-hit Chicago...

    J.P. Howell threw a really nice game today as the Royals finally beat the White Sox in Chicago, 4-2. Howell wasn't terribly sharp, as he threw only 52 of 99 pitches for strikes en route to issuing five walks in six innings, but he managed to keep the ball down while working around trouble. We didn't see many curveballs from Howell tonight, as he appeared to work almost exclusively with his fastball and change-up.

    This makes three straight strong starts for Howell since his promotion, and particularly impressive to us is that in the 18 innings he's pitched since then, he's yielded only 11 hits. He's still walking too many guys, but we're seeing a pretty acceptable strikeout rate of 7.5 per 9 IP. If Howell can keep this up, he'll enter next spring as a heavy favorite for a spot in the rotation.

    Offensively, the Royals finally managed to push a few runs across the plate, mainly with the help of Angel Berroa, who hit his tenth homer of the season in the sixth inning. Berroa also flawlessy executed a squeeze play in the eighth inning to score Andres Blanco for an important insurance run. Emil Brown added a couple hits, including a missile into the gap for his 29th double, and AAAAron Guiel collected three more singles to raise his average to .271.

    The bullpen trio of Andy Sisco, Ambiorix Burgos, and Mike MacDougal entered the game in the seventh inning and were perfect, minus one walk issued by Sisco. Burgos was as nasty as we've ever seen him, and MacDougal closed the door for his 18th save. That trio is becoming absolutely automatic, and they sure are fun to watch.

    Up next for the Royals is the Tigers, who have now lost eight in a row to fall 12 games under .500. Zack Greinke gets the start, so we'll be hoping for a solid outing.

  • This evening, we listened with great interest to the High Desert Mavericks game, which was, of course, another thriller. Trailing 10-7 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Mavs EXPLODED to score eight runs, taking a commanding 15-10 lead. They wound up winning by a score of 15-11, so their season continues tomorrow with the deciding Game 3 vs. the Landcaster JetHawks. Billy Buckner takes the mound for the Mavs, so let's all hope that his great breaking ball is working properly.

    Also of note from High Desert, Chris Lubanski continued his tear by singling in his first four at bats of tonight's game. With his 4-for-4 performance on Wednesday, Lubanski had hits in eight straight at bats before flying out to left center in the eighth inning. He finished the night 5-for-6, so thus far in the California League playoffs, Lubanski is sporting an amazing .900 batting average (9-for-10).

    Kila Kaaihue had a big homer in the eighth inning to bring the score to 10-9, and shortstop Angel Sanchez continued his hot pace by collecting two more hits in five at bats. Bernard Stephens, an organizational-type outfielder, hit two homers, including the big blow in the eighth inning that gave the Mavs the lead.

  • Reason #346 why we hate the White Sox: They have the best record in the American League, they are destined for the playoffs, and they play in the third-largest city in America, and in a three game series against the Royals with beautiful weather, crowds of 14,500, 18,500, and 17,700 White Sox fans came out to see their first place Sox. Pathetic.
  • Thursday

    Royals drop another, 1-0. High Desert on brink of elimination...

    RC was in Frederick for a thrilling Carolina League playoff game tonight, so we didn't get to see much action from the Royals game. However, we understand the offense returned to its anemic ways, as the Royals failed to score a run while stranding 12 men on base.

    On a positive note, Aaron Guiel, after a miserable start, has finally started hitting a bit, and Mark Teahen added a base hit and another walk to continue his relatively hot September. Andres Blanco, despite going 0-for-3, showed off some stellar defense and range at second base, and Mike Wood somehow managed to work around five walks to put up a pretty solid start (6.2 IP, 1 R). Ambiorix Burgos entered the game in the seventh inning and threw 1.2 perfect innings, striking out two more batters while lowering his ERA to 3.66.

    Tomorrow, J.P. Howell will try to salvage the series finale as he goes up against Freddy Garcia. This weekend, the Royals head to Detroit to face a team that is presently in the midst of a seven game losing streak.

  • Unfortunately, High Desert also lost tonight in their first playoff game vs. the Lancaster JetHawks by a score of 8-5. The series now heads to High Desert, where the Mavs must win the remaining two games to keep their season alive. As for the game, we were expecting Denny Bautista to get the start tonight, but for some reason Patrick Green got the nod instead. We understand that Bautista was in the KC dugout in Chicago, so we're not sure what's going on. Maybe the Royals have decided to shut him down, or perhaps they feel he's sufficiently healthy to return to Major League action. We're sure details will be forthcoming, so we'll keep you posted. (Editor's Note: The KC Star this morning clarified our confusion by reporting that Bautista will get a rehab start on Saturday, if the Mavericks are still alive)

    On a good note, Chris Lubanski continued to solidy his reputation as a clutch hitter, as he was the lone bright spot for the Mavs. Lubanski went 4-for-4 with two homers, a solo shot and a three-run job. Lubanski was money for the Mavs down the stretch, and he rode his hot streak to the California League RBI title, knocking in a very impressive 116 runs.

  • We were also pleased to learn that Justin Huber won the Texas League sabermetric triple crown, leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage with a line of .343/.432/.570. Very impressive numbers, and hopefully we'll soon see Huber driving the ball with authority in the big leagues.

    We're also looking forward to seeing RC official sleeper Chris Demaria get some action this month for KC. Demaria was one of the best relief pitchers in the minor leagues this season, posting a 2.13 ERA in 76 innings between High Desert and Wichita, both stops being in notorious hitters leagues. Demaria posted an absurd strikeout-to-walk ratio, as he struck out 92 batters vs. 12 walks this season.

    We noticed Demaria early on this season, and we've been curious about him for some time. He was acquired from the Pirates organization last winter in the triple-A portion of the Rule-5 draft after posting two consecutive excellent seasons in low-A ball. Thanks to, we've learned a bit more about what Demaria throws.

    Demaria is a soft-throwing control pitcher with an amazing change-up. His fastball tops out in the mid to upper 80s, but his change is the great neutralizer. We've heard opponents' announcers raving about the change-up, and we're eager to see it first hand. The fellow who runs the Calleaguers website expressed some concern about Demaria's pitches getting flat when the change isn't working, and there's certainly some concern about the 11 dingers he surrendered between High Desert and Wichita. However, we wouldn't be at all surprised if Demaria's pitches regain some movement now that he's free of the 4000 foot elevation of High Desert. After all, in the two seasons prior to this one, Demaria surrendered only eight homers in nearly 150 innings. If he can keep the ball down and get his change over consistently, the Royals could have a very effective pitcher on their hands. Stay tuned.
  • Wednesday

    RC hates everything about the White Sox...

    Is there anything more worthless than a White Sox fan? The following is a brief list of the things we hate about the White Sox:

    1) Everything

    Seriously. We hate Hawk Harrelson and his "He gone!" proclamation EVERY SINGLE TIME a White Sox pitcher strikes out an opponent. We hate the trashy stadium they play in which lies in the trashiest part of the city and attracts the trashiest fans in baseball, including one William Ligue, Jr. We hate Robin Ventura for charging the mound against Nolan Ryan (although we loved it when Nolan gave Ventura the old-man beating of his life), and we hate, above all else, Carl "there's no such thing as dinosaurs" Everett.

    We hate that the White Sox traded for both Everett and Roberto Alomar not once, but twice -- in consecutive seasons. We hate A.J. Pierzinski, and we refuse to look up whether or not we spelled his name correctly. We hate that Ozzie Guillen is getting precisely the same undeserved props that Tony Pena received in 2003, and we jubilantly await his adulterous downfall. And we hate that when we were in middle school, we were persuaded to join the fad of the day by purchasing a White Sox hat (fellow twentysomethings should know what we're talking about).

    OK, that pretty much wraps it up. But if we forgot to include anything, rest assured that we hate that too.


    RC's All-Star team: A pictoral...

    The minor league regular season ended on Monday, and the Royals were off, so we figured we'd put together an All-Star team from the minor league prospects we saw in person this season. All photos are RC original photos, most of which were taken with our better camera. The smaller, more blurry ones were shot before we purchased the new camera, so we apologize for their quality. A few guys are listed in positions other than where we saw them play, such as Billy Butler and Ryan Zimmerman.


    Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Braves)

    Honorable Mention: Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks)

    First Base:

    Scott Thorman (no photo available)
    Honorable Mention: Kila Kaaihue (pictured - Royals), Ryan Mulhern (no photo available - Indians), Brett Harper (no photo available - Mets)

    Second Base:

    Howie Kendrick (Angels)

    Honorable Mention: Craig Stansberry (Pirates)

    Third Base:

    Andy Marte (Braves)

    Honorable Mention: Kory Casto (Nationals)


    Brandon Wood (Angels)

    Honorable Mention: Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals)

    Honorable Mention: Robert Valido (White Sox)

    Left Field:

    Billy Butler (Royals)

    Honorable Mention: Hunter Pence (Astros)

    Honorable Mention: Jeff Fiorentino (Orioles)

    Center Field:

    Lastings Milledge (Mets)

    Honorable Mention: Michael Bourn (no photo available - Phillies)

    Right Field:

    Nick Markakis (Orioles)

    Honorable Mention: Nolan Reimold (Orioles)

    Starting Pitcher:

    Joel Zumaya (Tigers)

    Chuck James (Braves)

    Jeremy Sowers (no photo available - Indians)

    Relief Pitcher (no photos available):

    Edward Mujica (Indians)

    Chris Britton (Orioles)

    Matthew Capps (Pirates)

    Royals salvage series finale by knocking the snot out of the Rangers...

    Well, that was more like it. RC had planned to attend an Eastern League game on Sunday afternoon, but due to several factors -- of which general laziness was the most prominent -- we changed our mind at the last second and decided to watch the Royals game instead. The decision was a good one, as we had a great seat in front of RC's official television for the 17-8 butt whoopin' the Royals delivered to the Rangers.

    This game produced a lot of things to be positive about. First and foremost, the Royals were able to provide a good showing for first round pick Alex Gordon, who was in town with his family and agent. Royals fans woke up to some good news today, as Gordon reportedly said he was getting closer to signing a deal. The kid clearly wants to play, so it would be nice if he could sign in time to get down to the Instructional League.

    Another positive: Jimmy Gobble actually looked good. He's still building his stamina, so he lasted only 61 pitches over 4.1 innings, but Gobble did an excellent job holding a ridiculously good Rangers lineup at bay. Sure, RC Official Enemy Rod Barajas was absent from the Texas lineup, but that doesn't make Gobble's performance any less impressive.

    Gobble was working a very nice curveball with a fastball that he topped out at 94 mph. He was consistently hitting his spots and changing speeds, and not many Rangers managed to get good swings against him. It will be interesting to see how the remainder of Gobble's starts go this season, but if he can keep bringing today's stuff to the table, he might have a chance to compete for a rotation spot next season. Again, it's far too early to even begin thinking about getting excited about Gobble, but we were definitely encouraged by what we saw today.

  • Mark Teahen has also been doing a nice job lately. Today he went 1-for-3 with a walk, a booming two-run double to center, and a sac fly. Over the last three games, Teahen is 6-for-10 with three doubles and seven RBIs. We noted in early August that Teahen's approach at the plate was improving, and he responded by posting his worst month yet - .159/.258/.232.

    Is Mark Teahen improving?

    Of course, he did see more pitches, and he did walk 11 times in 82 at bats. Even though his stats may not necessarily show the improvement we're talking about, we think it's pretty easy to tell by watching him that he's got a much better idea of what he's doing at the plate. He's off to a great start in September, and it would be fantastic if he could finish the season with a good month.

    Now, if he could just start pulling the danged ball.

  • Emil Brown is also in the midst of a late-season rally. With today's 2-for-5 performance, Brown is now hitting .380 (19-for-50) in his last 13 games with five doubles, two triples, and two home runs. His bat speed -- which took off much of July and August -- seems to have returned, as Brown is again turning on inside pitches and hitting them hard, such as the double he smoked into the left field gap today. RC still maintains that Brown would be an acceptable and somewhat effective option as a space-filler in RF again next season, provided he doesn't expect a large pay increase.

  • And then, there's the hero of the day -- Angel Berroa. How is it possible for Berroa to look so good on some days, and so bad on most of the others? Today was one of those increasingly rare days when Berroa reminds us all that deep inside him somewhere lies a tantalizing source of God-given talent. Why can't he show it to us more often? Is he stupid? Is he lazy? Or is he just not that good? RC doesn't know, but we're getting awfully tired of waiting to find out.

    What's the deal with Berroa?

  • As we mentioned on Thursday night, RC has been taking in this season's final weekend of minor league baseball. Tomorrow we'll be on hand for the season finale between the Bowie Baysox (Orioles) and Altoona Curve (Pirates). The game has serious playoff implications for both teams, as the Baysox trail the Curve by one game for the final Eastern League wild card spot. We expect to see a great game, and we'll be sure to get you some photos of RC's favorite (non-Royal) minor leaguer, Nick Markakis.

    The last two nights, we've been scouting out a couple top White Sox pitching prospects, Ray Liotta (yes, that's his real name) and 2005 first rounder Lance Broadway, as the Potomac Nationals (Nationals) wrap up their season vs. the Winston-Salem Warthogs (White Sox).

    "As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster."

    Liotta is an interesting pitcher. A second round pick in 2004, Liotta has been dominant all season, first at Kannapolis, and then at Winston-Salem. Liotta's final line for the season was stellar: 172 IP, 161 H, 40 ER, 54 BB, 150 K, 2.09 ERA

    "Right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup."

    Liotta has a very easy delivery, and he features a fastball in the low 90s/upper 80s with good life, as well as an excellent curveball that he can add or subtract velocity from. In fact, his curveball looks very similar to what J.P. Howell shows when his stuff is working right. Liotta has a lot of confidence in the curve, as he wasn't afraid to use it in any count, including 3-0 and 3-2. In the game we saw, Liotta threw seven pretty solid innings, yielding five hits three walks and three earned runs while picking up the loss. Of the 104 pitches he threw, 66 went for strikes, and he was never far from the plate.

    Liotta doesn't look much like an athlete, and he appears to have a very soft body, so he could have some trouble keeping weight off in the future. We don't have much trouble imagining him looking like Boomer Wells in a few years.

    This was quite a contrast from Broadway, whose entire body screams athleticism. In fact, RC is pretty sure that we've never seen anyone who's reminded us so much of Zack Greinke. Almost everything is similar -- shape, size, athleticism, and mechanics -- and even his face is remotely similar. Broadway at 6-foot-4 is a couple inches taller, but everything else is a spot-on match.

    Broadway features an effortless low-90s fastball, and we don't think he'll have much trouble adding some velocity to that as he progresses. His best pitch appeared to be his hard curveball, which has a sharp break that prompted "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowd the first time it induced a swing-and-miss. He uses the curveball primarily as a strikeout pitch, and we saw a somewhat useful change-up, which he used to set up his fastball. While he may look like Greinke, he wasn't nearly as good at keeping hitters off balance as Greinke was in the Carolina League, and they made him pay.

    Broadway's mechanics are nearly identical to Greinke's.

    Broadway had a rough outing in the game we saw. He was probably already on a strict pitch count after throwing a lot of innings in college this spring, but the nine hits he surrendered to the P-Nats knocked him out earlier than expected. He lasted only 3.1 innings and was charged with five earned runs and the loss. He didn't have problem throwing strikes, as 41 of his 57 pitches found the zone, but he was torched by a pretty mediocre Nats lineup. He'll probably enter the offseason being disappointed with his first season of professional ball, in which he posted a line of: 55.0 IP, 68 H, 28 ER, 20 BB, 58 K, 4.58 ERA.

    All told, the White Sox should still be pleased with their pitching prospects, and the Royals are probably going to have to deal with both Liotta and Broadway someday. Broadway has struggled, but we think he's got the tools to be a very good pitcher, and Liotta looks like someone who's already got an awful lot figured out.