To say it’s not been an easy start to the year for the Kansas City Royals might be oversimplifying things a bit much.
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Since breaking on to baseball’s “contenders’ scene in late 2013, the Royals have been playing with a target on their back and, to their credit, seemed all too happy to embrace it. That’s good and all when everything is clicking in the clubhouse, but can start to weigh heavily on a roster when things don’t go right anymore. Which is where the World Series champions of 2015 now find themselves.
Then stacked with young talent, a rotation with multiple aces and one of the best bullpens in the game, the former champs more resemble a Rubix cube. All of the right pieces are there, but nothing is really lining up. The pitching has been spotty (3.96 ERA), the defense has been average (.702 DER) and the hitting has nonexistent (.217.279/.340).
That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions. The biggest may be Eric Hosmer, who you can catch as the Royals take on the Baltimore Orioles at 8:15 p.m. ET on Friday via our MLB page, the Free Game of the Day tab or this very post once the action starts.
Not even two weeks ago, Hosmer was emblematic of the Royals’ biggest problems at the plate. Now. the 27-year-old soon-to-be free agent is showing his teammates how to break out of their months long slump. On April 25, Hosmer was slashing a paltry .195/.253/.247. Heading into Friday’s matchup with the American League East leading Orioles, Hosmer’s upped his numbers to .282/.336/.725.
How’s he doing it? Well, as the Kansas City Star’s Lee Judge points out, Hosmer has gotten much smarter about one of his biggest weakness: inside fastballs. The first baseman realized that going after pitches on the inside of the plate was throwing off his swing. Now that he’s laying off them, you can not-so-slowly see his slash line returning to his career averages (.278/.335/.427).
If the Royals are going to climb out of last place in the AL Central and make the most of what remains of their championship window, they’ll need more hitters to start taking pitches and figure out what’s throwing them off.
The talent isn’t the issue in Kansas City. With proven commodities in Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, Danny Duffy and Kelvin Herrera, not to mention an absurdly weak division, there are plenty of opportunities for the Royals to turn their season around.
Eric Hosmer is trying to lead that charge. Who else will follow?
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