As the Chicago Cubs prepare for another battle with a first-place team, I took some time to sit with Kings of Kauffman’s David Hill to talk about the Kansas City Royals’ season so far following up last year’s playoff run.
The Royals enter this series tied with the Minnesota Twins tied for first-place, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central lead. Here is some of the conversation with Hill, and be sure to check out Kings of Kauffman this week for more in-depth analysis of our weekend opponent.
1) After last season, many said the Royals were a one-hit wonder. How have they sustained their success?
DH: Bullpen depth, great defense and solid offense. Despite the struggles of the past few days, the Royals have had one of the best offenses in the American League, posting a .281/.330/.422 batting line, ranking fourth in baseball with a .752 OPS. The bullpen was really three deep for most of last season with Herrera, Davis and Holland; now they have Hochevar and a full season of Jason Frasor. The Royals have potential Gold Glove caliber defenders at almost every position. That combination has led to quite the impressive ability to rack up win after win.
2) Who has been the biggest surprises for the KC club this year?
DH: Easily Mike Moustakas. While he showed signs of breaking out during the postseason last year, he has been a completely different hitter this season than at any point in time in his career. He has suddenly discovered that left field does, in fact, exist and that he is allowed to hit the ball there. Now, the Royals have that third baseman they thought they had when he was one of the top prospects in the minors.
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3) The team’s offseason acquisitions have played extremely well this season – how has this team compared in terms of team chemistry to last years?
DH: Team chemistry seems to be about the same, if not a little better. The zaniness that is the Salvador Perez–Lorenzo Cain relationship has continued, as has the stealth Gatorade showers and the general happiness around the team. The Royals play with their hearts on their sleeves, cheering each other on and reveling in their successes. It is a joy to behold, and is truly infectious.
4) What is the secret to the Royals? What does Chicago have to do to beat Kansas City?
DH: You have to get to their starting pitching to beat them. If the Royals have a lead after six, it is just about over with that bullpen. However, if there is one Achilles Heel for the Royals, it is that starting rotation right now. Jumping on them early could be the difference in this matchup for the Cubs.