KANSAS CITY, Mo.: What's new in Kansas City? Certainly not the way the Royals are playing.
The Indians can relate to that. Last year, they tied KC for last place in the Central Division, and the combatants are battling for the cellar again, as they begin a three-game series tonight at Kauffman Stadium.
Northeast Ohio fans know what's wrong with their team. As it turns out, the Royals are having some of the same problems.
Walks, for example. Both clubs' pitching staffs give up way too many. Kansas City pitchers have issued 4.34 walks per game, Tribe pitchers 4.5. Both teams have trouble scoring with the Royals averaging 4.1 runs, Cleveland 3.7.
But Kansas City fans have some complaints not shared by their brethren in Cleveland. Royals manager Trey Hillman is in the last year of his contract, and nobody is clamoring to keep him beyond the end of the season.
Like most managers, Hillman talks about fundamentals and defense, yet the Royals rank second last in the American League in errors with 24 and in fielding percentage with .979.
During a three-game sweep by the Rangers over the weekend, Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton advanced a base on a fly-ball out without tagging up. No KC defender bothered to notice. These kinds of mistakes can kill a manager.
Then there's the pitching. When Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke and Gil Meche take the mound, the Royals are 1-12. In the first 15 games of the season, the bullpen blew five saves. In the first 20 games, the relief corps blew seven saves. Roster moves seem to have improved the bullpen, but it's probably too early to know for sure.
Kansas City is getting less bang for its buck than Cleveland. The Royals' payroll of $74 million far outstrips that of the Tribe ($61 million), yet the Royals head into tonight's game with a 11-21 record and five losses in a row. The Indians snapped a five-game losing streak Sunday and are 11-18.
So let the battle rage.
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