Royals feeding off success, improvements
Royals manager Mike Matheny knows he sounds like a broken record when talking about the energy and enthusiasm of his team, despite its 12-18 record entering Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals.
“I think they are definitely further along than the record,” Matheny said. “They are really enjoying what they are doing. That is not complacency.
“They keep seeing improvement, they keep seeing successes of their teammates. When you go about this game the right way there’s a sense of pride. We’re seeing that.”
First baseman Ryan O'Hearn is on board with that sentiment.
“I think we have all the pieces you need to win,” O’Hearn said. “We’re learning to win now in these one-run ballgames. Being in those situations is huge. Every time you do it, you feel more comfortable going into the ninth inning tied or up by one run.”
Matheny agreed, noting the Royals’ 5-4 win over St. Louis on Tuesday in which they came back from a 4-2 deficit.
“That’s the question we’ve been asked: Why can’t you win one late?” Matheny said. “Now we can put that one behind us and go win a bunch more. Or better yet, go get a big lead and win.”
One reason for that inner confidence among the Royals is their lockdown bullpen, which delivered 6 1/3 scoreless innings on Tuesday and has been the strength of the team all season.
“Without a doubt,” O’Hearn said. “We got some horses in the back of the ‘pen.Their stuff is electric. We have a lead late in the game, we have no doubt we’re going to win. It’s fun to play defense behind them.
“I just believe in this team 100 percent. It’s fun coming to the ballpark every day knowing we all have the same mentality.”
O’Hearn finally goes yard
O’Hearn, by the way, has come close to hitting home runs all season, sending balls off the wall, having one ball caught beyond the fence in Cincinnati, etc.
On Tuesday, O’Hearn finally got his first homer of the season.
“Oh yeah, it was a relief,” he said. "First game here, I caught a couple of barrels and I knew I was so close. To get that first one felt pretty good.”
O’Hearn hadn't panicked, mainly because he has learned to deal with his frustrations. Last year, he hit .195 but delivered a 44 percent hard-hit rate, even higher than his 38 percent hard-hit rate this year while hitting .246.
“I went through a whole year of freaking out,” he said. “But you realize that by overreacting, you’re not helping anything. So you just keep trying to hit barrels and wait for them to fall in.”
The Royals decided to skip left-hander Danny Duffy’s turn in the rotation on Wednesday to let him have two extra days of rest. He has been dealing with some forearm fatigue, and now will start Friday night in Chicago against the White Sox.