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Athletics at Royals: Series #3 Preview

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals really ought to thank the A's for being the catalyst that led to the Royals winning a world series and being baseball's most frustrating team to face for the duration of the late 2014 and 2015 seasons. After literal decades of mediocre-at-best and unwatchable-at-worst baseball coming from a team that shares a state with the (arguably) most successful, best run franchise in the entire sport for the same timeframe, the Royals caught fire in the 2014 Wild Card play-in game that still stings the A's fanbase to this day. The Royals would zig and zag and zip through the playoffs that year, confounding their higher-budgeted, more well-renowned opponents like a mongoose taking down a confident cobra, right up until they bumped into one Madison Bumgarner in game 7 of the world series.

So not only were the Royals extremely frustrating to beat all up and down the league, to compound that frustration the Royals played with the confidence and swagger of a team that hadn't just been the pinnacle of bad baseball. They were chippy with reporters and journalists, were loud and rambunctious on the playing field throughout each game, they responded to slights and perceived slights twofold, and they just kept winning, despite all metrics and conventional wisdom saying that they shouldn't be, all the way through the last game of the season.

They were the exact sort of team a long-good-baseball-deprived fanbase would need, and then some.

Last season saw the team regress to the tune of an 81-81 record, an injured and no-longer-elite bullpen no longer able to bail out the shortcomings of the starting pitching, but the core of young talented players remained intact and the team still has a foot up over (most) of the rest of a weak division.

There wasn't a big secret to the Royals' past success. The team was faster than everyone else in the league, embracing the steal and taking extra bases on hits more and more as the rest of baseball began to abandon most aspects of the running game. The team's defense was unquestionably superb, with an outfield that could track down anything in the air and infield defense that showed strong range up the middle and unexpected nimbleness on the corners. The bullpen had intimidating, shut-down pitchers from the seventh-on in almost every game, essentially ending any game where the Royals had a lead after the sixth inning. The team had its weaknesses, too, like a noticeable lack of power from the offense and an inconsistent starting pitching contingent that would too often take the Royals out of a game too early.

This offseason, the Royals became not necessarily more talented, but more well-rounded. The offense could get some much-needed thump in acquisitions of Brandon Moss and Jorge Soler, though it is still to be seen if the Royals will be able to hit enough to win consistently. The starting pitching depth was bolstered by the emergence of Danny Duffy as an ace-level pitcher and through trading for Nate Karns to support otherwise unspectacular rotation of decent, reliable veteran starters who will more than likely give them decent, reliable, unspectacular starts each week. The bullpen lacks the enviable depth of past iterations of this team, but is still imposing at the back end and stronger than most at the front end. There is one notable name absent from the roster.

The abhorrent death of Yordano Ventura is bound to leave a dull, aching scar in the hearts of his family and friends, and in his teammates and fans, that won't fade and won't ever stop aching. Ventura, for so many, was a real embodiment of what his team was all about, a supremely talented, unflinchingly confident, strong-willed fireballer of a person who wouldn't back down from any challenge on the field. Of course, his actions off the field, from the relationships and friendships he had to his community work, will be what the world misses most. Ventura will be honored and mourned all season, and for the Royal's home opener Monday night against the A's, Ventura's mother will throw out the first pitch.

A return to their home field should do the Royals some good, after the start to the season the team has had. The Royals were swept out of Minnesota to begin the 2017 campaign, the pitching staff giving up over seven walks per game and surrendered nearly eight runs per game, more than half of the runs allowed coming from their once-heralded bullpen. The team would bounce back from the early adversity, while also doing the rest of the AL West a favor, by taking two of three from the Astros in their next three game set, the middle game seeing the Royals win on some late inning heroics and the final game a hard-fought extra innings affair that saw the Astros walk off.

The games this week:

Monday 4/10, 1:15 PM: Cotton (0-1) vs Kennedy (0-1) on MLBN and MLB.TV

Tuesday: Off day

Wednesday 4/12, 5:15 PM: Triggs (1-0) vs Hammel (0-0) on MLB and MLB.TV

Thursday 41/3, 5:15 PM: Hahn (0-0) vs Vargas (1-0) on NBCSCA and MLB.TV

Link to Royals Review