3 to Watch: The 'Streak-busting Royals' edition

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider

 Most baseball people who have seen the Royals believe they're improved.  (USATSI)
Most baseball people who have seen the Royals believe they're improved. (USATSI)

First, the Royals went to Atlanta, where the Braves had a nine-game winning streak. Before the Royals left town, the streak was over.

Then, the Royals went to Boston, where the Red Sox had won six in a row and had a city's emotions behind them. When the Royals left town late Sunday night, the emotions remained but the streak was over.

So shouldn't the Royals now be headed for Milwaukee, where the Brewers have won seven in a row?

Sorry. Detroit will have to do, even though the Tigers' current streak is a four-game losing streak.

That's fine, really, because if the Royals are going to convince people that they really are different this year, then the Tigers are the team to do it against.

Most baseball people who have seen the Royals believe they're improved. Few if any believe they can seriously challenge the Tigers in the American League Central, even though the Tigers are off to another sluggish start to the season.

The Royals went 5-13 against the Tigers last year. They haven't won a season series from the Tigers since 2008, which is also the last time the Royals finished ahead of the Tigers in the standings. That year, the Royals were fourth and the Tigers were fifth.

The Tigers have been to the ALCS twice and to the World Series once in the four years since. The Royals have lost at least 90 games every year.

This was going to be the year it was different, and so far the Royals have been very different.

A year ago, their rotation was so bad that they led the American League in innings pitched by their bullpen. Three weeks in this year, Royals relievers have the FEWEST innings pitched in baseball.

As he did with the Rays, James Shields' influence has been felt through the entire rotation.

"He's helped turn it around," Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur said.

The Royals believe it is turning around. Winning a series in Detroit, at the end of what figures to be their most challenging trip of the season, would help prove it.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Before Sunday, the Brewers didn't have the longest current win streak in baseball. The Rockies did. The Rockies? Yeah, and they had an 8-0 record at home, with a 2.59 ERA at Coors Field. And they'd allowed just three home runs. So should we take them seriously? Ask again after the series that begins with Braves at Rockies, Monday night (8:40 ET) at Coors Field. The Braves have hit more home runs than any team in baseball (the Rockies are second).

2. The Brewers were only 2-8 when they began their current winning streak, something that doesn't happen all the time. In fact, the Elias Sports Bureau figured out that the last team to start 2-8 and immediately win six in a row was the 1977 Yankees. Now the Milwaukee streak is seven, which Elias reports is the longest ever for a team immediately after starting 2-8. The Brewers have a chance to make it eight in Brewers at Padres, Monday night (10:10 ET) at Petco Park. Brewers PR man Mike Vassallo reports that the Brewers haven't won eight straight since August 2008 (when CC Sabathia had two of the wins). On the other hand, Vassallo also reports that the Brewers are just 9-18 all-time at Petco (tied with the Mets for the worst winning percentage by any visiting National League team).

3. While the Royals credit Shields for helping change their rotation, they haven't helped him win the games that he has started. They're 1-3 in his first four starts, but they've scored just five runs total in the three losses. Shields (and the Royals hitters) get another chance in Royals at Tigers, Thursday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Comerica Park. The only problem? Anibal Sanchez starts for the Tigers. In two career starts against the Royals, both last season, Sanchez pitched 16 innings and allowed just one run. But remember, the Royals would like to think that this year is different.

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