The Royals are 0-1

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The Royals are 0-1.

I still believe this team can win 85-90 games again this year, and they still have 85-90 to go.

But I keep hearing from other people about how the Royals have no chance against Max Scherzer tonight and are already turning quickly away from hope and positioning themselves strongly toward despair.

Which is frustrating, because this team is the same team as it was before Opening Day. They only lost 1 game. It isn’t the end of the world. And if you thought this team was a potential playoff team this off season, then one Opening Day loss shouldn’t change that.

This Tigers rotation is tough, but if we believe that we’re good enough to make the playoffs, tonight’s game is exactly the type of game we ought to expect the Royals to be competitive in all season long. We nearly beat Verlander on Monday. Why is that the end of the world?

It was just 1 game, against a tough opponent, and we can’t lose hope already.

However.

As Royals fans, we’ve seen this before, and we’ve had our hearts broken before, and we know how this story plays out. We know that 1 loss can turn into 2, can turn into 4 can turn into 6. The Royals cannot let that happen. There are a few things that need to happen over the next week in order to set this season in the right direction and reestablish this fan base as a hopeful one.

1. Moustakas must get a hit today.

We heard all Spring Training how he has finally turned it around. He’s a new player this time, and unlike last year, this Spring Training is going to carry over into the regular season. He’s finally arrived.

But then he went 0-4 on Monday.

Moose absolutely must get a hit today. He cannot start the season 0-8. He just can’t. Moose can’t allow doubt and uncertainty to creep into his head, and an 0-8 start starts him down that path. He needs to get comfortable at the plate early this season, so we don’t spend the whole year grumbling about his lack of production again. For his own sake and for ours, please, Moose, get at least 1 hit today.

2. Vargas must go 6+ innings and give up 2 or less runs.

Can he replace the production that Ervin Santana brought last year? That’s what we all want to know about this Jason Vargas guy that the Royals so eagerly paid $7M this year. He needs to establish himself early in the season as a legit #2 on this pitching staff. He doesn’t even have to win the game. But he must eat up innings and keep Detroit somewhat at bay.

3. The Royals must win their home Opening Series vs. the White Sox.

No matter what happens in Detroit, whether it ends 2-1, 1-2 or 0-3, we absolutely must take the Opening Series against the freaking White Sox. The Royals went 10-9 against Chicago last year while the Indians went 17-2. No wonder they got the Wild Card spot and we didn’t. The Royals should be the White Sox every single time they face them.

The Royals need to learn to take care of business. Losing to Detroit isn’t the end of the world, but if we can’t consistently take series against teams we should beat, then we have no business acting like we’re a playoff contender. If we win the White Sox series, the worst we can be is 2-4. Baseball is about winning series, and we have to do that against patsies like the Sox.

4. Ned Yost needs to continue to trust his bullpen.

The Royals bullpen is great. And while it’s easy to bash on Yost for taking Shields out with runners on 1st and 3rd late in the game, our bullpen has a track record of getting the job done in those situations and I applaud Ned for trusting them in that situation. I don’t agree with the decision – with Shields on the mound, I’d rather see him work out of it than take the ball out of his hand – but I at least understand the decision.

Ned cannot allow Monday’s blown game change how he wants to use his bullpen. Give the ball back to Crow, Davis and Holland. They’re the guys who got us to 86 wins last year, and they need to be the guys to do it again in 2014. Keep giving them the ball. Especially when it’s not a Shields start.

Don’t lose heart Royals fans. It’s a long season, and I was disappointed after the loss on Monday afternoon too. I was sitting at Great American Ballpark watching the score change torturously from 3-1 to 3-3 to 4-3 over the course of an hour. It was the worst and I had to catch myself from spiraling into despair myself.

But we aren’t anywhere close to despair yet. We’re 0-1, and we could even steal this Tigers series and come home 2-1. It’s possible! Don’t lose heart Royals fans. Baseball is a long long season. I still believe this team can win 85-90 games and make the playoffs.

Let’s revisit this next week. Because we’ll know a lot more about this team’s outlook by then.

-apc.

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