I am lucky enough to have tickets for the Royals’ final two games of the 2021 season at Kauffman Stadium this weekend. It will be weird to not have Royals baseball starting on Monday, but for now, I am going to try and enjoy these final two games against the Twins. Yes, the Royals will finish with another losing season, but at 74-86, the Royals could have a shot to win 75 or 76 games, which would be a sign of positive improvement after experiencing back-to-back 100-plus loss seasons in 2018 and 2019.
So, in this post, I am going to take a look at five things that I, and other Royals fans, will be looking forward to at the K on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
Tailgating at the K Parking Lot
I know Kansas City Chiefs tailgates are more amplified affairs. And I know it’s likely that a Downtown Kansas City baseball stadium will be in the plans in the near future, even if many Kansas City folks are mixed on the issue:
That being said, the tailgate culture at Royals games is still something to enjoy, even if it doesn’t have the amplified amenities or theatrics (both good and bad) of Chiefs games at GEHA Field at Arrowhead (that’s going to be fun to say for a while). On Saturday, I will be going to a birthday party tailgate in the stadium with some friends. Then on Sunday, I plan to nab some barbecue to eat in the parking lot before Sunday afternoon’s season finale. Whether it’s LC’s or somewhere else (debating grabbing Slap’s since I’ll be in the area) will be a game day decision.
Honestly, there’s just something about the views of hanging out with Kauffman Stadium in the horizon that makes the tailgate experience special. It will be tough waiting until next April to do it again.
Salvy’s chase for 49 (and maybe 50)
On Wednesday night, Salvador Perez tied the single-season Royals home run record which was set by Jorge Soler in 2019. Salvy mashed his 48th home run, to perhaps the deepest part of Kauffman Stadium, which seemed appropriate, considering Salvy’s amazing feats as a whole this season:
Unfortunately for Salvy, he hurt his ankle during the game while walking down the steps following an inning-ending double play in that game. While Salvy has been in the lineup the past two games (I was able to attend the series finale against Cleveland on Thursday), he hasn’t quite been 100 percent at the plate, as he has gone 1-for-8 the past two games (though he did leg out a double on Thursday, impressive considering his ankle issues).
Salvy is most likely in the lineup because the Royals and Royals fans want him to set the Royals record, and perhaps be the first Royal to ever hit 50 home runs, which has never occurred in the 53-year-history of the Kansas City Royals franchise. We won’t see Salvy behind the plate on Saturday or Sunday, but Salvy will get as many opportunities as possible at DH to get that one or two bombs to etch himself even further in the Royals history book.
Let’s just say Royals fans won’t be quiet when Salvy is at the dish over the next two days.
Can Bubic and Kowar finish 2021 strong?
Kris Bubic and Jackson Kowar will be the final two “projected” starters this weekend, with Bubic going today and Kowar (as of now) going on Sunday. Bubic and Kowar have had their shares of ups and down this season: Bubic has had some home run issues, while Kowar has immensely struggled with his command throughout his debut season at the MLB level.
However, Bubic is coming off a strong recent start against Detroit on September 26th in which he went seven innings and allowed no runs while walking one and striking out six. It may have been Bubic’s most impressive start of the 2021 season, and maybe his young career thus far. It would be nice for Bubic to build on that recent performance and perhaps lower his 4.52 ERA even more.
Kowar on the other hand, just needs something positive to take away from 2021. In 26.1 IP this year with the Royals, he is currently posting an 11.28 ERA and has a K/BB ratio of 1.21 and HR/9 ratio of 2.05, which are both lackluster marks. That is disappointing considering Kowar was named the Royals’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year this season, which he was awarded with at Kauffman Stadium on Friday night:
Can Kowar parlay the positive vibes from Friday’s ceremony into a strong outing on Sunday? A solid finish to the 2021 season could build some momentum for the right-hander for next Spring Training, which in turn could help Royals fans feel even more excited about the Royals’ pitching outlook in 2022.
Enjoying the Concessions at the K One Last Time
While I will be getting my fill during the tailgate, that doesn’t mean I won’t be visiting some of the concessions at the K over the weekend, which have improved vastly over the past couple of seasons since their “Friday Night Dog” debacle back in 2015. Is it the cheapest fare? Absolutely not. That being said, it’s a baseball game at the K. Sometimes financial aspirations have to go out the window for an evening or two. (And honestly, I think this is an issue at any MLB ballpark, not just Kauffman.)
On Thursday, I was able to finally get the infamous “BBQ Nachos” in the Royals helmet, which I couldn’t finish, a very uncommon instance for me:
Here are a few things on my radar for today and tomorrow: Gordo’s Golden Ale from the Craft and Draft; Crab Fries from Chickie and Pete’s; a Sheboygan brat; and of course, peanuts.
I’ll have all Winter to save money for 2022.
Doz and Mondi building momentum for 2022?
Two Royals players I will be paying attention to closely on Saturday and Sunday (other than Salvy of course) are Hunter Dozier and Adalberto Mondesi, once seen as the future of the Royals back in 2019, who have now become players without clear defined roles for next season. Dozier’s contract will keep him in Kansas City for at least 2022, but considering his terrible defense, it is hard to see him with a definite position in the field next year and beyond. Doz’s bat is what is going to keep him in the lineup, and luckily, he was able to produce last night, as evidenced by his 3-for-5 games on Friday, which included this home run:
As for Mondesi, he has been slumping hard since returning off the IL this month. Going into Friday’s game, Mondesi was posting this line, as Tweeted by Royals Review:
Mondesi did go 2-for-4 with a double on Friday, and considering the Twins’ pitching staff is a lot worse than the Indians, maybe Friday night’s line is a sign of a big series for Mondesi, who can be a streaky hitter. Much like Dozier, Mondesi doesn’t have a “set” position, though that has more to do with the emergence of Nicky Lopez and Whit Merrifield as a defensive force up the middle, and the impending call up of Bobby Witt, Jr.. Mondesi has the athleticism to play multiple positions in the field, it’s just a matter of whether or not he’s open to it, and if he can stay healthy while doing so as well.
A solid finish to the 2021 season may not make much of a change in terms of what the Royals front office will do with Mondi this offseason. (Do they test out the trade waters?) But among Royals fans, a spectacular finish this weekend will help Kansas City’s baseball faithful feel more confident and hopeful about Mondi’s outlook with the Royals organization in 2022.