Kansas City T-Bones Starting to Sizzle
In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier examines the rise of the Kansas City T-Bones, who have pulled within three games of second place Sioux City and are threatening to jump into the top spot in the South Division.
Kansas City T-Bones on the Rise
For about three months, the Kansas City T-Bones seemed to be mired in mediocrity. The reigning American Association champs hovered around .500 for the better part of 12 weeks, never going more than a few games above or below the breakeven mark.
However, things appear to have finally changed in Kansas City. The T-Bones are now four games above .500, their best record of 2019, and they are now the hottest team in the league, winning six straight games. That has helped move the T-Bones to just three games behind the Sioux City Explorers for second in the division and, with games on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Cleburne Railroaders, they could very well find themselves just three games out of first heading into the weekend.
Earning the Victories
Before continuing, it is important to address the naysayers. There is no doubt that some will point to three victories against the Texas AirHogs as part of that win streak and think the winning streak is really a mirage, but bookending those victories was two wins against the Railroaders in Cleburne, and an opening series win against the Railroaders in Kansas City on Monday. In essence, they gained three games on the division leader simply by taking care of business.
In addition, no one should mark upcoming contests against the AirHogs as in the bank. They may be 4-7 this month, but that is because they were swept by the T-Bones. This is a team playing solid baseball right now, and would be .500 in August had it not been for the three losses against Kansas City.
A Performance Based on…Performance
The T-Bones started out August 1-4. After defeating the Sioux Falls Canaries on August 1, the team dropped four straight, including three straight in Lincoln. After losing the first of a three game set in Cleburne, the team was two games under .500 and it looked like they were teetering on the edge of becoming “also rans.”
However, back-to-back victories in Cleburne helped to turn the tide. The T-Bones scored five runs in each of those contests, while the pitching staff yielded a total of three runs after giving up nine in Game 1 of the series.
The T-Bones returned home, where they have been fairly mediocre this season. The team was 18-18, ninth best in the league, but they have handled their business at home.
The T-Bones dominated the first contest against the AirHogs, 7-2, then won a pair of one-run games. The bullpen, who has struggled for much of the season, was brilliant in those final two contests, tossing 6.1 innings of scoreless relief.
Monday night, it was the hitters turn to shine. Kansas City scored 16 total runs in that three game set in Cleburne a week ago, but nearly eclipsed that number on Monday, scoring 14 runs while pounding out a season high 19 hits.
Jonathan Perrin was brilliant, blanking the Railroaders for six innings. He came out and had to endure watching a feverish comeback by Cleburne, who would score eight runs in the seventh, but the bullpen would finally shut the door in the 14-8 victory. Hunter Smith came on to pitch the final 2.1 innings for the save.
What the Kansas City T-Bones have done is prove they can win any type of ballgame. They can score early and ride their starter, they can lean on their bullpen, they can score big chunks of runs. During the six game win streak the team has scored 39 runs while giving up 19. Ask any manager and they will tell you that they will gladly take a +20 run differential over any six game period any week of the year. It’s hard to lose when you are getting that kind of performance.
A win streak like that doesn’t materialize on its own. There have to be top performances and there are a plethora of them for Kansas City. Five regulars are hitting better than .300 in August, including Dylan Tice who is hitting .396 with 12 runs in 11 games. Daniel Nava has driven in 12 runs this month to go along with a .357 average.
That beleaguered bullpen has been better, starting with closer Carlos Diaz who has allowed one hit in 6.1 innings in August. Henry Owens has a 0.84 ERA in his last four appearances.
While ace Tommy Collier has struggled, the rest of the staff has brought their “A” game. Christian Binford (1-0, 1.13), Dylan Baker (1-0, 1.76) and Perrin (3-0, 2.50) are a combined 5-0 in seven starts and have yielded 31 hits in 41.1 innings combined.
The great thing for the Kansas City T-Bones is that they are going to have every opportunity to determine their own fate. After finishing off these two games against Cleburne, Kansas City travels to Texas to take on the AirHogs for three-games. Then, they have 10 of their next 16 games against Sioux City.
While they may not catch the Railroaders, their chances of earning the final playoff berth in the South is totally dependent upon their ability to win at least seven of those games against the Explorers. This is playoff baseball from here on out for the Kansas City T-Bones. It truly is time for them to sizzle.
By Robert Pannier
Featured Image by Kathy Stetz, Capture Twin Cities