First things first: Yes, the Royals are an awful baseball team. They’re sitting at 19-43 (deservedly) and represent the what-are-we-watching talent gap between the haves and the have-nots in Major League Baseball right now; Kansas City doesn’t have a single starter with an ERA under 4.50.
So the Red Sox did what good teams are supposed to do and throttled them in a three-game sweep at Kaufmann Stadium, outscoring the Royals 23-8 and winning a Thursday afternoon game where spot starter Ryan Weber only gave them four outs.
But just because Kansas City is Kansas City doesn’t mean that nothing can be taken from this week’s sweep.
There’s still one real reason for fans to be optimistic: The bottom of the lineup is starting to swing it — and that makes the Red Sox a far more dangerous opponent.
Just over two weeks ago, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Eduardo Nunez were both getting on base less than a quarter of the time. They weren’t doing damage either: The tandem’s OPS numbers both sat below .500, two of the lowest marks in the American League.
They’ve raised those over .100 points each since and it’s easy to see why.
For the first time all season, Nunez is starting to sting the baseball.
At least three left his bat at 100 mph during a 3-for-4 Thursday afternoon, and a comebacker that struck Royals starter Danny Duffy right on the shin registered 110; the numbers confirm the eye test, Nunez is hitting the ball hard.
It’s a far cry from the one-handed swings that made half-hearted contact early in the season.
As for Bradley, after an offseason devoted to redesigning his swing, he’s finally going the other way with ease.
His newfound power has yielded 10 extra-base hits (six doubles and four homers) in the span 15 starts, and he’s visibly more comfortable in the batter’s box. An easy swing led to an opposite-field double that plated three runners in Kansas City.
Michael Chavis and Christian Vazquez are both a little further up Alex Cora’s lineup card, but got starts in the bottom third alongside Nunez and Bradley.
Vazquez delivered the dagger in the series finale, an RBI triple that scored a pair, and the catcher’s seven homers and 22 RBIs have already eclipsed totals from all of last season.
Chavis is the one member of this bunch that’s cooling a bit.
Since the Astros put the book out on the rookie — elevate fastballs early and often — Chavis has struck out 32 times in 82 plate appearances.
But he remains a threat to homer at any time, and with the rest of his teammates in the bottom third bringing their bats, Chavis will be afforded some time to work through his growing pains.
It may have just been the Royals, but the thump that the bottom third brought was real.
Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for the Eagle-Tribune and CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason