Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
It had to end eventually, didn’t it? The Royals were not going to finish the season 130-32, despite the pace they set over the previous 10 games before yesterday’s loss to the Tigers. Hot streaks are just that – streaks – and can’t be counted on to continue forever. The red-hot Royals’ lineup ran into Anibal Sanchez, who was able to pitch effectively without recording a strikeout. Sanchez induced a lot of weak contact, and kept the Royals to a single run. It happens.
What’s important now is for the Royals to not let it happen again tonight.
The team’s recent stretch of play has opened a lot of eyes around the country, and of course, around Kansas City as well. Fans like watching teams that win, and the Royals have been winning. Now the team returns to Kauffman Stadium for a 9-game homestand against the Mariners, Dodgers, and Angels, and opportunity awaits.
The Royals have an opportunity to show their fans that the last two weeks were not just a flash in the pan. They can prove that they are capable of sustaining a high level of play for more than a handful of games. They can give the local fans more reasons to come back to the K, again and again.
More than likely, tonight’s game will be very well-attended. I don’t know if it will be sold out, but I would expect roughly 35,000 people to come to the stadium. The pitching matchup of James Shields and Hisashi Iwakuma is obviously a draw for many fans, but there’s something else that has probably helped ticket sales, and that is the Royals currently sitting in first place. Fans want to see if the Royals can keep things going in the right direction. Fans are hoping the Royals continue to win. Some fans may be expecting them to continue to win.
Whether or not some fans’ expectations are reasonable is certainly up for discussion, but the fact remains that they exist. Fans want to keep feeling good about their favorite team, and the Royals have the chance to deliver those good feelings. I think this tweet from Kevin Agee yesterday sums it up pretty well:
Losing tonight to the Mariners wouldn’t be any kind of death knell to the season. It may not even result in falling out of first place. But this Royals fanbase is a sensitive one, at times, and they’ve experienced the disappointment of a team not meeting expectations many times before. The last thing fans want is to get their hopes up, only to have Lucy yank the football away at the last second once again.
The Royals have raised the bar by playing so well recently, and now it’s up to them to continue to clear that bar, and to raise it even more. They were shut down by a very good pitcher yesterday, and they’re going to be facing many more very good pitchers in the next few days. In the last several years, a game like Thursday’s would be the beginning of a bumpy road back to the basement of the division. This Royals team now has an opportunity to show that yesterday was nothing more than a speed bump on their path to a new normal of winning baseball.