The Royals may have lost last night, but in case you haven’t noticed, the Kansas City Royals have been the hottest team in baseball lately. The Royals won eight in a row, nine of their last eleven (both losses coming against Jon Lester), and are 16-4 since losing the first four games after the All-Star Break. Even without making a move at the trade deadline, the Royals have been hot, and all of this has come without Eric Hosmer in the lineup since July 31st. There have been reasons to doubt this team has what it takes to make the postseason at times this year. There has even been a warranted amount of despairing associated with this team, but you should not stop believing in the Kansas City Royals this year.
The Royals have been mercurial all season long. They have been swept by the Astros. They have swept the Giants. They were 1.5 games up on Detroit in the AL Central on June 19th only to implode and fall to 8 games behind the Detroit by July 21st. Now, as of August 13th, the Royals are once again in first place in the AL Central, a half game up on Detroit, and things are looking up. This time, it feels like the Royals are going to hold on to and build on that lead in the Central, and it has come at that special time of year when you see great things happen to good teams and teams who heat up.
The Royals have been the hottest team in baseball lately, yes, but the Tigers have also been imploding recently to help the Royals make up some of the ground they lost since mid-June. The Tigers, despite the blockbuster trade that sent David Price to don the gothic “D” and gave Detroit a rotation that includes the last three AL Cy Young winners, have gone 10-16 since the All-Star Break. Since the Price trade, the Tigers are only 5-7 and have drastically underperformed for a team that was supposed to run away with the Central. Further, Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria have landed on the DL, and now Justin Verlander has some minor inflammation in his shoulder and will miss at least some time as well. In all, while everything has been going right for the Royals, nothing has been going right for the Tigers.
Since the All-Star Break, here’s how the two clubs’ pitching staffs have performed:
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The Tigers have performed better since the acquisition of Price but have still been underperforming. The Royals, though, have been stellar during the same span, with the exception of the drubbing last night:
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The Royals have even been hitting again, stealing bases, and coming through at clutch times during the latest hot streak. The Royals lead the league in steals since the All-Star Break with 23, and they have managed a .715 OPS in August with 10 home runs. Billy Butler, since taking over duties at first base, has had a line of .341/.356/.591 with two home runs to become more of an offensive contributor. The offense is then clicking right in sync with the stellar performances the pitching staff has been turning in, and the addition of Josh Willingham will, ostensibly, only help maintain the offensive output throughout the postseason push.
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Be that as it may, this is the Royals, and the Royals are not consistent. This calibre of play may not last. As fun as it was to win eight straight and take over first place in the Central, the Royals will not win out. There are still loses coming, and there are even still some frustrating losses, like last night, coming. No matter what may come, though, don’t stop believing in the Royals. The Royals control their own destiny in the postseason race and are winners through the hardest part of their August schedule no matter the outcome of the remaining games of the A’s series. With only four games after the A’s remaining against contending opponents in August, this hot streak has been perfectly timed, and the Royals are going to keep winning.
The Royals are in first place in the Central and are on the cusp of making their first postseason appearance since 1985. Further, the Royals are positioned to keep the Central lead away from the Tigers and have a guaranteed game at the K in October. The Royals have a 53% chance of winning the division as of today, and, with the Royals remaining schedule, no matter what bumps and hiccups might occur, that percentage is going to improve the closer we get to October. No matter how the specifics of one game or another play out, don’t stop believing in the Royals because they are not going to stop believing in themselves, and we, the loyal and hungry fans, will be rewarded for our dedication.