Now is the Time for Royals’ Offense to Step Up


Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the Royals 5-1 record in the last week, the team is clearly not clicking on all cylinders. The pitching has been outstanding, as the starters have allowed 3 earned runs in 34.1 innings, and the bullpen hasn’t been so bad either, with a 2.89 ERA. As has been the case for much of the season, the offense is struggling to score runs. Only Salvador Perez and Nori Aoki have done much of anything in the last six games, so it’s pretty amazing that the Royals have been able scrape together five wins in that time.

But as the team heads to Detroit, they know the offense needs to do more to come back to Kansas City with a series victory.

Facing the Rangers and Yankees – two of the worst offensive teams in the majors – allowed the Royals to average only 3 runs per game and still win both series. Royals’ pitchers were able to stifle opposing bats without much resistance, and the staff made the low run totals stand up.

Against arguably the best offense in the league, that strategy will be much more difficult to execute.

Miguel Cabrera hasn’t been himself this season, and he’s nursing a bone spur in his ankle, but he’s coming into the series on a tear. Victor Martinez is having an MVP-caliber season. Guys like J.D. Martinez, Torii Hunter, and Ian Kinsler have had solid seasons overall. There are dangerous bats throughout the Tigers’ lineup, which makes expecting them to only score 2 or 3 runs per game somewhat foolish. The Royals’ pitchers are very good, but they’re also human.

The next three games are the biggest Royals games since 1985, which makes them the perfect opportunity for the offense to bounce back from their recent rough stretch. The bats simply must wake up in order to preserve the lead over Detroit, let alone to extend it.

Unfortunately for those bats, the Tigers have some extremely talented pitchers taking the mound. It won’t be easy.

Justin Verlander isn’t the Verlander of old, but he may have something left in the tank this season. Max Scherzer is one of the best pitchers in the league. Rick Porcello is quietly having a great season. Their bullpen may be a raging tire fire in the middle of a landfill, but the starters are still a force to be reckoned with.

Typically, you don’t want to see a scuffling offense being put in a situation in which they need to score runs against those starting pitchers, and if we’re being honest, this case is no different. The Royals may have a better chance of scoring runs against a worse team, but this is the schedule they have, and this is the schedule they must defeat. But while knocking off the defending division champs is a tall task, it’s far from impossible.

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Billy Butler and Perez and have had incredible success against Verlander in the past. Alex Gordon could continue his second-half rampage by picking up where he’s left off against Scherzer. Josh Willingham and Eric Hosmer could lead the charge against Porcello. And of course, if they can force the Tigers into their bullpen early on, all bets are off.

Also, just because the Tigers have a great offense doesn’t mean they can’t be contained at times. It’s going to take strong efforts from the starters, bullpen, and defense, but anything can happen in a three-game series, and the Royals have tamed the Tigers before.

As someone who was born in 1986, I have never been alive for a more important Royals series, which makes the next three games incredibly exciting. The current stretch of offensive ineptitude makes the next three games incredibly horrifying. That’s September baseball, I suppose: a balance of anticipation and dread. Exhilaration and panic. That foreboding feeling of the complete unknown, creating an inner tug-of-war with your emotions. This is a new experience, and it’s both confusing and comforting all at the same time. This feeling is the Royals’ season, in a nutshell.

The Royals lineup has had some trouble scoring runs in the last week, and if they want to maintain their lead over the Tigers through this series, the offense needs to step up. It will be challenging, but these next three games could go a long way in deciding which direction the rest of this season goes.