It is said that championship teams know how to flip the switch for the postseason, that when the games truly matter, they are able to bring their play up another level to match the situation. How often do we see a team coast down the stretch, only to start firing on all cylinders over the final week and ride that wave of momentum into the playoffs? Well, don’t look now, but it seems that the Kansas City Royals are doing just that.
Naturally, any time a team that had all but locked up a postseason berth begins to stumble down the stretch, it is a cause for concern. That was no different with the Royals, who were 11-17 during the month of September, failing to win more than two games in a row at any point that month. However, the Royals ended the season on a high note, winning their last five games.
Even more importantly, several of the key pieces for the Royals postseason hopes seem to have flipped the switch as well. Johnny Cueto, after an adjustment by Salvador Perez, has looked like the ace the Royals acquired at the trade deadline. Yordano Ventura began to look like the ace the Royals expected him to be over the final seven weeks, as he posted a 2.38 ERA and a 1.235 WHiP, striking out 81 batters against 28 walks in his final 68 innings.
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That momentum carried over on offense for the Kansas City Royals as well. Key pieces of the Royals attack, such as Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas, found their stride once again over the final week of the season. Eric Hosmer has found his power stroke once again. Salvador Perez has received the rest that he badly needed, allowing him to get to the postseason somewhat refreshed. That home run he drilled yesterday is certainly a welcome sign as the Royals head to the postseason.
Then there are the decisions of manager Ned Yost. He has placed Alcides Escobar back atop the lineup, a move that, conventionally, would not make much sense. However, the Royals offense seems to respond to having Escobar batting leadoff, so Yost is again trusting his gut and has placed Escobar back in that role. After all, at this time of year, there are no style points for victory.
The Kansas City Royals are believing in themselves and have rediscovered that swagger as they head to the playoffs. Hopefully, that momentum carries over, as the Royals look to celebrate the thirty year anniversary of their only World Series championship by raising yet another banner over Kauffman Stadium.