The KC Royals have won two straight for the first time since late June. Is it too late for the team to save their season with a late playoff run?
The Kansas City Royals suffered through a horrendous 7-19 July that caused most everyone outside of the clubhouse to write off the 2016 season. The KC Royals began the month of August with a 49-55 record, and trailing the Cleveland Indians by 12.0 games in the AL Central for first place. The Kansas City Royals also trailed the Detroit Tigers by 7.5 games and the Chicago White Sox by 1.5 games.
The KC Royals also trailed the Boston Red Sox by 8.5 games for the AL’s second wild card, and the Toronto Blue Jays by 9.5 for the AL’s top wild card.
However, two straight wins to open the month of August has awakened a glimmer of hope in the Kansas City Royals clubhouse. Danny Duffy flirted with a no-hitter though giving up a hit to open the eighth inning while overpowering the Tampa Bay Rays for 16 strikeouts in eight shutout frames. Duffy’s performance inspired a 3-0 victory which snapped the KC Royals four-game losing streak.
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After the game, Duffy told Fox Sports TV reporter Joel Goldberg (see video at bottom of the page): “We have 50 odd games left in the season. I think we should go out and get it.”
The next day, catcher Salvador Perez slammed a two-run home run in the seventh inning to erase a 2-1 deficit win Kansas City’s second road game in a row. Even better, Cleveland lost two straight to allow the KC Royals to pull within 10 games of the Indians. Meanwhile the White Sox dropped a game and had an off day, which put the Kansas City Royals in a tie for third place.
The Kansas City Royals also gained a game on the Red Sox for the AL’s second wild card to pull within 7.5 games and also have closed within 8.5 games of the AL’s top wild card position held by Toronto. Suddenly, things aren’t looking quite so bleak.
The KC Royals will still need a historic comeback to win the the AL Central. The Minnesota Twins overcame the largest second-half deficit in the wild card era by making up 11 games to run down the Tigers in 2006, and trailed by 9.5 games on August 1. Of course, the Kansas City Royals task will be complicated by having to run down both the Tigers and Indians, while holding off the White Sox. In 2006, the Twins only had two teams to run down.
To earn the no. 2 wild card, the KC Royals will have to overcome the New York Yankees (53-53, 2.0 games), the Seattle Mariners (53-52, 2.5 games), the Houston Astros (56-50, 5.0 games), the Detroit Tigers (58-48, 7.0 games), and the Boston Red Sox (58-47, 7.5 games). That’s five teams to beat. Fangraphs.com put the Kansas City Royals chances of earning a playoff berth at a minuscule 0.5%.
One in 200 isn’t very good odds.
However, the 2014-15 KC Royals are a team that repeatedly defied the odds to win two straight AL pennants and the 2015 World Series title. They overcame a 3% winning percentage to win the 2014 AL wild card game against Oakland despite trailing by four runs. The 2015 Kansas City Royals survived another four-run deficit in an elimination game in game 4 of the ALCS against the Houston Astros desite an even worse 2% chance to win.
On Memorial Day this season, the KC Royals overcame a 7-1 ninth inning lead to defeat the Chicago White Sox 8-7. CBS Sports estimated their chances as 1 in 1000 to win that game.
The bottom line it that the Kansas City Royals are a team that has shown they aren’t intimidated by long odds. If they can get on a run, they’re going to believe. And the last two post-seasons have shown that the KC Royals play their best baseball with their backs to the wall.
If they can catch a run now, the 2016 Kansas City Royals could add to their legacy of improbable comebacks. I don’t think they’ll do it, but boy would it ensure their legend.