Last week, I told Royals fans not to count out their team just yet. After a historically bad July, Kansas City has been among the league’s best in August. I also said success could hinge on Alex Gordon coming around with his bat. Guess what: Gordo’s back.
Alex Gordon’s average dropped below .200 as late as Aug. 9. Since then, he’s hit safely in his last eight games to push his average to .219, his highest mark since June 26. More importantly, he’s not just hitting singles. He doubled in Monday’s series-opener at Detroit. He’s homered in his last two games. His solo shot in Wednesday’s win tied the game after the Royals struggled to scratch a run across against Anibal Sanchez.
Finally, Alex Gordon has 11 hits in his last eight games and is batting over .400 in that stretch. Almost as important, he’s finding other ways to get on base with six walks in his last eight games. Among Kansas City’s regulars in August, Gordon is among the team leaders with a .392 on-base percentage.
Gordon is surging at just the right time. Kansas City had all but fallen off the playoff map, but Gordon’s offensive resurgence coincides with a hot streak from Royals’ starters and a bullpen that combined to give Detroit just three runs in as many games. Kansas City outscored the Tigers 13-3 to complete the first three-game sweep in Detroit since September 2008.
The Royals have now won four-straight, eight of their last 10, and nine of their last 11 to tie Seattle and the Cubs as the hottest teams in baseball. More importantly, Kansas City is inching back into a potential playoff spot. Wednesday’s win put the Royals back at .500 (60-60) for the first time since July 23 when the squad was 48-48.
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Unfortunately, that has not meant a significant climb in the standings. On July 26, the Royals were 9.5 games behind division-leading Cleveland, and 7.5 games from a wild card spot. After Wednesday’s victory, Kansas City was still nine games back of Cleveland and 6.5 games behind the final wild card spot.
That means the Royals will just have to stay hot. Kansas City returns home for four games against Minnesota, the owner of the worst record in the American League. After that it’s two games against Miami, and after a three-game series at Boston, another home series against the Yankees. Both Miami and New York are hovering around the .500 mark.
Probably we could have guessed something like this would happen. This is, after all, a Kansas City team that came back to win a wild card game against Oakland in 2014. This is, after all, the team the defied all odds to come back against Houston in last year’s ALDS. We all know what happened after that. It’s worth repeating: don’t count out the reigning champions just yet.