The KC Royals just finished the first half of the season in one of the most up-and-down first halves that I can remember. One minute they made you think they could win the World Series, and the next minute they’d make you think, “TRADE EVERYONE.”
The KC Royals currently own a record of 44-43 and trail the Cleveland Indians by three games in the race for the AL Central, and both the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees by a game and a half in the race for an AL Wild Card spot.
With the first half finally in the books, let’s take a quick look at how the KC Royals got to the All-Star Break in a position to potentially contend for a playoff berth.
The Royals started their season in Minnesota and had a… less than ideal series. The offense was bad, the bullpen was worse, and the Royals were swept right out of the Twin Cities.
Then the Boys in Blue went down to Houston and almost swept the team that now owns the best record in the American League. Had it not been for a Kelvin Herrera blown save and Matt Strahm implosion in the 12th inning of the final game of that series, the Royals may have left Houston having swept the Astros.
To be honest with you, after winning two out of three in Houston I was feeling pretty good about the Royals. Then they lost 12 of their next 17 games to close out an abysmal April and it looked like the core of this team would be dismantled sooner rather than later.
The Royals started May a little better than April ended, going 3-4 against Minnesota and Cleveland. With the record at a season low 10-20, the Royals took off for Tampa Bay where Ned Yost would attempt to fix the problems of the offense.
Ned had tried putting Alex Gordon, Whit Merrifield and even Mike Moustakas in the lead off spot, but nothing seemed to be working. So, naturally, for the first game in Tampa Bay Alcides Escobar and his .470 OPS would lead off for the KC Royals.
Esky Magic had apparently reared its ugly head again, because the Royals would win the series against Tampa Bay and then come home to sweep the Baltimore Orioles in a three-game set.
Esky Magic worked for seven games, anyway, but then the realities of having a leadoff hitter that was hitting under .200 set in because KC would go on to lose three series in a row, two to the New York Yankees and one in Minnesota.
The West Coast Road Trip
Eight days after losing Danny Duffy to the DL, Kansas City hosted the scorching hot Astros. The Royals were 3-3 in six games since losing Duffy and Whit Merrifield had a 19-game hitting streak.
After getting shut out in the final game of the Cleveland Indians series, Ned Yost decided to move the red hot Merrifield back into the leadoff role for the Houston series.
Naturally, the Royals lost 3-7 and Whit lost his hitting streak. But then something incredible happened…
After losing the first game of the series to Houston, the KC Royals would go on an absolute tear and win 20 of their next 27 games.
The improbable rally included a six-game winning streak on the Royals first West Coast road trip in which Kansas City went 7-2. The road trip propelled the Royals right back into the race for the AL Central and turned the narrative from the Royals as probable sellers into the Royals as potential buyers.
The Royals will come off the All-Star Break with 10 straight home games, all against teams that are currently under .500. About a month ago I wrote an article about the importance of the first 13 games for KC coming out of the All-Star Break, and the Royals have put themselves in a perfect position for those games to matter.
Kansas City has been linked to just about every name out there so far, but what has remained consistent is that they will almost definitely be buyers at this year’s trade deadline.
The Royals MUST come out of the All-Star Break firing on all cylinders. They need to win 6-7 of those first 10 home games but wouldn’t it be nice if they took 8-9 instead and put themselves right into a race for first place?
The first half of this roller coaster 2017 season is officially over, and if the Royals are to buy, it would certainly be reassuring if they could continue their recent stretch of good baseball and win eight out of those first 10 games after the All-Star Break.