The Kansas City Royals have made their moves (non-waiver anyway). Now begins the time in each baseball season where the contenders separate themselves. For KC that means taking down the Cleveland Indians.
The best way to defeat your foe is to get to know them. For the Kansas City Royals the team from Ohio is standing between them and another American League Central crown. Winning the division is viewed as the first step to post-season success.
It is shaping up to be a tight race between these teams in the last two months of the season. Here is what Kubitza thinks Royals fans need to know:
Kings of Kauffman: After winning an American League pennant, and falling just short of a World Series Championship, expectation was that Cleveland would run away with the Central in 2017. So far that has not really been the case. Any thoughts on why?
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Believeland Ball: This is simply a problem of fans building up unreachable expectations for the Indians. Being one win away from a World Series title will do that. This is a talented team, but still young in many key positions. Add in injuries to the rotation and several weak spots in the lineup and you have a team that isn’t playing up to its full potential.
Baseball is filled with so much chance and randomness, so as long as the team gets to October anything can happen.
The focus should be on the division race, yet some fans get caught up in day-to-day ups and downs that make things seem like the sky is falling. Things are actually going quite well when viewing the season as a whole.
KoK: Are you concerned about the run that Kansas City has been on in the second half?
BB: I’m not right now, but that will change if the Royals sweep the Indians in any of the upcoming series. The fact the Indians rattled off nine straight wins when the Royals did the same helped keep me calm too.
There are plenty of Indians fans who wrongfully assumed the Royals were dead after a rough April, but this is a team filled with plenty of key pieces from that championship squad. The Indians just need to take care of the Royals when the two teams play each other, which will likely end up being the difference at the end of the season based on how the two teams are keeping up with one another right now.
KoK: Is there any need for worry about Andrew Miller? Has he been used too much and is it affecting him? Obviously he has not been as dominant as in the past.
BB: There is no reason to worry about Miller. 2016 was a different year because Indians fans didn’t get a full season with him. Now that he did open the season here, fans see the ups and downs that affect any pitcher throughout the season. As with the rest of the team, fans create unrealistic expectations based on his mind-blowing postseason last year. When it comes time for high-leverage situations, he has the full confidence of Indians fans.
KoK: How do you see the last two months of the season playing out for the Tribe?
BB: Given there are no major injuries, I see the Indians building a comfortable lead of 4 or 5 games over the Royals and holding it. Terry Francona will find his best five starters and his best lineup configuration, meaning the games will start to take on a must-win feel.
The returns of both Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis will be huge, as the Indians have been without both players for nearly a month.That will give the team its best lineup moving forward. The addition of Joe Smith will also help create a dominant group of four in the bullpen, as he will join Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and Andrew Miller in receiving most of the work the rest of the season.
KoK: What is your final prediction for the American League Central standings?
BB: 1. Indians
5. White Sox
The Kansas City Royals definitely do not have any easy road the last two months of the season. The Cleveland Indians intend to make certain of it. KoK would like to say thank you to Steve Kubitza and Believeland Ball for taking time to answer our questions.