Coming off four straight losses, the Kansas City Royals will look to bounce back against the rebuilding Chicago White Sox. A three-game series in the Windy City starts Friday night. Here’s what to watch for.
The Kansas City Royals essentially just got swept in a four-game series with intrastate-(and interstate )rival St. Louis.
Technically, two games apiece took place on opposite sides of Missouri. That doesn’t matter, though. The Cardinals won all four games. That’s what matters.
It was an ugly, frustrating and borderline hilarious display over the past four days. Include a good chunk of the Seattle and all of the Baltimore series before that and you’re looking at a 2-9 record over the past 11 games.
And yet …
Factor in the aforementioned 2-9 recent mark and you soon realize this team went 30-16 over a nearly two-month stretch. That team is still in that clubhouse.
It’s easy to blow winning and losing streaks out of proportion in baseball. But when a team is competing against no fewer than five teams for the final Wild Card spot, every result is magnified.
When the season ends, several teams will be forced to reflect on a handful of games that ultimately kept them out of the postseason.
Will the Kansas City Royals be one of them?
Not if they turn things around. That process needs to start this weekend. It needs to start Friday night, if we’re being perfectly honest.
No, I did not forget to fill in Lopez’s pitching numbers. He doesn’t have any—at least not at the Major League-level.
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His stats for Triple-A Charlotte are decent (6-7, 3.79 ERA), but this is not Triple-A.
If the Kansas City Royals (57-57) want to show they are a playoff-caliber team, they need to show it against a guy making his FIRST MLB start.
Duffy, meanwhile, needs to pitch the kind of game he’s capable of every time out. That is somewhere in the neighborhood of eight innings, 10 strikeouts and three runs allowed.
The rotation needs it to gain confidence. The bullpen needs it to help relax. The offense needs it to keep from having to score 10 runs to get a win.
Everyone needs Duffy to bear down. (Yes, pun intended.)
The White Sox (44-68) enter the series fresh off a sweep of the Houston Astros. (Refer back to streaks being blown out of proportion.)
This team is full of young players trying to prove themselves. They are the kind of scrappy bunch that should remind Kansas City Royals fans of their own team from a handful of years ago.
They will not go down easy. A team with nothing to lose is always dangerous.
If the Boys in Blue can win Friday night, the weekend opens up nicely for them.
A Saturday home run derby could be in order with Ian Kennedy (4-8, 4.83 ERA) and James Shields (2-4, 6.03 ERA) on the bump. Sunday looks set to pit veteran lefties Jason Vargas (13-6, 3.40 ERA) and Derek Holland (6-11, 5.25 ERA) against each other.
The Kansas City Royals would appear to have the advantage in both those games, if they go according to plan.
Three games in Oakland will follow up this weekend’s series before the start of what-was-supposed-to-be the team’s difficult August stretch: 12 straight games against teams with a winning record.
Six of those are against Cleveland. You know, the team that still has just a four-game lead over the Kansas City Royals (and a 3.5-game lead over the resurgent Minnesota Twins) in the American League Central Division.
But those games can wait.
Right now the focus is on the White Sox and taking, at minimum, two of three from them.
When Chicago traded away seemingly half its 25-man roster at the trade deadline, this series looked to be a shoo-in series win and probably a sweep.
That glorious time seems to be well in the rear-view mirror.
According to FanGraphs, the Kansas City Royals postseason odds have dropped from 61 percent to 23 percent since July 30.
This weekend could be the beginning of a reversal of fortunes, or it could exacerbate the collapse.
If the 2017 Kansas City Royals are ever going to get back on track, it has to be now. Anything less will likely signal the end of an era.