“This is the most important series of the season, so far.” It’s a phrase that has seemingly been said about every Kansas City Royals series since the All-Star break. This time, it’s actually true.
This is the weekend the Kansas City Royals decide how the rest of their season plays out.
If they lose this series in Minnesota, they won’t be making the playoffs. They won’t even be in the conversation any more. But if the Kansas City Royals can somehow pull off a series win against one of baseball’s hottest teams, they will reassert themselves into the postseason conversation.
It’s hard to believe the season has led to this pivotal point.
Go back to Aug. 1, the Kansas City Royals were holding the American League’s second Wild Card spot. They had a 1.5-game lead over Seattle and Tampa Bay for the position. Minnesota sat 4.5 games back and had just sold its closer to Washington at the trade deadline.
Fast-forward one month, it all looks different and, yet, eerily similar.
Now, the Twins reside in the coveted second Wild Card place. They have a 1.5-game edge over the Angels for the spot. The Kansas City Royals, meanwhile, find themselves 4.5 games behind.
How quickly the tides can turn.
The Twins began to catch fire on Aug. 6. Minnesota defeated Texas that day and proceeded to reel off six straight wins. The team will enter this weekend’s series having won four consecutive games and five of its past six.
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On the other side, the Kansas City Royals practically limp into the series after suffering a horrendous August. If someone in the front office drew up a worst-case scenario for the month, what happened would have been 10-times worse.
The starting pitchers couldn’t get past six innings. An exhausted bullpen couldn’t get hitters out. A lineup that had been running on fumes disappeared completely for virtually an entire week.
As bad as August was for the Kansas City Royals, September could treat Minnesota the same way. And, for that matter, the Boys in Blue could catch fire the way the Twins did when everybody had given up on them.
Part of the reason so many people have already given up on the Kansas City Royals is that they don’t have one glaring issue. In cases like that, a single September call-up could make the difference.
But that’s not the case here.
Ask four random Kansas City Royals fans what one thing they would blame for the August swoon, and they might all give you different answers—starting pitching, bullpen, offense or Ned Yost. They would all be right, too.
Sometimes, though, all it takes is stringing a few good games together to get the confidence flowing. The core of this group rode an insane comeback in the AL Wild Card game in 2014 all the way to the World Series. After walking off against Oakland, they won their next seven games to sweep Los Angeles and Baltimore.
This team isn’t as good as that one, but it doesn’t need to be to get back to the Wild Card game.
What it does need is to win this weekend’s series. The Kansas City Royals have 30 games left and an elimination number of 26. Every loss drops that number, as does every win by Minnesota, which means this weekend’s series essentially counts for double.
Get out of there and on to Detroit with that number no lower than 24 and the Kansas City Royals are setting things up nicely for their next homestand. That’s when Minnesota comes to town for a four-game set. … Then that can become the most important series of the season, so far.
Over the season’s final month, the Kansas City Royals have 12 extremely winnable games against the Tigers (three), Blue Jays (three) and White Sox (six). However, winning those games likely won’t mean a thing if the team doesn’t take care of business this weekend in the Twin Cities.