The KC Royals headed home Sunday after suffering a series sweep in Milwaukee. The three losses brought an end to the club’s dismal 2020 road campaign.
For the KC Royals, now one week short of finishing another losing season, the trip home from Milwaukee Sunday had to be a welcome one. The journey brought them home after a disappointing 1-4 venture through Detroit and Milwaukee and marked the end of a rough road season.
Sunday’s 5-3 loss capped the Brewers’ three-game weekend series sweep and kept them in the playoff hunt, and reduced the Royals’ postseason hopes to faintly glowing embers amid the ashes of their fourth consecutive losing season. Kansas City is 21-32 and six games out of the Wild Card battle with seven games left. Their practical elimination is past; their mathematical elimination will almost certainly come tonight with their own loss or another club’s win.
Mercifully, Kansas City hosts all its remaining games, beginning tonight with the first of three with the Cardinals before Detroit comes into Kauffman Stadium for the final four contests.
That the club won’t venture back out on the road until next year is good. The Royals, expected to audition some youngsters and try to resolve questions at several positions, and little else, were 11-19 in games away from Kauffman. The weekend sweep Milwaukee administered didn’t help—had it been the Royals wielding the broom, Kansas City would have finished a quite respectable 14-16 on the road.
Losing road records are, of course, expected. Teams almost always play better at home. But the KC Royals’ .367 (rounded) 2020 road win percentage isn’t one they can repeat next season and reverse the fortunes of four straight losing campaigns.
There are, however, occasional exceptions to the rule that you generally lose on the road. The 2014 Royals impressively won 13 more away games than they lost in their first American League pennant and World Series season in over a quarter-century. But that was the only time in the seven seasons preceding this one that the club has boasted more road wins than losses.
To seriously contend, KC must win more often on the road; indeed, they were 42-39 away from KC in 2013 and stayed in contention until mid-August, 47-34 on the road in the 2014 pennant campaign, and 44-37 when they repeated as AL champs and then won the World Series in 2015. But they’ve had losing road records in every season since, and only contended for a time in one, the 81-81 2016 campaign.
And they haven’t had a winning overall record since 2015, the last time they won on the road.
Despite another losing road campaign, and the sub-.500 season they’ll again suffer, the KC Royals have an outside chance to make this short season’s record more palatable. If they improbably win all seven games this week, they’ll finish just four games under .500. A far less successful week is more likely because the Cardinals are riding a four game win streak, have won six of their last 10, and are tied for a Wild Card spot while the Tigers have split six games with KC so far.
A more realistic goal for the Royals is to reach the 25-win mark, but even that will be difficult.
Whatever they do this week, these Royals will again head into winter on the heels of a losing season. No real solace can be taken from the point some half-jokingly make that this pandemic-shortened campaign means the team can’t lose at least 100 games for the third straight time; even if the Royals win their last seven games, their losses will still project to a shade more than 86 over a regular 162-game campaign. Losing five times this week projects to 99.9 losses, and six defeats projects to 102.6.
Such projections, however, don’t and can’t account for the variables and anomalies of a major league season. Their exclusive reliance on numbers ignores the cumulative effect of unpredictables like injuries, slumps, hot streaks, player transactions, and an almost infinite multitude of other factors.
The KC Royals have improved in some areas this year, especially the bullpen. And with an additional reliable starter, some new blood at a position or two, and some better bats, they should be far better in 2021. But for the 2020 club, its road record is an unfortunate additional drag on what will be, regardless of length, a losing season. This week will determine whether the Royals, 10-13 at home entering tonight’s game, will also finish with a similar record at home.
Once again, the Royals end the road portion of their season with a losing record. They can avoid the same result at home if they play well this week.