Energized KC Royals are facing a stiff weekend test

(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /

The KC Royals’ 3-0 lead over Baltimore June 11 certainly wasn’t insurmountable but, because a cruising Daniel Lynch had found six strikeout victims among the Orioles and held them to just three hits in four innings, felt like it should be enough.

But Kansas City was a house of cards at the time, prone to collapse at any moment of any given game. And they did just that. The O’s got to Lynch for a run in the fifth and three in the sixth, scored another off Jose Cuas in the seventh, one more on Dylan Coleman’s eighth-inning wild pitch, and beat the Royals 6-4.

The loss dropped KC 18 games under .500 at 20-38 and kept them in last place in the American League Central, 13.5 games out of first.

Thursday, two months and 55 games later, the Royals held off the White Sox 5-3 to win their second straight four-game series. They’re 27-28 since that defeat at Baltimore’s hands and are fewer than 20 games under .500 for the first time since July 26. They’re also 7-4 in July and have won eight of their last 12.

This is, to be sure, a team different in poise, demeanor, and personnel from the one Baltimore disappointed. Carlos Santana, Andrew Benintendi and Whit Merrifield, all starters when the season began, are gone, and a newly-energized team fueled by rookies MJ Melendez, Bobby Witt Jr., Vinnie Pasquantino, Nick Pratto, and improving pitching and better offense, are making every game exciting.

But these new Royals are about to be tested.

The KC Royals are facing the best team in the majors for three games.

At a time when Kansas City baseball is becoming fun again, and winning is finally beginning to seem about as likely as losing, the Royals must battle the finest club in the big leagues. The Los Angeles Dodgers, 34 games better than .500 and winners of 10 straight games and 22 of their last 25, are in town for a three-game Kauffman Stadium series starting tonight.

The Dodgers stand head and shoulders above everyone else. They lead the National League West by 16 games. They have four more wins than the NL East leading Mets, six more than the AL East leading Yankees, five more than AL West leader Houston, 16 more than NL Central leading St. Louis, and 18 more than the Guardians, who are first in the AL Central.

The Dodgers lead the majors with a 2.89 staff ERA, have the best WHIP (1.07), and have given up fewer hits and runs than any other big league club. They’ve also surrendered fewer home runs and walks than 28 of the other 29 teams.

But that isn’t all. The Royals will see two of LA manager Dave Roberts’ best starters this weekend—righty Tony Gonsolin (13-1) faces Lynch (4-7) tonight, and southpaw Tyler Anderson (also 13-1) squares off against Brady Singer (5-4) Sunday afternoon. Lefty Andrew Heaney (1-0) goes against Brad Keller (6-12) Saturday evening.

Los Angeles can also hit. Five Dodgers—Mookie Betts (25), Trea Turner (18), Will Smith (16), Cody Bellinger (15) and Freddie Freeman (15)—have at least 15 home runs. Freeman’s .325 average and .923 OPS are best on the team; Turner’s driven in 81 runs, Freeman 71.

The Royals may see former teammate Hanser Alberto, who signed with LA in March and is slashing .255/.261/.391 in 51 games. But they’re not likely to see ex-Royal Danny Duffy, who’s on the Injured List and probably won’t be activated this weekend.

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The Royals have their work cut out for them this weekend. Tonight’s game begins at 7:10 p.m. CDT.