It's "magic number" time around the major leagues, that point in the late stages of another long season when teams begin paying close attention to the combined total of their wins, and a particular opponent's losses, that will guarantee them a playoff spot or division title. Such a number is something the KC Royals haven't had any need to think about, much less calculate, since 2015 when they won their second straight American League pennant and then the World Series.
No, there was never any realistic hope for the Royals this season; they've owned the American League Central Division cellar since late April, and escaped the shame of being the first team eliminated from playoff contention this year only because the Oakland A's beat them to it late last month.
But the Royals, who lost their 98th game of the season Friday night at Toronto, a 5-4 loss that marked the fourth time in five tries the Blue Jays have beaten them this season, have a "magic number" of their own. It has nothing to do with the playoffs, of course, or escaping last place, which is all but impossible now considering the club trails fourth-place Chicago by 11.5 games with 20 left to play.
So, just what is this non-magic magic number? It's 13, and here's why.
For the KC Royals, the number 13 has suddenly become more important
Heretofore, the most significant association 13 has with the Royals is that it's currently the uniform number of eight-time All-Star Salvador Perez; as such, it's certain to be retired sometime after Perez's playing days are over.
Now, however, the number represents the number of games Kansas City must win to avoid tying the 2005 Royals for the most losses — 106 — of any team in franchise history. Should this year's Royals, now 44-98 entering Saturday's action, go 13-7 over the season's final three weeks, they'll end the campaign with one less loss than the 2005 club, which went 56-106 and finished 43 games behind the AL Central-winning White Sox.
The task will be difficult. This is, after all, a club that hasn't had a winning month all season. And because the Royals have eight games left against serious contenders (Toronto and Houston), and 12 with teams against whom they're collectively 8-15 (the Guardians, White Sox, and Yankees), it may actually be all but impossible.
In any event, this KC season ends Oct. 1 with a home game against the Yankees. We may know before then just how these Royals rank in club history.