They had a slim game and a half lead over the Tigers, who were struggling at that point after such a hot start which made them look borderline unbeatable. The Royals beat the Tigers 2-1 on June 18th to take that game and a half lead and were sitting at 39-32. The stretch they were on (winners of 13 of 15) couldn’t possibly be continued throughout an entire season and it showed. They lost the next game to the Tigers 2-1 but still held a half game lead in the AL Central and left Comerica Park taking 3 of 4 from their division rivals — which made them feel pretty good about themselves.
The hot streak proved to take a lot out of them — they lost 18 of 27 from June 19th until July 21st, a 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox and fell way behind the Tigers, trailing by 9 games in the Central. Their roller coaster season appears to be continuing.
Catching some sort of second wind, they have won 20 of their last 25 ballgames, including a three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants and 5 of 7 from the suddenly ice cold Oakland Athletics. They have regained that game and a half lead in the Central and hoping to get to the finish line in the same spot.
They cannot run out of gas like last time. They might not have the star names similar to the Tigers, so on paper it shouldn’t even be a competition.
Behind good pitching (4th in AL in team ERA) they will be able to compete with anyone. Their offense still ranks dead last in home runs with only 75 on the season, but the fact that they scored an average of 5 runs per game during August is reasons for optimism. When they get first baseman Eric Hosmer (broken hand) back, it will only get better with newcomer Josh Willingham now in the lineup.
This, and along with their great rotation, led by ace James Shields, surprising starter Jason Vargas (3.27 ERA) and rookie Yordano Ventura (9 wins, 3.48 ERA) and one of the best closers in the game Greg Holland (37 saves), should be plenty reason enough for the Royals and their fans to believe that they can stick around in first place a little longer than two days this time around.
– Khristian Peel