On July 18, 2013, Dayton Moore made this comment to the Kansas City Star:
“There’s no reason where this team can’t go on a run where they win 15 out of 20.”
Up to that point in his tenure as the Royals general manager, Moore could say some outlandish things. Fifteen wins out of 20 games? The Royals? He couldn’t possibly be serious. When Moore said the above you know when the last time was the Royals snapped off 15 wins in 20 games? Try April of 2003. For real. It had been over 10 years since the perennial losers of the American League had performed at such a clip.
Then, a funny thing happened. Or more accurately, was happening. At that very moment, the Royals were two games into a 20 game sequence where they would actually win 15 out of 20. Just like the General Manager said. Hell, the ’13 club took it a couple of steps further for good measure, winning 17 out of 20 between July 23 and August 12. That was a stretch the likes of which hadn’t been seen in Kansas City since July of 1980.
It happened one more time in 2013, but the Royals ultimately fell short in their quest to get the Wild Card. Then, in 2014 the Royals had two more separate stretches where they again won 15 out of 20. (Including an incredible time in August where they again rolled to 17 wins in a 20 game timeframe.) They did it again in 2015 on two more occasions, once in July and again in August.
If you’re counting, from 2013, just ahead of Moore stating there wasn’t any reason his team could go on a 15-5 run, to 2015, the Royals accomplished just that six times. Six times. After not doing it once in 10 years prior.
Well, here they go again. The 2016 Royals already had one stretch where they won 15 of 20. That was back at the end of May, which was around the time they were last in first place. Then, in June and July, they stumbled to a 20-33 record. An abysmal .337 winning percentage where they had a run differential of -66.
The party was over. Drive home safely. Thank goodness flags fly forever.
And then… August happened.
With the Royals’ 2-1 victory Sunday afternoon, they completed yet another 20 game stretch where they won 15.
It would be unbelievable, except these are the Royals and this sort of stuff just kind of happens.
When the week opened, the Royals were 7.5 games out of the last Wild Card spot, behind Detroit, Seattle, New York and Houston. After a week where they didn’t lose, the Royals find themselves 3.5 games out of the last Wild Card spot, tied with the Astros and behind only Detroit and Seattle. The addition of the second Wild Card has always made for difficult maneuvering. There are so many teams involved now that it can be difficult to make a move to get into position. You’re not only swimming against the field, you’re often swimming upstream.
Yet the Royals just cut four games off their deficit. Four whole games. In one week. When there were a plethora of teams ahead of them in the standings.
This is an unbelievable, incredible development. Maybe you have always been a True Believer, and thought this team had another run in them. But a run like we’ve seen the last couple of weeks? For real?
As last week opened, we opined in this space the Royals needed to take at least two of three from Detroit and then sweep the Twins at home. Time was short and there was much ground to make up. Done and done. Now, we look to the week ahead and a difficult road trip, visiting the Marlins who just swept away a previously hot team in Pittsburgh, followed by an always difficult series at the Fens in Boston.
It’s happening. Again.
Who knows how this ends. The Royals are four games over .500 with 64 wins with 38 games to play. History suggests it will take 90 wins to clinch a Wild Card. That would mean the Royals would have to keep the afterburners on for the last six weeks of the season playing .684 baseball. An incredibly tall task for a team that stumbled around like your uncle who just doesn’t give a damn in the previous two months.
How does it happen? The key players who have emerged the last three weeks (Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Danny Duffy) need to keep firing on all cylinders. Wade Davis must return healthy. Reinforcements must be at the ready for the rotation. This isn’t going to be easy. The odds (The Baseball Prospectus playoff odds have the Royals at 5.7% to make the postseason) aren’t in their favor. Time is the enemy.
The offense over the last 20 games hasn’t been insanely hot.
Gordon has finally found his swing. A few other guys have performed a little better than their season numbers. Salvador Perez has gone into his second half game where the bat is missing but he will come up with a few key hits. This collective is averaging 4.5 runs per game in August, which is certainly better than their seasonal average of 4.0 R/G, but still.
My goodness. The middle of that bullpen has been lights out. We know all about Ian Kennedy and Danny Duffy at the front of the rotation, but Yordano Ventura deserves some credit, too. Same for Dillon Gee at the back. Overall, this group has allowed 2.8 R/G.
(The above tables are from Baseball Musings’ Day By Day Database.)
So here we are. The Royals have given us something precious in this, their title defense season: Hope.
This team was listless and lifeless through June and July. Missing the postseason became a grudging conclusion reached not in a single soul-crushing loss, but over time. A relentless torture of loss upon loss. A tepid offense. A poor rotation. A bullpen that was suddenly human. Now? Now there is something to play for. They may come up short. Who knows? Suddenly, these games have meaning. Suddenly, the Royals are in a pennant race. That’s something we couldn’t fathom a month ago. Playing out the string has given way to having everything count. Focus, damnit.
These are the Kansas City Royals. Why in the world would you begin to count them out now?