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Royals Of The Road

When a baseball team is in the thick of a pennant race and the trade deadline is approaching, everything seems to get all Bachelor-like as the importance of each game grows exponentially.

Everything hinges on the upcoming series against Team X!

This is the most important road trip of all-time!

The most amazing rose ceremony ever!

Sorry.

The hyperbole machine remains in overdrive for the Royals as they have embarked on their most important road trip of 2017 and have opened with five wins in six games. Hell yeah, wins are strongly encouraged.

Friday saw the Royals power their way to a 4-2 win. Jason Vargas had a very Jason Vargas start where he got plenty of soft contact. Salvador Perez destroyed a windshield on the other side of the Monster and Mike Moustakas hit his 30th home run of the season. The Balboni Watch is officially on. For real, we need to start a pool or something to guess when the record falls. With two months to go, it would be a major disappointment if Moustakas didn’t club at least 40 dingers. And it would probably spell not so good things for the Royals offense.

Saturday’s game was a hot mess. Ten innings in just under five hours and the Royals, despite scoring eight runs, couldn’t come out with the win. They twice lost two-run leads before surrendering on a play that was eerily reminiscent of the Hosmer Dash in Game Five of the 2015 World Series. The stakes were a little lower, but still, this team was playing for a tenth consecutive win. Everything matters!

With their winning streak derailed, the Royals wasted little time finding their proper mojo with an eighth inning rally to conquer the Red Sox by a 5-3 margin. The unlikely heroes were Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon, who were responsible for driving in all five runs. Gordon’s two-run triple to the triangle off left-hander Robby Scott was especially delightful, given his struggles all year. He was on that pitch in a vintage Gordon sort of way.

Cleveland’s own nine-game winning streak ended on Sunday, so the Royals were finally able to pick up a game on the leaders in the Central. Of course that was after losing a game the night before, so even though the Royals are 9-1 over their last 10 games, they’re somehow only treading water. Better than sinking.

It all brings into focus how the AL Central is going to play out over the next two months. The Tigers are demoralized and unfocused. The Twins are feeling the gravitational pull of their overachievement. The White Sox aren’t thinking about anything but 2018 and beyond. The race is down to the Indians and the Royals. These two teams face each other 10 more times, but the real edge may come down to who can dominate the three bottom-feeders of the division. The Royals don’t get back to divisional play until another trip to the South Side in mid-August. They finish with 23 of their final 30 games against the Central. Meanwhile, Cleveland has 21 of their final 30 against the division.

Yes, it’s not too early to focus on what Cleveland is up to in the division.

Sunday was greeted with another pre-deadline deal when the Royals acquired outfielder Melky Cabrera for the second time.

Former general managers have opinions.

The idea the Royals should dismantle and regroup for the future could only be reached by someone who bloviates for a living. The Royals have made a pair of pre-deadline deals and haven’t disrupted their farm system in any major way. They haven’t acquired the impact of a Johnny Cueto or a Ben Zobrist, but maybe the Royals will be fine with the moves that have been made. Do you think the Royals are a better team today than they were last week? That’s the important question. It certainly feels that way. At any rate, it’s asinine to suggest a team two games back in the division should sell.

Even if the Royals don’t win the division, the Wild Card is still in play. Sunday night the Royals were 2.5 games up for the second spot, just a half game behind the Red Sox. You know, the team someone thinks the Royals cannot beat, yet they just took two of three from and could have swept. On the road. The only thing that matters is getting to the postseason. That’s the singular focus. Worry about who your team needs to beat once they qualify for the tournament. As we learned in 2014, October momentum is a wonderful thing.

Bah. It’s silly to need to justify these trades. The “buy or sell” question was settled sometime in June, but the last week has underscored that the Royals are serious about going for it with this team for one final time. This is the way it should be. This group has given us a helluva ride the last four years. It would have been a shame to dismantle the team piece by piece in an attempt to build something for the future. The present is good enough.

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