Just admit it; you didn’t see this coming. Don’t worry, none of us saw this coming. The Kansas City Royals have reeled off 7 straight wins, have taken over the second Wild Card spot and is only 1/2 a game behind the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central and none of us figured this was in the Royals future. Sure, we knew they were in the Wild Card race, but after the 10 game winning streak in June there was nary a chance we would see another long streak from this bunch. This isn’t to say this isn’t a team that could pull off the task; obviously they’ve shown multiple times now this season what they are capable of. For a team who has not had a consistent offense this year, the chance of climbing this high this fast seemed unlikely. So how did we get to this point?
Let’s start with the surging offense. The funny thing is that it’s not as if the whole team is taking off, because it isn’t, as David Lesky of PineTarPress.com points out:
Now what they are doing is hitting well with runners in scoring position, which is always a huge plus. But to add to that, you have two players right now in the heart of the batting order that are punishing the baseball in Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. Butler is hitting .435/.458/.913 over the last 7 days with 2 homers, 7 RBI’s, 21 total bases and an OPS of 1. 371. This recent hot streak of Butler’s coincides with his move to first base, as regular first baseman Eric Hosmer went on the DL at the beginning of August and since then Butler has really taken off. FoxSports.com discussed this with Butler recently and he divulged why playing in the field helps him:
“It relaxes me, playing in the field,” Butler says. “I just tend to get more involved because they have to rely on me defensively, too. And the thing is, I tend to let bad at-bats go more easily. I don’t linger on them.”
The other bat that has taken off during this stretch is Alex Gordon. It seems only fitting as this past weekend’s promotional schedule for the Royals revolved around A1(Saturday was Nebraska day at the K and Sunday was the Alex Gordon Bobblehead giveaway). Over the last 7 days Gordon is hitting a robust .381/458/.810 with 3 homers, 6 RBI’s, and an OPS of 1.268. It does seem when the middle of the order takes off, so does the rest of the team. Mike Moustakas and Nori Aoki are both hitting over .300 this past week and the Royals have 5 players who have driven in at least 5 runs during that stretch. Jarrod Dyson has only received 5 at bats in the past week but has taken advantage of his time on the field, getting 4 hits(including a double)and 4 steals. Just coming through in clutch situations is big, as Lorenzo Cain did Saturday night with his single to right field to keep the Royals inning alive in the 7th. When this team is selective at the plate and gets on base, it tends to string together multiple run innings. This has been more than evident these past few weeks and has helped lead them to a 10-2 record over their last two weeks.
It has helped as well to have the Royals pitching holding up their end of the deal as well. James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie have led the charge for the starters with ERA’s below 2.00 this month and have been aided by a bullpen that has been practically unhittable. Lately the Royals have made it rough for any team to come back from a deficit once you get past the 6th inning. Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland have been spotless as of late with only Holland giving up a run during this span. I’ve been saying for a few years now that if it comes down to the Royals bullpen or the oppositions, the Royals have a great chance of winning. As of late it feels like just that, as they have been locking teams down and doing it in impressive fashion. All have strikeout rates above 11.00 during this streak and Frasor and Herrera have each only given up 2 hits. The Royals will need this group to keep it up as they plan on playing more meaningful games come September.
Of course the cherry on top of this winning sundae is the Royals spectacular defense. This is no secret, as the Royals have had one of the best defenses in baseball over the last couple of seasons. This has been on display as of late, helping the pitching out even more. To get a better idea of how good this defense is(especially the outfield), check out this article at FanGraphs.com, which really points out how special this team’s defense really is. Safe to say if the Royals are playing in October it will be partially because of the Royals play with the leather.
Winning is contagious. There really is nothing quite like seeing a team with potential live up to it and excel on the diamond. Watching the Royals these past couple weeks makes it worth all the bad. If the Royals can continue with their timely hitting to go with the consistency of the pitching and defense, we could be talking playoff baseball. Currently BaseballProspectus.com has the Royals odds of making the playoffs at 47.8% and climbing. It will be a fight to get there, as there are a few other teams wanting a taste of the postseason this year. Normally this time of year the only streaking we see is this kind:
Instead, this year we are seeing the kind we all prefer. The streaking that pulls the Royals into the playoff picture. Hey, if all else fails, we have some “Sung Woo Magic”:
Yep, it sure seems as if the baseball God’s are on our side this year. Whether it’s black magic, fate, or just some great baseball, none of that matters as long as we see the playoffs. It’s time, Kansas City.