Friday night is Zombie Night at Kauffman Stadium. Zombies aren’t the only thing that have risen from the dead. Don’t look now, but the Kansas City Royals are propelling themselves back into the postseason mix.
The Kansas City Royals Postseason Chances are Reborn
After an abysmal 7-19 month of July, the Royals were seven games below .500, and at 51-58 following a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on August 5th. But after a 4-1 victory Wednesday night in Detroit to sweep the Tigers, they leveled out their record at 60-60. The defending World Series Champion Royals returned home Thursday to open a four-game series against the last-place Minnesota Twins. Alex Gordon delivered a grand slam in the fourth inning to put the Royals ahead 5-1; They would later go on to win 8-1. Since the beginning of August, the Royals have played 17 games, going 12-5. They have won their past four series and are once again above .500, even if it’s only one game. If the Royals are keen on keeping their playoff hopes alive, they might need to sweep the Twins. Anything less than three out of a four-game series could be a fatal blow to any postseason ambitions.
A glaring vulnerability up until this point has been pitching. In the month of July, Kansas City’s team ERA was 5.27; In August it has effectively dropped to 2.69. Even Dillon Gee (5-6) picked up the Royals’ first victory from a number five starter since May 31. The Royals are 9-21 in games started by the fifth starter.
Since moving on to August, the hitting average has gone north as well; .226/.284/.351 in July and .252/.293/.397 in August. The offense offered absolutely nothing in the first seven innings Wednesday. Detroit Tigers’ starter Anibal Sanchez didn’t give up a hit until Eric Hosmer‘s two-out double in the seventh. Sanchez would not come out for the eighth inning and the Royals quickly went to town on the Detroit bullpen. Gordon homered on the first pitch of the eighth, extending his hitting streak to a season-high eight games, while Hosmer hit a two-run homer in a three-run ninth. That allowed the Royals to sweep a three-game series in Detroit for the first time since September 2008.
Kansas City is 61-60 with 41 games left. According to FanGraphs, they have a lousy 1.5% probability of making it to the postseason in 2016. That most certainly sounds like a long shot, but fans can find a little solace in remembering that the number-guys like PECOTA projected the Royals to win around 72 games last year. Putting all those fancy numbers aside, the Royals are still nine games behind the Cleveland Indians and three games behind the Tigers. Fortunately, Kansas City gets to play each six more times. The Royals will get the opportunity do some catching up, but will also need some extra outside assistance.
After two magical seasons, one thing the Royals have shown is that you can never count them out. This time around, the players know that you focus on putting one foot in front of the other. The only thing that the Royals can do is try to win one game at a time and not think too far ahead.