After trading for James Shields in the off-season the Royals had high hopes for this year, but it’s taken a while for them to piece wins to together. Now they are starting to get hot and the AL Central needs to watch out. By Anthony Pucik.
The American League Central is one of the only divisions that most would have claimed to have a clear frontrunner before the season. The favorite to win is the Detroit Tigers, and they have yet to show any signs of slipping up before the end of the season. They hold a 35-26 record and are 5.5 games in front of the second place Cleveland Indians. Right behind the Indians are the Kansas City Royals, with a 28-32 record, who have been on a tear as of late. They have won seven of their last ten games and are currently on a five game winning streak.
Taking a look at the Royals this season, they have been on a series of hot and cold spells. They will be hot for a week (like they did at the beginning of the season starting), but then also go on horrid losing streaks (like they did from May 22 to May 29). This explains why they are a sub .500 team, but they have the potential to be above .500 if they play well on a more consistent basis. Just look at their recent play in June. They have yet to surrender more than three runs in a game, and have scored at least three in five of the nine games they have played.
During this ten game stretch, the Royals have beaten the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers once, the Minnesota Twins twice and the Houston Astros three times. They struggled much more when they played against the top tier Cardinals and Rangers, but thrived against the weak Astros and Twins. The Royals only find themselves 6.5 games out of the AL Central, so if they can figure out how to beat the elite teams they have a shot at the division.
If one were to look at the Royals’ stats on the season, it is no secret as to why they are struggling to stay above the .500 mark. They are in the bottom ten in most batting categories, except for batting average which they are twelfth, and in the middle of the pack pitching wise, except for ERA where they rank an impressive sixth. In June, however, their pitching has continued to flourish. They have the best ERA in the young month of June at 1.38 and have given up the least runs at 11. This is largely in part due to great performances from starters James Shields, Ervin Santana, and Jeremy Guthrie. But Shields and Santana have struggled to get wins this season despite low ERA’s (2.81 and 2.99 respectively). Perhaps now getting the plus in the win column will boost their confidence.
The Royals’ hitting is still struggling, which is why Shields and Santana have low ERAs but bad win-loss records, though it has seen some promise in recent games. Players like Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, and Billy Butler have all contributed mightily to the Royals’ current five game winning streak. Perez has done this all year, but Hosmer and Butler have been struggling which is a big reason why the team hitting statistics are so low in the rankings. If Hosmer and Butler begin to turn it around and the Royals score more runs to compliment their stellar pitching, they might start to challenge the Tigers.
This week the Royals play the division leading Tigers at home and the Tampa Bay Rays on the road. These are two big series for the Royals, because they will answer two big questions. The first one: can the Royals beat good teams? The Tigers and Rays are both tougher opponents than the Twins and Astros. Secondly, can the Royals turn it around on the road? The Royals are 13-17 on the road this season, and they will be heading to Tampa, who is 19-11 at home. In all, are these Royals for real, or did they just have a good week against bad teams?