Originally written on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 9/23/14
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Five observations on the current state of the Royals... MOOSE CALL We all know about the offensive struggles of third baseman Mike Moustakas this season. But at this point, all the Royals really need from Moustakas is what they got on the just-concluded road trip -- Moose went 8 for 36, but delivered three home runs and seven RBIs, and he also played great defense. Naturally, the Royals would love for Moustakas to get really hot, hit for a higher average and post a better on-base percentage. But if Moustakas can keep doing what he just did on the road trip, the Royals will have a great chance to stay in the playoff chase. Moustakas' two-homer game last Tuesday sealed the Twins' fate in the opening game of that series. And his huge homer Sunday off impressive Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler got the Royals' offense rolling. Moose also made a brilliant bare-handed scoop and throw to nail Marlon Byrd in the same inning. Good teams get contributions from different sources almost every night, and adding Moose to the list of contributors would be a huge boost. GAINING GROUND, SORT OF For the most part during the Royals' incredible 13-3 surge since the All-Star break, they have not gained ground on either division-leading Detroit or wild-card-leading Cleveland. But the Royals did pass the New York Yankees on Sunday by percentage points in the wild-card race. They still trail Baltimore by three games, Texas by four and the Tribe by 4. But if the Royals continue to take care of business with three games against Minnesota starting tonight, they're bound to gain ground on someone -- Detroit squares off with Cleveland for a three-game series starting tonight. Then the Red Sox come to town for four games -- a split there is almost mandatory -- before the Royals get the Marlins for three. A 7-3 homestand sure sounds good. MAGIC MAN It may be a tough sell for general manager Dayton Moore, but the feeling here is that he will do all he can this offseason to talk owner David Glass into bumping the payroll some more so the Royals can sign Ervin Santana to a multi-year deal. To do so likely will require a commitment of three years for 40-45 million at the least. And while there is obvious risk involved considering Santana's history of on-again-off-again seasons, trying to plug the hole Santana would leave is even riskier. We've seen what the Royals are like when they don't have adequate starting pitching. Coming back in 2014 with a top three of James Shields, Santana and Jeremy Guthrie would allow the Royals the luxury of setting up competition for the final two spots among Wade Davis, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Felipe Paulino and perhaps Kyle Zimmer. (We're assuming Bruce Chen won't be re-signed and that Luis Mendoza is destined for the bullpen). PITCHING, PITCHING, PITCHING ... How important is pitching and how important was it for Moore to revamp the starting rotation last winter? Well, nine teams are competing for the five playoff spots in the American League, and seven of those nine teams rank one through seven in team ERA. The Royals lead the way with the league's best team ERA at 3.58, followed by Detroit, Oakland, Texas, New York, Tampa Bay and Boston. Cleveland, the wild-card leader, is ninth in ERA, while Baltimore is 13th. Makes you wonder how long the Indians, and especially the Orioles, will hang around the race. ANOTHER RATINGS WIN The Royals continue to smash previous ratings records on FOX Sports Kansas City as Sunday's 6-2 win over the Mets registered a best-ever 9.7 household rating. Sunday's game peaked with a 12.2 rating (114,000 households), and was the most-watched TV program of the weekend in Kansas City. The previous record came just two days earlier -- the Royals' extra-inning loss to the Mets Friday averaged 9.1. For the season, Royals telecasts are averaging 6.1, up a whopping 54 percent from last season. You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.
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