The Kansas City Royals find themselves in a bit of rarified air, now squarely locked into a battle for the Central Division lead with the Detroit Tigers in the middle of June.
While the season is not yet even to the halfway point, and many caveats still apply, this is proving to be a different sort of optimism filling the airwaves and articles when discussing the Royals. While there are many definitions to describe the often used status of “contender,” the Royals have planted themselves atop the wildcard standings, which by all definitions is contending to the fullest.
The 2014 season has seen an incredible display of parity in the American League. With the second half of June now here, and two and a half months of baseball having been played, only 1 team in the AL finds themselves farther than 6 games out of the Wild Card chase, and that being the hapless Tampa Bay Devil Rays. No team has separated themselves from the bunch, and a shot of momentum may just be what this Royals team needs in order to separate from the rest of the pack.
The reason for the recent hot streak seems fairly evident in that when this team can hit, even a little, they are going to win more games than they lose no matter the opponent. With a pitching staff and defense that once again rank at towards the top of all of baseball, the missing ingredient has been the ability to score runs. With the middle of the order providing a much needed boost, Kansas City is showing why they were a sexy pick before the season began to make some noise in the regular season and even the playoffs.
While the much heralded top of the order duo of Nori Aoki and Omar Infante have yet to find their groove, the rest of the Royals offense is finding a way to get on base, and more importantly get home. Even Mike Moustakas has been key in the last 10 days, though his hot streak has still only managed to raise his meager season numbers to .174/.246/.349. This is disheartening in that he was pegged as a needed ingredient to help push this team towards a playoff berth. The bad news for him is that his potential replacement in Hunter Dozier is making his ascension through the minor league ranks, and if all goes well, could be primed to become the starting third baseman for the Royals next year. Best case scenario for this team would be Moose plays to his potential and forces the Royals to make a decision with 2 quality options, a luxury that this front office has had on all too rare an occasion.
The record needed to match a pace of 90 wins is 38-34, and the Royals are right there. Don’t look now, but this Kansas City squad that has driven its fan base crazy all year is squarely on track to be exactly where they need to be to make a late season push. So show off that Royals gear and enjoy the good times while they are here, its a long and bumpy road ahead.
photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc