The 2013 season has been a complete roller coaster ride for the Kansas City Royals. They’ve gone from stumbling out of the gate to playing .500 baseball, and from having a losing record going into the All-Star break to a winning record halfway through August.
But now, the Royals have managed to turn their playoff aspirations into an utter pipe dream. Last night, James Shields squandered a 3-run lead as the Royals lost their 5th straight game, a 4-3 loss in 12 innings to the dead-last White Sox.
With no chance of making a run to take over 1st from the Tigers in the AL central, the Royals have focused their attention on snatching one of the two spots for the AL wild card. If they have any intention of getting within reach, it will take nothing short of a miracle for them to make it.
The closest that the Royals have come to being second in the wild card was back on August 5th, when the Royals were a mere 4 games back of the Texas Rangers. Since that time, the Royals have managed to go 6-11, dropping them to seven games back.
As August winds down, every game is now a must-win game. The Royals should have been able to take care of a Chicago team that is en route to lose close to 100 games. Instead of taking advantage of this, the Royals managed to show just how punchless their offense can be by getting dominated in the first two games, and then blowing it in the 3rd.
Looking back, the Royals got hot by beating up on the teams that had already been knocked out of the playoff picture. But now, the Royals are facing teams that are well within range of taking a playoff spot. The only games that look like easy victories are the 3 games against the Twins. Otherwise, September looks like it’s going to be a long and strenuous month for us Royals faithful.
Here’s the big question for Royals fans- do they have enough of a chance to really be a team that will play into October? From a Royals enthusiast perspective, that answer is a complete and utter yes (I’ll lump myself into that category). But, from a realistic standpoint, the answer becomes a flat-out no.
The major reason for this is the offense. The Royals offense has an overall batting average of .257, whereas the Tigers are batting .304, and the Rays are batting .267 (These are the two teams that currently stand at the top of the AL central and the AL wildcard). What this means is that the Royals offense has not been anywhere near the standard of play needed to be a serious contender. Players like Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas have not played as well as they did last year, and Moustakas hasn’t played well all season.
The trades to acquire Justin Maxwell, Emilio Bonafacio, and Jamey Carroll have helped, but none of those players were brought in for their offensive prowess, but more for their defense.
The pitching side of things is where the Royals have been steady, but no pitcher can win any games without the offense kicking it into gear (as evidenced by James Shields’ record and ERA).
Overall, this season has been an absolute success for the Royals and their fans. They knew that a winning record would be the first step into relevancy, and that the playoffs would follow suit. So, for now, enjoy that winning record, because it just might be the last one we see for another couple of years.