by John Viril—
The Kansas City Royals second half run has hit a huge pothole. Kansas City has now lost their 3rd consecutive game. While their post All-Star record is still an excellent 19-8, they have clearly lost their momentum.
While the bullpen has contributed to the team’s decline by losing a 0-0 10 inning game and blowing a 2-1 lead against the Marlins, the primary culprit has been the return of offensive futility. Kansas City hitters have reverted to the early-season impotence that caused hitting coaches Andre David and Jack Maloof to lose their jobs. In the last three games the Royals have scored 0, 2, and 1 run.
Injuries to 3B Mike Moustakas, 2B Miguel Tejada, and CF Lorenzo Cain have played a large role in the slide. Manager Ned Yost has been forced to fill-in with two recently-acquired middle infielders: Jamey Carroll and Emilio Bonifacio. Both have an OPS below .600 on the season. Meanwhile, the team clearly misses Lorenzo Cain’s range in centerfield. Despite reserve outfielder Jarrod Dyson’s exceptional foot-speed, he doesn’t read balls off the bat as well as Cain. A number of hits have fallen the last three days that weren’t dropping with Cain patrolling center.
These obstacles could not have appeared at a worse time for Kansas City. The Royals are now playing a critical 5-game series in Detroit against the division-leading Tigers. Thursday’s 4-1 loss against Anibal Sanchez puts the Royals 8.5 games out, after Kansas City had pulled within 6.5 games three days ago. Suffering a sweep—or a 4-1 series loss—would devastate Kansas City’s hopes of remaining in playoff contention.
The onus shifts to Kansas City’s starters over the next three days. Danny Duffy, James Shields, Wade Davis, and Bruce Chen will need dominating performances to keep the Royals playoff hopes alive. Duffy—who has been recalled from AAA to pitch the 1st game of Friday’s double-header—faces the biggest challenge. He’s pitching against Detroit ace Justin Verlander.
Right now, injuries have reduced the Royals playoff charge to mere survival mode.
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