by John Viril—
Well, it was fun while it lasted.
The Kansas City Royals recent 7-game losing streak has pretty much ended their chances at making a post-season run. With 32 games left in the season, Kansas City would need an improbable 24-8 finish to even begin to think of sniffing the playoffs. If they are to accomplish this unlikely feat they will have to overcome the problem that has dogged them all season.
They will have to learn how to overcome difficult losses.
The Royals fatal flaw this season has been their inability to shake off difficult losses. Three times this season, the Royals have allowed emotional defeats in games they should have won to snowball into protracted losing streaks. All of those defeats have come when the Royals were on the verge of making noise in the playoff race.
The James Shields game—On May 6 the 17-10 Royals were in 1st place in the A.L Central and were poised to sweep Chicago. They held a 1-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth with ace James Shields cruising through 8 shutout innings. Manager Ned Yost decided to pull Shields in favor closer Greg Holland, who promptly gave up the tying run in the bottom of the 9th. Kelvin Herrera lost the game by giving up a walk-off home run to reserve outfielder Jordan Danks for a 2-1 Chicago victory.
The Royals followed that loss with a 4-19 implosion that led to the firing of hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David.
The Stop Sign—On June 18, the Royals had just scratched their way back to .500 at 34-34 and overhauled the Indians to move into 2nd place in the Central—after falling to last place during their May debacle. They led the Indians 3-1 in Cleveland in the bottom of the eighth, only to watch Kelvin Herrera give up 3 runs. However, in the top of the 9th, the Royals had runners on 1st and 2nd with one out, when Alcides Escobar singled to right.
David Lough looked like he was going to score the tying run, except 3rd base coach Eddie Rodriguez threw up a late stop sign, which caused Lough to retreat to third. In the confusion, Cleveland doubled Mike Moustakas off third base because he assumed Lough would score. Eric Hosmer grounded out to end the game in 4-3 defeat.
The Royals lost their momentum by losing their next four games, on their way to a 9-15 finish to the first half—which included another damaging losing streak in the final five games before the break.
Miguel Cabrera’s walkoff—On August 17, the Royals had ridden a post All-Star game hot streak to take their record to 64-57 and only 6.5 games behind 1st place Detroit in the central and 4.5 games behind the 2nd A.L. wild card. The had swept a double-header against Detroit the night before and were poised to pull off a comeback victory to secure a series victory against the Tigers in a critical 5 game set in Detroit.
After tying the game in the 7th on Salvador Perez’s home run, Detroit’s Prince Fielder answered with his own shot to retake the lead 5-4. The Royals answered again in the top of the 8th and had runners on second and third with no outs. David Lough popped up, but Eric Hosmer followed with a walk to load the bases with one out. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon failed to get a hit that could have broken the game open—and stranded the runners without scoring the lead run.
Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera made the Royals pay by slamming a walk-off home run against reliever Aaron Crow for a 6-5 Detroit victory.
The demoralizing loss turned into a 7-game tailspin that destroyed Kansas City’s second half momentum.
Conclusion: The Royals are now 10.5 games behind Detroit in the Central and 7 games behind Oakland for the 2nd wild card. To the team’s credit, they have bounced back to enjoy winning streaks that have teased their fanbase into a semblance of belief. Yet they have not been able to “get over the hump” when confronted by a tough loss.
One time might be bad luck. Two times might be coincidence. Three time looks like a pattern. If the Royals are to make a big final push that puts them into the post-season, they will have to display more resiliency than they have shown this season.
They will have to overcome their fatal flaw.
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