by John Viril—
After the Kansas City Royals charged back from a 5-0 deficit to defeat Seattle 7-6 on Thursday, they stand 73-67 and 4 ½ games behind Tampa Bay for the 2nd wild card. If they finish the final 22 games like their 17-5 start after the All-Star break, they will win 90 games—and probably earn a playoff spot.
Their next 12 games are crucial. They play four consecutive 3-game series against Detroit and Cleveland, the two teams ahead of Kansas City in the American League Central. If the Royals could go an a tear over the next 13 days, they will go a long way toward transforming their playoff chances from remote to likely. These showdown games will be the last opportunity the Royals will have to face the two teams they need to pass in the A.L. Central. Since the Royals trail the Tigers by 8 games, the Royals will probably have to sweep the Tigers twice in a row to have a realistic shot at the division crown.
In short, the next two weeks are the most important set of games this season.
On a positive note, the Royals now have a fully stocked pen with the addition of more major-league quality arms from Omaha. Manager Ned Yost has fully exploited this bullpen depth over the last two games. Yost used seven relievers on both days. With four left handed arms in the bullpen, expect Yost to continue to freely use his relievers to get favorable match-ups.
In addition, Lorenzo Cain returned from the disabled list on Thursday. The team has sorely missed his exceptional defense in center field. Now, Yost can use Emilio Bonifacio at 2B rather than CF, and remove Jamey Carroll‘s light bat from the lineup. The Royals have also added former A.L. home run champ Carlos Pena as a left-handed power bat off the bench.
The team’s playoff odds remain long. The Royals trail Tampa Bay by 4 ½, New York by 2, and Baltimore and Cleveland by 1 ½ games for the wild card. The Royals will have to either make up 8 games on Detroit or pass four teams over the next 22 games. That’s why it will take a massive hot streak to bring home Kansas City’s first playoff berth in 28 years.
Maybe GM Dayton Moore needs to make another 15 of 20 boast like he did during the All-Star break. His team needs all the help it can get.
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