by John Viril—
Fortunately for the Kansas City Royals, none of their four rivals for the wild card have gotten hot and pulled away from the pack.
Last night, Kansas City won their first of three consecutive showdown series against their Central Division rivals Detroit and Cleveland. By taking a 2-1 series win with a 5-2 victory on Sunday, the Royals pulled within 3 ½ games of the 2nd wild card spot behind Tampa Bay. The team also closed to within 7 games of Detroit in the Central.
While the Royals really needed a series sweep, they did avert disaster after a demoralizing 16-2 collapse on Friday with ace James Shields on the mound. While the Royals trail three other teams besides Tampa for the final wild card spot, all four are tightly bunched. Kansas City trails the Yankees by one game, while Cleveland and Baltimore lead KC by 1 ½. Tonight, Kansas City begins a 3-game series in Cleveland. They are even in range of the first wild-card position, with Oakland 5 ½ games ahead.
The Royals can still make a charge at their first post-season bid since 1985—if they can get hot in their last 19 games.
At this point, there are few moves available to GM Dayton Moore to improve his roster. Perhaps he could add AAA 2B Christian Colon to the 40-man roster and bring him to Kansas City, but there seems little need with Emilio Bonifacio hitting .315 with a .779 OPS since arriving in a trade from Toronto on August 14. The switch-hitting utility player, who can play every position except catcher, has brought OBP (.386) and speed (13 stolen bases) to the top of the order. The Royals will likely finish the final stretch of the season with the guys currently on the roster.
Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, and Billy Butler are carrying the offense. Perez has rediscovered his power stroke and has blasted 9 home runs since August 1st. Meanwhile, Hosmer has a 1.150 OPS in the last week, with Butler checking in at .938. The defense has continued its season-long outstanding play. The relief staff has been reinforced by three extra arms from AAA.
In a season defined by big winning and losing streaks, the Royals need to finish with a bang.
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