There is nothing like a three-game winning streak, and a stretch when your team wins 8 of 10 games in early September, to rekindle the excitement for a possible run at a postseason berth in the American League. That is exactly what has happened to the streaky Kansas City Royals.
Before this 10-game hot stretch, the Royals had all but played their way out of any wild card consideration. When they needed to win some games against weaker opposition, they failed badly, losing 10 out 0f 12, including a 7-game losing streak, and 5 losses to two of the worst teams in all of baseball, the Miami Marlins and the Chicago White Sox.
Kansas City has bounced back – again. They had a decent April and first few days of May before going into a downward spiral that threatened to crush their season. They lost 20 out of 25 in the middle and late parts of May and looked to dead in the water.
A good June and early July seemed to push them right back into contention but a 5-game skid going into the All-Star break looked like it might just be it for the Royals.
Then a funny thing happened. Kansas City came out of the break on fire and reeled off 19 wins in the next 24 contests. The fans were starting to feel that long absent excitement bubble up. Hopes were built up, and dreams were being resurrected.
BOOM! As quickly as you could wake up from a deep sleep, those dreams were dashed by those bad losses to the Marlins and White Sox. That 7-game losing streak broke the hearts of all those Royals fans.
Like the proverbial phoenix, here come the Royals again with this present stretch of good games. They are presently just 4.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild card spot with 24 games to go. Unfortunately, it probably isn’t close enough.
On the surface of things, 4.5 games doesn’t seem like an insurmountable number of games, but time is quickly running out. Tampa has 25 games remaining. If they go just 13-12, the Royals would have to go 17-7 just to tie them. If Tampa wins more than 13 games out of their last 25, obviously the Royals would have to win more than 17.
That isn’t even the worst part. The New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, and Cleveland Indians all sit in between the Royals and the Rays. Not only would Kansas City have to win a minimum of 71% of their remaining games, the Rays, Yankees, Orioles, and Indians would all have to play worse.
Just to forge a 5-team tie, if the Rays won 13 of their last 25 games, the Yankees would have to go 15-9, the Orioles, 16-9, the Indians, 16-8, and the Royals of course, 17-7. That is a whole bunch of ifs, just to forge a tie. The odds are not in the Royals’ favor.
Even the schedule is now going to work against Kansas City. After they finish up these last 2 games of their 4-game set with the Seattle Mariners, the next 15 games are against the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, and the AL West-leading Texas Rangers.
The Royals are almost finished with the soft part of their second half schedule. They are at the end of a 17-game stretch where 16 of their games were against sub .500 teams. With two games to go, they are 8-7 in those games. That just isn’t good enough.
It is not impossible for the Royals to gain some ground. It is unlikely they can gain enough ground on four other teams. The Royals would have to remain hot against some of the best teams in the American League just to have a shot going into the final week.
Dream all you want, Royals fans; just don’t count on those dreams coming true. If you do, the disappointment will be brutal.
Be excited the Royals have found a way to be resilient enough to still be relevant on September 4th, and not just as a spoiler. Cheer for the Royals to be as competitive as possible and thrilled if they are still in the playoff conversation in three weeks. That would be fantastic, and a giant step forward for this organization.
It is much better to be 4.5 games out in September than 20 games out. Let’s support the Royals with full vigor over these last few weeks and see how the chips fall. Don’t count them out just yet, but realize that time is just about to run out.