With their 3-2 win over the Oakland A’s Monday night, the Kansas City Royals achieved what looked impossible just two short week ago: first place in the A.L. Central.
The Royals have enjoyed an amazing run, winning 14 of their last 17 and 8 in a row. The sure has moved Kansas City from 4 games back at the July 31 trade deadline and 5 games behind the 2nd A.L. Wild Card, to 1st place the 1/2 a game over Detroit and 1.5 game bulge over Seattle for the 2nd wild card.
This, folks,is what is known as a pennant race.
It has been almost 11 years since the Royals were in this position. On August 19, 2003, the Royals held a 1 game lead over the Chicago White Sox in first place in the A.L. Central.
The next night the Royals lost to fall into a tie with Chicago. The Royals lost again on August 21, 2003 and fell to 3rd place behind both Chicago, and eventual division-winner Minnesota. The Royals never rose higher than 3rd the rest of the season.
Right now, however, the Royals expect a much better outcome. Kansas City is the hottest team in baseball, and have just filled their biggest hole by dealing for power-hitting RF Josh Willingham. Willingham will join the team Tuesday, and is expected to take over the primary DH duties until Eric Hosmer returns from a stress fracture of his right hand.
Meanwhile, the Central champions for the last 3 years in Detroit looks like they’re imploding. After adding former Cy Yonng winner David Price to their staff at the deadline, they have lost both Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria to the DL. Last night, former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander had to be removed from a start with a sore arm. The Tigers have lost their last 3 games, and 6 of their last 10.
South Korean super-fan Sung Woo Lee arrived just in time to see what has probably been the best Royals week in the last 29-years.
For the first time in more than a generation, the division crown is there for the Royals to take.