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Can The Royals Make A Run In The AL Central?

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Things have certainly made a dramatic turn for the better for the Kansas City Royals since the team’s horrific 12-game losing streak in the middle of April.

The Royals are beginning to turn things around as they continue scraping out victories and series wins.

If I were to ask you who has the most wins in the American League over the past 10 games, it is unlikely you would say the Royals, but they would be the correct answer. Granted, they are tied with four other teams for the best mark (and that mark is a fairly mediocre 6-4), but it is something. Something much better than what Royals fans were watching a couple of weeks ago.

In their past six series, the Royals have split three of them and won the other three. If you take out the 12-game losing streak, the Royals are a much more respectable 13-8. Obviously you can’t take away the losing streak, but it shows that the Royals have the capability to play good baseball and might actually make something of this season after all if they can avoid anymore long losing spells.

The Tigers still have to be considered the heavy favorites to win the division, in fact ESPN.com’s playoff odds (listed at the far right of the standings) give Detroit a 51 percent chance to make the playoffs, while the Royals are given a 19 percent chance to make a trip to baseball’s postseason.

While the Royals have been playing much better as of late, they still own the second-worst record in the AL, and the third-worst in baseball. However, they are only 4.5 games out in the division and if they can continue winning series’ then they will obviously stay in the hunt.

The Royals offense appears to be improving, as their lineup is now batting .260, which is actually the eighth best mark in baseball. Billy Butler has been swinging the bat well as of late and Irving Falu has provided a spark to the Royals lineup in his first four games as a major leaguer.

Falu will not continue hitting at the .412 clip that he is currently at, but could he hit .300 for the remainder of the season? That may also be too much to ask of a guy who has spent the past nine years in the minors, but Kansas City should ride him while he is hot. Mike Moustakas will reportedly be returning from his hamstring injury soon, and the Royals need to find a way to keep Falu in the lineup as long as he continues to hit, most likely at second base.

Wil Myers continues to tear up AA pitching as his average now sits at .344 and he has shown very good power, hitting 11 home runs in 33 games this season. We could see Myers at Kauffman in the near future, but he would likely take the spot of Jeff Francoeur so that could still be a ways off.

Kansas City’s offense has been producing at a better rate in recent weeks, but the pitching staff still has a ways to go. Bruce Chen and Danny Duffy have been effective as starters by Royals standards, but even Chen’s ERA is hovering just below five at the moment. Luke Hochevar has not been the staff ace like many hoped he would become and its looking like he may never become that guy as his ERA currently sits above seven.

Hochevar has had some very good outings, such as his last one of seven inning, shutout baseball against the White Sox, but he has also had too many very poor starts as well. If Hochevar can become more consistent then the Royals may have a chance to make some noise in the division.

Ryan Verdugo has been pitching very well in AAA for Omaha and he is someone we may see sooner than later, especially after Danny Duffy’s apparent elbow injury.

The Royals need to become more consistent as a group collectively and if they can do that then we may be in for an exciting conclusion to the 2012 season, but that may be too much to ask from a team with so much youth leading the way.

For now, Royals fans should be cautiously optimistic about the future in Kansas City as the team appears to be full of potential but when they will truly realize that potential remains to be seen.