Royals hanging around in CentralBy Matt Verderame
The Kansas City Royals are not a dangerous team on paper. They haven’t been for most of the past two years. Yet, the Royals have reached the World Series in each of those seasons, winning it all in 2015.
Flash forward to June 24, and Kansas City is once again hanging around the playoff picture. Kansas City is three games out of the American Central lead, trailing the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland is a formidable foe and one that won’t be likely to fade into oblivion, so the Royals might need to step up their play.
At 38-33, the Royals have been a tale of two teams. At Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City has been borderline unbeatable with a 25-8 home mark. However, the road has been an absolute nightmare for the Royals, with a brutal 13-25 record. Only the Minnesota Twins have been worse away from home.
There is good news coming for the Royals, who are getting Alex Gordon back from injury this weekend. Gordon is one of the most underrated players in Major League Baseball; a left fielder who can both hit 20 home runs and routinely wins gold gloves.
The offense desperately needs Gordon to come back in the fold and start hitting, something he didn’t do before going on the Disabled List. Gordon was hitting .211 with four home runs and 50 strikeouts, this from a guy who is one of the better contact hitters in the sport. With Mike Moustakas out for the season with a torn ACL, the improvement of Gordon is an absolute must.
To this juncture, most of the run production has come from catcher Salvador Perez and first baseman Eric Hosmer, who have each hit 12 homers. Hosmer is hitting a team-high .305 while Perez is at .300, showcasing a new ability to take more pitches.
On the mound, there have been issues in the rotation. There was a concern coming out of the offseason that the loss of Johnny Cueto would ruin the pitching staff, and those have not gone unfounded. Of all the starters, the best ERA belongs to Edinson Volquez, who has a mediocre 4.12 number. Yordano Ventura has continued his trend of being long on potential but short of results, sporting a 4.54 ERA. Chris Young has been especially terrible with a 5.61 ERA and only two quality starts out of 10.
If the Royals are going to hang in the race, they need the staff to straighten out. At the moment, that appears to be a longshot, but this is a team that has proven it knows how to win.
Overall, the Royals have taught us never to count them out, and to do so at this point would be insane. That being said, something has to change on the mound or the arrow is pointing right where the team is going.