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Royals Top Tigers; Suddenly Looking Good

The Royals celebrate a victory over AL Central-leading Detroit, Wednesday in Kansas City.

The Royals celebrate a victory over AL Central-leading Detroit, Wednesday in Kansas City.

The Kansas City Royals used a late surge Wednesday night to power past the Detroit Tigers for a 3-2 extra innings victory.

Trailing 2-0 heading into the ninth inning, the Royals tied the game on a two-run Lorenzo Cain homer before stealing the victory in the 10th inning on Eric Hosmer’s walk-off RBI single.

The victory marked a second win in three games against the defending American League champions and, more importantly, continued a run of improved play that has the Royals looking like a new team.

Bettors considering the Royals a doormat once again this season had better start paying attention now.

Royals’ Rollercoaster Season

The Royals began the season well, putting together a 17-10 (.630) record that on May 5 had the side within one-half game of the division-leading Tigers. Things went drastically downhill from there.

The team posted a 6-22 (.214) record over the next 28 games, a period which included an eight-game losing streak and at one stage, just one win in 13 games. More alarmingly, the Royals failed to win any home games during that period, losing 11 straight.

In an act of desperation, the Kansas City front office hired George Brett as hitting coach at the end of May in a bid to somehow change the atmosphere surrounding the hopeless team. The Royals are 9-4 since Brett joined the team and 7-1 in the last eight games. As Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star was quick to point out, hiring Brett hasn’t ‘fixed’ the team, but sometimes it takes the smallest of changes to reinvigorate a side.

Wednesday’s win puts the Royals within one game of the Cleveland Indians and 5 1/2 games back of the Tigers in the AL Central. It also highlights the side as top dog in the division, sort of.

Kansas City moved to 13-8 (.619) in games played against AL Central opponents this season, giving Ned Yost’s side a slight advantage over Detroit, which is 14-9 (.609) in intra-division play. It should be pointed out that 16 of those 21 games have been played at Kaufmann Stadium, and the Royals still have 30 divisional games still to play on the road, compared to 21 at home. The Royals have yet to visit Cleveland or Minnesota.

While nobody is suggesting that Kansas City is all of a sudden a postseason contender – the Tigers look good enough to win the division and the AL East and West have teams more likely to take the Wild Card berths – the Royals have all of a sudden become a thorn in the side of bettors. No longer can we simply dismiss the side and take their opponent. Careful consideration now needs to be given to the side.

Ervin Santana will take to the mound in Thursday's opener with the Rays.

Ervin Santana will take to the mound in Thursday’s opener with the Rays.

Time to Hit the Road

Kansas City (30-33, 13-17 road) hits the road tonight for the first game of a seven-game road trip.

The Royals will contend a four-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays (Thursday-Sunday) before heading to northern Ohio to take on the Cleveland Indians.

Thursday night’s game against Tampa Bay (35-30, 20-13 home) will see Ervin Santana (4-5, 2.99 ERA) take to the mound for the Royals.

Santana is a perfect example of what’s been wrong with the Royals for much of the season. His 2.99 ERA should have been coupled with more than four wins, but Kansas City’s low-production offense – 13th in the AL in runs and last in homeruns – has spoiled the evening for many a starting pitcher.

The veteran right-hander picked up his first win since April 27 in his last outing (June 8), giving up two runs on five hits in seven innings against the Houston Astros.

Jeremy Hellickson (4-2, 5.18 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Rays. Hellickson has been the antithesis of Santana this season. His inflated ERA hasn’t resulted in a large number of losses, thanks to the Rays’ offensive prowess. Joe Maddon’s side ranks in the AL’s top five in runs, batting average, and RBIs. The right-hander has won his last two starts.

Kansas City Royals vs. Tampa Bay Rays odds for 6/13/13 are available now.

Tampa Bay (-136) opened as the favorite over Kansas City (+126) on the moneyline. Those numbers have continued to edge in favor of the Rays with most sportsbooks.

Earlier this season, Kansas City defeated Tampa Bay twice (Apr. 30/May 1) while a third game was postponed. Each of those games was played in the City of Fountains however. The Rays took two of the three games played in Tampa last season.

The over/under opened at 8 but has subsequently fallen to 7 1/2.

Kansas City (22-39-2) has heavily favored the under this season, while Tampa Bay (36-24-5) has favored the over. Both games earlier this season saw the total go over.

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