The Kansas City Royals have clinched the AL Central with a 10-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners. It marks the first time the Royals have won a division since winning the AL West in 1985. The Royals reached the post-season last year by way of the AL Wild Card and went on to win the AL pennant before losing the World Series in 7 games to the San Francisco Giants.
A lot of people (myself included) thought the Royals were a fluke. The Royals are better than they were a year ago. They did battle with the Detroit Tigers in April and the Minnesota Twins in May, but would be in first place for good on June 9th.
The Royals led the division by as many as 14 1/2 games on August 19th. September has actually been their worst month with a 9-13 mark. However, they won the Central by 11 games over the Twins.
As of this writing, the Royals have the best record in the AL. In which case, they would have home field advantage throughout the post-season. But they are only 2 games better than the Toronto Blue Jays. So there are no guarantees. Yet assuming they do finish with the best overall record in the AL they would face the winner of the AL Wild Card game in the ALDS. At the moment that would be between the New York Yankees and Houston Astros. However, both the Twins and the Los Angeles Angels are only 1 1/2 games back of the Astros for the second wild card spot. So a lot can happen in the final 10 days of the season.
Given their September struggles, I think the Royals do have some question marks particularly with their pitching. Johnny Cueto has been so-so since coming over from Cincinnati as is the rest of their rotation. This means an overworked bullpen and it remains to be seen if Wade Davis can fill the breach in the closer’s role that was left by Greg Holland who is likely to have Tommy John surgery. Even if Davis picks up where Holland left off who will take his 8th inning spot? Joba Chamberlain? But this is a solid offensive team with Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, the re-emergence of Kendrys Morales and the addition of Ben Zobrist at the trade deadline. This is still a hungry team and that is half the battle. The Royals fans are hungry too. After ending a 29-year post-season drought last year, the novelty of October baseball has not worn off in K.C. Especially when you can bring antlers into the ballpark. The Moose is loose. If the Royals are loose then watch out.
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