Don’t look now, but the Kansas City Royals now stand just two games behind the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers. The Royals are 33-32, and they’ve only lost one game in the last 11 days. In the past two weeks, KC turned their season, and perhaps the fate of their franchise, completely around. Much to the elation of Royals fans everywhere, they did so against three of their most hated rivals. Suddenly, after a long time waiting, it’s good to be a baseball fan in Kansas City.
On June 1, KC was four games below .500 and 6.5 games back in the division. Since then, they won three out of four against the St. Louis Cardinals, took two of three against the New York Yankees and swept the seemingly intimidating Cleveland Indians at the K. What did KC do to turn things around so quickly?
The biggest change actually comes from the pitching staff, but the offensive struggles in the first two months of the season help to magnify the Royals’ finally-improving offense. Whether you prefer to credit a regression to the mean or the hitting coach switch, this offense is undeniably better over this admittedly short stretch. KC is on pace for roughly the same amount of hits this month as last, but they’re bringing home those base-runners with way more regularity.
They’ve risen from 26th in May to 11th this month in RBI, and they have a significant shift in power potential to thank for this increased efficiency. The Royals rank third in the MLB for doubles in June after coming in at 16th in May. Their .407 slugging percentage is the 12th-highest in the league, which beats the pants off their last-place .338 SLG% from last month.
Add to this some greatly improved contributions from the pitching staff, and it seems almost logical that the Royals are relevant- Baseball Gods forbid. KC posted a league-worst 4.51 team ERA in May, but rank fourth so far this month at 2.97. Thanks to all this improvement, the Royals have won their last four games, and seven of their last nine. If they’ve finally, truly, mercifully turned the corner with this hot stretch, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.
Friday brings the first of six straight pivotal road games against division rivals. First, KC faces the Chicago White Sox, who currently stand 0.5 games behind them in the Central, in a two-game series in Chicago. Then, the real test awaits the Royals in the Motor City in the form of four games against the Tigers. KC has powered through the gauntlet that is their June schedule in impressive fashion so far, but too many losses during this road trip could make that all totally irrelevant. It’s been a long and bumpy ride already, and it won’t stop any time soon.