The Kansas City Royals were 26-30 on the first day of June this year. They were 6.5 games back and in last place in their division. Tonight, that same team faces off with the Detroit Tigers for control of first place in the AL Central. After winning eight straight and averaging seven runs a game over that stretch, the Royals now have control of their fates in this crucial, albeit early series.
The first of four came last night and brought smiles to many-a fan’s face in Kansas City. 11 more runs scored and yet another solid start from Jason Vargas kept the good times rolling and left the Royals only half a game behind Detroit in the standings. An offensive breakthrough has now brought KC to yet another huge moment in franchise history, but now they must overcome one of baseball’s best to keep their winning streak alive.
Royals batters are undoubtedly heating up, but their jobs won’t be easy tonight with Detroit’s recently dominant ace Max Scherzer on the mound. His 3.05 ERA is the best among Detroit starters this year, and his 106 strikeouts is the sixth-highest total in MLB. Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez are the only Royals with batting averages above .240 after more than nine at bats against the hard-throwing right-hander.
Gordon has 12 hits and seven walks off Scherzer in 31 plate appearances, giving him an even .500 OBP. Salvador has four RBIs and eight hits in only 21 appearances against Scherzer, and both Royals have taken him deep twice in their careers. The Royals homered five times in their last three games, so maybe a long ball from Perez and/or Gordon could be what carries KC to first place tonight.
Just keep reminding yourself that this is only the second of four in Detroit. A win gives the Royals a divisional lead they must defend tomorrow, while a loss still means that two victories to finish the series would give KC a half game edge. Win or lose tonight, the level of excitement for baseball in Kansas City will stay ridiculously high, and that may be the single most wonderful fact I’ve offered here yet.