The Kansas City Royals have won nine straight games, including a victory over the Detroit Tigers Tuesday night, to take the lead in the American League Central division. What makes it so significant is that the last time the Royals were in first place at least 70 games into a season, it was June 24, 2003. The major difference 11 years later is that Kansas City is determined to claim the division, instead of finishing third place as it did in ‘03.
The Royals have six division titles. The last one occurred in 1985, which is the same year the franchise won its lone World Series. Since joining the AL Central division, the organization has never walked away with a division crown. That means it’s been nearly 30 years since the Royals have experienced the postseason. Once that is realized, it puts it in perspective how important the current winning streak truly is to the overall success of the season.
“A lot of games left, so it really doesn’t matter, but to say you’re in first place, it feels pretty good,” designated hitter Billy Butler said, according to ESPN. “Being in first place any time is good — even if it’s after the first game.”
We are still a month away from the All-Star break, which means Butler definitely has a point about how there are a lot of games left. Being in first place on June 18 does not really matter. What he may not realize is that being atop the AL Central is a major boost for the ball club. The Royals are now in the driver’s seat, which is a position that is theirs to lose. They dictate what happens in the division from here on out. If Detroit wants to take back first place then it will have to take that away from Kansas City’s tight grip.
With 70 games under their belt, the Royals have proven to be the real deal by taking control of the division. There is still a long ways to go, but at least the team is convinced they can hang with anyone. That alone could be the reason why an entire generation of Royals fans will get to experience the joy of the playoffs later this year.