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MLB Kansas City Royals

Playoff Race Begins Now For Kansas City Royals

Danny Duffy Kansas City Royals

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

An indescribably memorable winning streak came to an end today, but morale in Kansas City should remain blissfully high. The Detroit Tigers finally snapped the Kansas City Royals‘ 10-game tirade that earned KC a spot atop the AL Central, but a steady supply of impressive defense and an excellent start from Danny Duffy kept the Royals in the game until the very end.

If it weren’t for an excessive amount of good luck afforded to the Royals by the Baseball Gods as of late, I may be complaining about this 2-1 defeat. If the climate surrounding this entire franchise was still all gloom and doom, we may be stuck replaying in our minds that moment when Royal Killer of the Month J.D. Martinez took a low-and-inside 94 MPH fastball from Duffy and somehow lifted it over the right field fence for the game-winning run. That’s actually still happening, at least for me, but the what-ifs now come with a wry smile instead of a dejected shake of the head.

As this historic winning streak comes to an end, the real fun begins. Every loss will hurt more, and each win will offer even more satisfaction. After a long time spent overusing the word “hope,” I fear that I’m about to wear out the word “test” in similar fashion. KC’s next huge you-know-what comes Friday evening when they face a pitcher who held them scoreless through eight full innings in their last meeting.

While Royals fans try to sit back and soak in what it feels like to still be in first, the club itself has little time for sentiment. Friday brings a prime-time-worthy clash of James Shields and Hisashi Iwakuma as the Royals return to the K to start a nine-game home stand with three against the Seattle Mariners. KC can only expect to widen the narrow half-game gap between them and the rest of the division by continuing to win series- especially series at home against teams they should beat.

Each series helps to define those that follow and precede it, and these upcoming three games support that point. The Royals scored 11 runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, but since then, they’ve scored only three times in two games. Their productivity against the Mariners will decide whether that lack of production is a momentary stumble or a disturbing developing trend. Pitching and defense should keep KC from being bad this season, but the offense will determine if they can be great.

Doug LaCerte is a writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DLaC67, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.