Another post All-Star break game brought another dose of disappointment to Kansas City Royals fans in Game 1 of their late-July road series with the Chicago White Sox on Monday. KC starter Jeremy Guthrie settled down in impressive fashion after giving up two runs in the first, but that would be all Chicago needed to win against the offensively anemic Royals.
KC’s lineup was without its hottest hitter in Eric Hosmer, and also included three non-starters. This yielded a surprisingly high eight hits against Cy Young-caliber Chris Sale, but by failing to come through offensively in key moments, the Royals lost their fourth straight and reminded their fans why they can’t currently put themselves into postseason discussions.
To be a playoff-worthy baseball team, the club has to hit in clutch moments. Right now, only five teams in the majors have lower team batting averages with runners in scoring position and two outs. Only three clubs have lower slugging percentages with runners on base.
All but one loss since the All-Star break could have been avoided by one or two timely hits, but this season is too old for that fact to inspire any hope. Fans can’t look at this pattern of close games being constantly lost and assume that means KC is on the cusp. At this point, it just means the Royals are a team that is consistently incapable of getting the hits they need to succeed.
The Royals are now three wins away from a winning record, and 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians for second place in the division. Four teams stand between KC and the second Wild Card seed, and KC now finds themselves in the wrong half of the American League standings; their record is now worse than those of eight AL clubs, and better than only six. The Royals will either step it up immediately or watch their playoff dreams die in July.