By Chad Rader
'If you want to dream a little …"
Fred White used to drop that phrase in during the course of Royals broadcasts in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Royals were down in the game, and he’d concoct a prospective rally. I jokingly used to exaggerate the circumstance, from him proposing a U.L. Washington walk, a George Brett hit and an Amos Otis homer, into a impossible rally when down by 6.
Well, I definitely will have to exaggerate one right now, with the Royals down 10 games in the A.L. Central, and 7 ½ in the Wild Card.
But for those with nothing to focus on before the Chiefs opener, why not dream a little? After all, Kansas City has won three straight series, 7 of its last 9 and continues to find relatives of Rally Mantis at every turn.
For the Wild Card, well, let’s just put it this way. Kansas City has won 3 of its last 4 games and LOST a game in the standings. Boston has won 4 in a row, while Seattle has won three.
Now, Kansas City does get to play a three-game set at Boston, and would need a sweep to make some noise. While the possibility exists, there are still four teams in between Kansas City and the top rung (Seattle, Detroit, New York, Houston) and all 3.0 games separated from the Royals.
The best shot remains in the AL Central, with a direct shot at Cleveland and Detroit. Kansas City can make up some ground this week with Detroit immediately, especially with a game under the belt to start the series.
All of this needs the Royals to go on a 20-4 run, not just winning series at a 12-7 clip. The first step needed is pitching, but in August over 14 games, Kansas City is posting the American League’s third best ERA at 2.93 (Seattle, Toronto are 1-2).
Of course, the offense has to start producing. In August, the Royals are ninth in the AL in runs (56), but just 2 runs off 6th at 58.
To even consider a big run, the Royals must:
- Score more than 4 runs a game. In August, the Royals are plating 4.14 runs, but take out the 11-run outburst in Minnesota, and KC is at 3.6 runs
- Have a chance with the 5th starter. Danny Duffy is about an 80% chance of winning (vs Verlander is a challenge), Ian Kennedy is better than people say, and Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez will keep you in the game. But Dillon Gee is no better than a pitching machine. Need him to run out three starts the rest of the year with 3 runs or less in 5 IP.
- Trim the Cleveland lead to a minimum 7 games entering September, and 3-4 games by the September 20 series vs Cleveland.
Kansas City also has:
- An extra four games remaining with Minnesota, who KC is 7-2 against (Cleveland is surprisingly 5-8 vs Minnesota)
- Seven games in September vs Chicago, who the Royals are 9-3 against in 2016
- Six games in the final two weeks vs Cleveland
So, if you want to dream a little, Kansas City has the pitching needed, and if can maintain the 4.0 runs per game that Ned Yost has touted time and time again over the AL Championship seasons in 2014 and 2015, maybe the Royals are capable of a surge in the final six weeks. With 44 games left, 30-14 may not get it done. We’re talking a 34-10 push, Cleveland playing around .500 the rest of the way, and KC needing to win 5 of 6 against the Indians down the stretch.
But hey, get some starting pitching. If Alex Gordon, Kendrys Morales, Eric Hosmer, a rested Lorenzo Cain get hot and timely hits from Salvador Perez and the rest of the lineup, the starters pitch well and Joakim Soria finds his old self – if you dream a little, the Royals can get right back in it.
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