by Kurtis Seaboldt
Royals fans were scratching their heads.
It was Monday, August 1, and the team was in Tampa, Florida. They had arrived on a gloomy flight from Arlington where they had just been swept in a four-game series against the Rangers. They had lost eight times in nine games and had just completed their worst calendar month in four years.
And they were doing nothing about it.
The trade deadline was hours away and the Royals, with a handful of attractive, tradable pieces were doing nothing. Weren’t buying. Weren’t selling. It seemed inexplicable. Dayton Moore had vaulted himself into the upper echelon of general managers by assembling a team that had been to consecutive World Series but the last six months had not been stellar.
Big contracts to keep Alex Gordon and acquire Ian Kennedy and Joakim Soria were not paying off. Gordon was hitting .206 and had driven in 16 runs. He had hit seven home runs which meant that he had driven in nine teammates. All year.
Kennedy had just allowed one run over seven in a loss to Texas but his 6-9 record and 4.23 ERA was nothing to shout about. Soria had an ERA over 4.00. The team’s closer, Wade Davis, was hurt. They weren’t scoring runs and they were giving up plenty. This season was over. Why not begin the building process for next year?
Then Danny Duffy climbed the mound at Tropicana Field and pitched the greatest game in Royals history, striking out 16 batters in a 3-0 win. Royals won the next night but lost three in a row before Duffy stopped the skid with a win over Toronto. Counting that game and last night’s win at Boston, the Royals have won 17 of 21. Their record in August is 19-7, completely reversing their 7-19 July. They are the first team since the 2005 Oakland A’s to follow a 19-loss month with a 19-win month.
The Royals, 12 back in the division and 8.5 back in the Wild Card when August began, are now just 5.5 back in the Central and 3 back in the Wild Card. Danny Duffy has vaulted into the Cy Young discussion, Kennedy built off his last July start and has a 1.11 ERA in August. Soria has not allowed a run in 11 straight appearances. Even Alex Gordon had a ten-game stretch in which he batted .432 and slugged .919.
The capper to this amazing resurgence has been the Royals’ bullpen. Minus Davis and Luke Hochevar, the bullpen only ripped off the longest scoreless streak in half a century with only one member who was in the pen a year ago. Kelvin Herrera was joined by Soria, Chris Young, Chien-Ming Wang, Brian Flynn, Peter Moylan, Dillon Gee and Matt Strahm in pitching more than 41 consecutive scoreless innings. Look at those names again.
Suddenly, Dayton Moore’s offseason looks a heck of a lot better. And his decision to stand pat at the deadline looks like borderline genius. The Royals still have work to do and there is little margin for error. But the hardest team in baseball to kill the last two seasons is within striking distance and there isn’t a team in American League that feels good about that.
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