By Jeff Montgomery
As the Royals closed out August with back-to-back gut-wrenching extra-inning losses, many Royals fans throughout the Midwest were left wondering what the team’s chances are of going back to the playoffs again for a third straight year.
And thought the chances are slim, I feel there is still some life left in this bunch and they may be able to make a final push toward post season. They played excellent baseball during the Month of August. Prior to that stretch I wasn’t sure they had anything left in the tank based on their horrible July when they went 7-19. Things seem different now with the return of a healthy Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon. The way Kendrys Morales has come to life the second-half of the season is another reason to have some hope as well. With these three players producing it creates a similar balance in the lineup that last year produced enough to win a Championship. The move with Alcides Escobar to the bottom of the lineup also helps with the balance.
Another positive has certainly been the pitching staff. Starting with the rotation, it has seemed to solidify itself now that Dillon Gee has at least stabilized the fifth slot. Kennedy, Duffy, and Ventura were all really good in August. Unfortunately, Steady Eddy Volquez has not been the consistent starter we expected based on last season’s performance. The rotation will likely be the biggest key to a strong finish to the season so it looks like the weight will be mostly on their shoulders.
The realigned bullpen featuring unexpected performers like Matt Strahm, Brian Flynn, and Peter Moylan have been fun to watch as they have stepped in nicely to fill the vacancies created by injuries to Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis. Kelvin Herrera was fabulous in August as he converted 10 of 10 save chances. Davis’ expected return is coming at the right time as the arms in the bullpen are a little weary going into September. Expanded rosters for September should help too.
It’s impossible to know how many wins it will take to qualify for the second Wild Card slot but based on history it will take 90 wins. That number is based on the number of wins the second Wild Card has had since the inception of the two Wild Card format in 2012, with the average being 89.75 wins. The range of wins for that slot has been from 93 wins in 2012, to 86 wins last year. The Royals won 89 in 2014 and were the first Wild Card and Oakland won 88 to qualify as the second Wild Card team.
Regardless, it is great to have watched the Royals play well enough for an extended period of time to even be having these frequent discussions about what their record must be from here on out. But, as they enter September with a 69-64 record and three games out for the Wild Card, it looks like they must go 21-8 in the final 29 games. That would mean playing at a .724 clip for almost a month which is not easy to do. During the month of August they went 20-9 for comparison.
Return to: From the Pen - Jeff Montgomery Blog