Kansas City Royals

It’s only been a week, but the Royals sure have been good since the All-Star break

Ian Kennedy spent time with his wife and kids at home. Ned Yost returned to his family farm in Georgia. Others vacationed in Florida. Some just sat around on the couch and watched TV.

Over four days last week, Royals players and coaches went their separate ways for the first time since convening in February. But from spots splattered across the country, there remained a commonality in their activities.

No baseball.

That was the idea. For a team that struggled through the first half, last week’s All-Star break presented an opportunity for a full reset. The Royals have taken advantage. After a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, they’re 6-1 since the break. They were 30-61 before it.

They’re the only American League team to reach six wins over the last week.

The key to the brief turnaround? Getting away.

“The break helped us, I think,” said Kennedy, who closed out Thursday’s win for his 16th save of the season. “It can go one of two ways. Some teams come out and hit a skid right after the All-Star break. We’ve gone the other way, just taking some momentum. Sometimes you can just remove yourself from it, unplug from it, and then you come back, you get that snowball rolling a little bit.”

It’s not just the win-loss record. Nobody in baseball has posted a better average (.330) or on-base percentage (.398) than the Royals over the last week. Nobody is even close, actually. They also rank second in the American League in runs. This is the same team that ranked in the bottom third in all those categories before the break. The pitching staff grades among the top 10 in MLB for strikeouts and fewest walks.

Sound familiar? In 2018, the Royals stretched out significantly better play over the second half, winning 46.3 percent of their games after capturing just 28.4 percent in the season’s first half.

“I don’t know what it is. Knock on wood, we always seem to play OK in the second half,” manager Ned Yost said. “I think our guys have a mindset that they don’t quit no matter what the situation is. They show up to play every day. That’s what I’m so proud about. They’re gamers. They show up to play. They’re kind getting hot as a group.”

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It’s sparked a different mood inside the clubhouse, the players say. It did last season, too, when Yost credited young players with infusing life into the group. Maybe they had something more to prove. Maybe they just didn’t know any better. Maybe their youth naturally dispensed energy.

Among the early signs of similarities this season, that’s the word several focused on over the past few days.

Energy.

“The vibes in the clubhouse get a lot better,” reliever Tim Hill said. “It’s definitely a different energy, and it’s good.”

The longest winning streak of the season will do that. The first four-game sweep of the season will do that. More simply, winning will do that.

But it’s only been a week, all of it inside a friendlier setting of Kauffman Stadium. The Royals, who should be acutely aware of how quickly it can sour, travel to face the Indians on Friday.

“It’s been a lot of fun this last week,” Kennedy said. “But I think what separates some teams from others is that if you win at home, great, but if you want to continue to develop into a good team, you have to play (well) on the road. That’s what separates those teams.”

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