The Royals, I suppose, could have swept their series against the Boston Red Sox, won the first two at home against the Chicago White Sox, and been well on their way to the postseason.
But it’s not working out that way. And you were probably being silly if you expected it to.
The Red Sox, last in the American League East, won three out of four against KC at Kauffman Stadium last weekend. And the White Sox could easily be 2-0 in the current three-game set with the Royals had they not blown the first game of the series in the late innings.
So the Royals are running in place. They’re not playing particularly well, but neither are two of the other three teams they’re contending with to get to October, Oakland and Seattle.
Four teams - Kansas City, Oakland, Seattle and Detroit - are within 2.5 games of one another entering the regular season’s final week and a half. If the season ended today, the Royals would be the second wild card, Oakland the first and the Mariners would be kaput. It would be James Shields vs. Jon Lester in a one-game showdown in Oakland.
But things change quickly. And at this point, all Royals fans can do is hope and pray, if they’re so inclined. Hey, even if they’re not it might help at this point.
Here’s a quick breakdown of where these four remaining contenders stand:
Detroit – 84-67, first place in AL Central. Last seven days: 4-1. Hitting: 321 average, .378 on-base, .530 slugging, .908 OPS; Pitching: 4.03 ERA, .754 opponents OPS. Last 14 days: 8-4. Hitting: .295 average, .347 on-base, .459 slugging, .806 OPS; Pitching: 3.51 ERA, .634 opponents OPS; Last 28 days: 16-11. Hitting: .302 average, .351 on-base, .447 slugging, .798 OPS; Pitching: 3.69 ERA, .706 opponents OPS.
Oakland – 83-67, second place in AL West, first place AL wild card. Last seven days: 2-3. Hitting: .182 average, .257 on-base, .297 slugging, .554 OPS; Pitching: 2.25 ERA, .642 opponents OPS; Last 14 days: 4-7. Hitting: .222 average, .276 on-base, .314 slugging, .591 OPS; Pitching: 2.54 ERA, .625 OPS; Last 28 days: 9-15. Hitting: .224 average, .290 on-base, .333 slugging, .622 OPS; Pitching: 3.13 ERA, .636 opponents OPS.
Kansas City – 82-68, second place in AL Central, second place in AL wild card. Last seven days: 2-4. Hitting: .245 average, .324 on-base, .325 slugging; .649 OPS; Pitching: 4.17 ERA, .675 opponents OPS; Last 14 days: 5-7. Hitting: .235 average, .300 on-base, .303 slugging, .603 OPS; Pitching: 3.51 ERA, .634 opponents OPS; Last 28 days: 12-12. Hitting: .238 average, .297 on-base, .336 slugging, .633 OPS; Pitching: 3.32 ERA, .654 opponents OPS.
Seattle – 81-69, third place AL Central, third place AL wild card. Last seven days: 2-3. Hitting: .241 average, .302 on-base, .383 slugging, .684 OPS; Pitching: 3.40 ERA, .622 opponents OPS; Last 14 days: 6-6. Hitting: .231 average, .299 on-base, .373 slugging, .672 OPS; Pitching: 2.78 ERA, .643 opponents OPS; Last 28 days: 13-11. Hitting: .238 average, .296 on-base, .376 slugging, .672 OPS; Pitching: 3.53 ERA, .694 opponents OPS.
What can be deduced from these numbers?
First of all, that neither the Royals, A’s or Mariners have much offense. That’s a shock for Oakland, whose offense carried the team through the first half. It’s been a different story since the All-Star break.
Seattle hasn’t hit for much of an average all season, but the Mariners are hitting more home runs and doubles of late. And they’re scoring more runs.
Meanwhile, it’s the same old story for the Royals, whose offense has not been able to lift out of a funk for most of the season. It’s shocking to me that a team hitting .238 and with a meager OPS of .633 for the past month has managed to play .500 baseball. During the past week, though, the Royals have struggled against teams they shouldn’t struggle against.
The Red Sox and White Sox are a combined 32 games below .500. Yet during what looked to be the most favorable part of the late-season schedule, Kansas City has whiffed.
The norm is that teams chasing the postseason play well late becuase of the high stakes. But in the American League, that’s just not happening. With Baltimore and the Los Angeles Angels already having clinched division championships, only Detroit has seized the moment. Meanwhile, over the past couple of weeks the A’s, Royals and Mariners are a combined 15-20.
It’s been that kind of season. Hold on, because it’s probably not going to change.