Since the Kansas City Royals memorable World Series win in 1985, this team has faced one frustratingly inadequate season after another. Although the Royals managed to compile a winning season last year for the first time since 2003, their late blooming ways came too little too late as they once again came just short of garnering a coveted post season berth.
However, the month of June has been kind to a Royals team that has managed to win 10 games in a row while only losing three games within the month. The most noteworthy accomplishment during the Royals win streak was an offensively charged sweep of the Detroit Tigers that allowed the Royals to take 1st in their relentlessly competitive division. While the Royals moments of excellence have almost always been marred by periods of inexplicable inconsistency, this team has discovered a newfound sense of resilience and tenacity that has been missing from this beloved franchise for some time.
The key to the Royals decisive victories as of recently has been their confidently vigilant offense that has swung its way to one dominant victory after another. In their last 10 games, the Royals have handedly outscored their opposition with 69 runs to 30. Thanks to the professional poise of left fielder Alex Gordon and the concentrated competitiveness of Alcides Escobar, the Royals have been able to score consistently even when their bullpen finds itself in a rough spot.
As the Royals go to scorer, Alex Gordon has the instincts and immense concentration to find ways to score in crucial situations and makes a concerted effort to get on base to allow his teammates to have scoring opportunities of their own. Not only does Gordon lead his team in RBI’s (39) and home runs (8), he also touts an impressive batting average of .288 (his career average is .270). Even if he doesn’t score, Gordon almost always finds a way to at least get a base hit, which gives his teammates the confidence to follow his example to keep the inning alive.
Although Alcides Escobar may not be as offensively potent as Gordon, his team leading batting average of .291 and overall improvements as a crucial offensive component has been an intriguing sight to behold. So far, Escobar has eclipsed his career averages in terms of on base percentage (career OBP 0f .298, OBP .331 this season) and slugging percentage (Career SLG of .348, .402 this season). While these noticeable improvements may not seem extraordinary initially, it has allowed Escobar to become a more versatile offensive threat that can score rather than just getting a simple base hit. He may never be the strongest hitter in the game, but his reliability as a clutch hitter that can keep the ball in play while getting on base is a vital attribute for this determined Royals ball club.
While the Royals bullpen may not be as collectively sound as their invigorated offense, they have done a sensational job within the last 10 games in keeping the score just low enough to allow their hitters to do what they do best. Starting pitcher James Shields has found his groove with stringing together one impressive strikeout after the next as he already has sent 81 batters back to the dugout. If Shields can continue to strikeout would be hitters consistently while preventing the opposition from earning easy runs, he could be the spark that allows his teams bullpen to truly thrive in the long run.
However, the real show stopper when it comes to pitching for the Royals is starting pitcher Jason Vergas who is on pace to record the lowest ERA of his career at 3.25. While Vergas has bounced around quite a bit within the league, he has seemingly found his comfort zone with the Royals and hasn’t looked back since he joined the team this year. On top of having the lowest ERA on the Royals, Vergas also has a knack for throwing well-placed strikes and has struck out 71 batters on the season. As the season progresses, Vergas’ confidence will only continue to build and will contribute mightily to revitalizing his teams bullpen.
When all is said and done, the Royals have a solid offense and a bullpen that has the potential to be stingy once they establish some confidence within themselves. Although the race for first place in the AL Central will come down to the wire, the Royals are finding their stride at a great time and could continue to win consistently until the second half of the season commences. While history may suggest that the Royals are doomed to hit a rough spot at the worst moment, this ball clubs focus is simply on winning one game after the next rather than dwelling on the painful transgressions of the past.