MLB Wild Card Standings: Royals open lead in American League race

BOSTON, MA - JULY 28: Mike Moustakas (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 28: Mike Moustakas (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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After winning 10 of 11 games, the Kansas City Royals have opened a 2.5-game lead in the American League Wild Card standings.

It’s trade deadline day, and instead of selling off impending free agents like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain, as the vast majority of the baseball world expected months ago, the Kansas City Royals are full-fledged buyers primed to make another run at a playoff spot.

Cain, Hosmer and Moustakas were all a big part of the club’s 5-1 week, which increased the Royals’ impressive stretch to 10 wins in 11 games. Cain, Hosmer and Whit Merrifield all had 11 hits in six games, and Moustakas tied Salvador Perez, another member of the core roster that propelled Kansas City to the 2015 World Series title, for the team lead with two home runs. Hosmer and Cain each scored eight times, and Hosmer drove in eight runs.

Because the Cleveland Indians have been on a similar roll, the Royals haven’t gained any ground in the AL Central. However, the team improved its position in the Wild Card standings by six games – from a 3.5-game deficit to a 2.5-game lead.

Last week, the club traded for pitchers Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer and Ryan Butcher from the San Diego Padres. Cahill struggled in his first start, but Maurer tossed 2.2 scoreless innings in his first three appearances with the club. Sunday, the Royals reunited with Melky Cabrera, acquiring the veteran switch-hitter from the Chicago White Sox for a pair of prospects.

Time will tell whether or not the moves work out, but there’s no denying the Royals are one of the hottest teams in baseball right now.

American League Division Leaders

AL East

New York Yankees (56-47, .544)

Brett Gardner hit .348/.483/.696 with a pair of home runs, three RBI and five runs scored in six games for the Yankees last week. Gardner’s first home run was a walk-off winner Thursday night against the Rays, and his second came in his next at bat, leading off the game Friday. DiDi Gregorious and Gary Sanchez also homered twice for the Yankees last week, and Aaron Judge launched home run No. 33.

On the mound, Masahiro Tanaka was perfect through 5.2 innings Friday. Tanaka allowed a solo home run and two hits in the win, striking out 14 without a walk. Aroldis Chapman worked four perfect innings spread across three appearances, striking out five and picking up save No. 12 in the process.

AL Central

Cleveland Indians (57-46, .553)

Corey Kluber didn’t have his best stuff last week, but the Tribe got great work out of starters Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar on the way to a 6-1 week. Bauer worked eight innings and allowed one run on seven hits and one walk. Also, relievers Cody Allen, Shawn Armstrong, Zach McAllister and Andrew Miller combined for 12.2 scoreless innings.

Carlos Santana tied a trio of Marlins – Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich – for the major league lead with nine runs scored last week. Santana hit .346/.469/.808 with four home runs and five RBI in seven games for the Tribe. Francisco Lindor led the club with 11 hits and Austin Jackson and Bradley Zimmer each had 10 for Cleveland.

AL West

Houston Astros (68-36, .654)

No American League player had more hits last week than Jose Altuve, who went 12-for-31 with a home run, two RBI, five doubles a triple and nine runs scored for the Astros.

Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh posted strong starts for Houston last week, but stars Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers were roughed up. The pair combined to allow eight runs in eight innings and surrendered 14 hits and seven walks.