The roller-coaster Royals are once going from swimming to sinking.
That’s been the M.O. of the team this year, following up cold streaks with hot ones. It’s basically balanced out as they are now just one game over .500 at 57-56 after being 55-48 after winning their series with Boston on July 30.
Now you have to wonder, given the state of their tattered starting rotation, if they have another hot streak left in them.
After ripping off 10 wins in 11 games to move themselves into primo playoff position, the Royals once again have cement in their shoes with eight losses in the last 10 games — including three straight to in-state rival St. Louis.
They are back to be being the hunters instead of the hunted, as they have fallen out of playoff leadership. They had been the second wild-card for the last 10 days, but now find themselves chasing not only New York for the home game, but Seattle for the second spot.
You can’t put this latest skid on the offense, which was the case for some earlier slides. This is all about starting pitching.
The Royals simply don’t have that shutdown starter at this point. Danny Duffy, who was in the Cy Young talk last year with a tremendous finish, hasn’t been the same since returning from the disabled list. Jason Vargas has totally bottomed out since the All-Star break and can barely make five innings. Ian Kennedy is throwing up meatballs, while Jason Hammel looks good for about four innings, then it all comes apart.
As for the fifth spot, the trumpeted trade for Trevor Cahill — one I thought would work out — has been a failure. Cahill has been terrible in his three starts and I agree with the Royals announcers working the game last night that he might have some type of injury he’s trying to pitch through as his command has been way off.
About the only decent game for Royals pitching lately was the effort by Jakob Junis, who was sent back to the minors right after authoring eight dazzling innings against Seattle to give the overworked bullpen some respite. It might be time to revisit Junis since nobody else seems to be able to get it done.
Even the bullpen, so stellar during the 18-6 hot streak, has started to crack under the workload. Peter Moylan, who had been among baseball’s best relievers since June 1, served up Yadier Molina’s grand slam that won the game for the Cardinals on Wednesday.
Baseball is a sport of peaks and valleys and right now the Royals are deep in the valley. They are looking to avoid a sweep tonight at the hands of the Cardinals, who just happen to be in a hot streak and the Royals caught them at a bad time. They have hammered out 42 runs in their last four games after slumbering at the plate much of the year.
The Royals will need to take advantage of the terrible Chicago White Sox this weekend. KC swept the Pale Hose in a recent series at The K and can’t overlook them. Chicago is in total rebuild after shedding all of its veterans, trying to take the route of the crosstown Cubs who tanked a couple of seasons to get high draft picks and they panned out.
The Royals also have 10 games left with the team they are chasing, Cleveland, but the Indians have had KC’s number the last couple of years.
If I had to venture a guess, I think the Royals spent all their emotional energy coming back from being 10 games under .500. I look for them to drift out of contention unless there’s a revival of the starting pitching.