The Kansas City Royals have made their last stand.
Whatever hopes the Royals had of sneaking into the playoffs as a wild card were dashed when they lost two of three games, at home no less, to the lowly Chicago White Sox.
The Royals are now four games back of Minnesota for the second play-in spot, but it may as well be 40. They are 72-73, which is hardly playoff worthy, and they have been treading water.
Yet, it really doesn’t seem that long ago they were challenging Cleveland for the AL Central Division lead, but the Indians took care of that with an amazing 21-game winning streak where they’ve hardly been challenged.
Kansas City needed a sweep of the White Sox to even have a sniff of the wild card. They would have been 74-71, two games back of the Twins. But as has been the case all year, the starting pitching let them down, though the offense has hardly been great shakes.
And look who’s up next for the Royals. They start a four-game series tonight at Cleveland, a place where they were shut out in three straight games the last time they were there. The Indians have owned the Royals in Ohio and it would hardly be a surprise if Cleveland puts the hammer down with four straight wins to run their streak to a mind-boggling 25 games.
It’s a miracle they’ve gotten this close with all the injuries suffered by the pitching staff, so give Ned Yost some props for keeping this band of merry men together. The enigmatic Danny Duffy, who hasn’t pitched since his off-the-field problems, supposedly is going to drag his sore left elbow to the mound for one of the Cleveland games, but my guess is his stint will be short.
And that’s been the problem. Royals starters can’t seem to make it even through the minimum five innings needed to qualify for a win. The bullpen is running on fumes and even Scott Alexander, so excellent out of the bullpen, simply had no gas in the tank to save the Royals on Wednesday.
The offense should take its share of the blame. Salvador Perez, except for an occasional homer, has been invisible since returning from the disabled list. While Brandon Moss and Alex Gordon have shown a resurgence lately, it’s too little, too late. They have wallowed at the .200 mark the entire year and remember Gordon is making about id="mce_marker"8 million to hit weak grounders to second and striking out at an alarming rate.
The saddest part of all this is it’s the final hurrah. Kansas City has six star free agents after this season and they are the heartbeat of the club. Enjoy them while you can because the Royals are going to look completely different next year. No more Hoz, Moose, Lo Cain, Esky, Vargy and the Melk Man. My guess is most of them will be out the door, especially Eric Hosmer, who picked a great time to have an MVP season in his walk year, driving his asking price through the stratosphere and out of the Royals’ comfort zone.
And these guys might feel it’s time for a change. This core group (except for Melky Cabrera) have been together for a long time and maybe they need some new scenery. It’s no secret the Royals are a team about to undergo a massive rebuild and it might get really ugly in the next few years. There’s nothing of note in the farm system and replacements are going to have to come in the form of free agents. And don’t expect the Royals to open the checkbook because they have basically tapped out trying to hold the old gang together.
Thank goodness the Chiefs appear to be a playoff team because it’s about to get quiet at The K for the next couple of years.